Prickly Pear Gumbo

For this recipe, I decided to use the natural sliminess of prickly pear cacti, also known as nopales, to my advantage. It occurred to me that I could substitute them for another vegetable known for its mucilage, okra.  Like okra in traditional recipes, the nopales actually thicken this gumbo.

I'm convinced that this is the dish that could convert the masses into prickly pear lovers.  Serve it with a scoop of rice on top (not underneath!!!).

Prickly Pear Gumbo

1/4 c. lard
1/4 c. sorghum flour (or substitute regular flour)
1 c. diced onion
1/2 c. diced celery
1/2 c. diced green pepper
2 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 tsp. dried Monarda fistulosa (or substitute oregano)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
3 c. water or broth
1 c. diced nopales
1/2 lb. crayfish tails (or substitute shrimp or chicken)

1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt the lard over medium heat.

2. Add the flour, and stir continuously until the mixture is the color of peanut butter, at least five minutes.

3.  All at once, add onion, celery, green pepper, and spices to the pot, and cook until the vegetables are softened, another five minutes.

4.  Add the water, stir, and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

5.  Add the diced nopales, stir, and let them cook for 10 minutes.

6.  Finally, add in the crayfish tails and stir.  Only keep the gumbo on the heat until the the crayfish tails have turned red and cooked through, no longer than 5 minutes.


  1. Oooo- I have to try this! I want to try it with chicken!

    1. Oh, that's right, crayfish are like shrimp, aren't they? This recipe works well with pretty much any meat, or even without meat.

  2. I made this recipe with shrimp, and it turned out great!

  3. I grew up eating my Mi-ma's gumbo, and she would throw all sorts of crazy things into it. I think she'd enjoy this version. She would also be very proud of your for putting the rice on the top, and not underneath. Great recipe.

    1. The rice issue cracks me up. People get so fired up over the placement of the rice! But I like how it doesn't get overly sogged out if placed on top.


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