While looking around at different ways of cooking nopales and okra that dealt with the mucilage, I found a few references to cooking nopales with a copper coin. Some people seem uncertain whether it's an old wives tale or not, and I haven't found an explanation of why it would work yet, but it seems pretty wide-spread. Does it actually work? And if so, why?

  • Have you tried? Jul 25, 2015 at 8:07
  • The mucilage in nopales, or cladodes from Optunia cacti, is caused primarily by the presence polymerized galacturonic acid. This will make water gel quite quickly, and I'm looking for ways to use it to thicken soups, and ways to neutralize it for other recipes, like you. I've found the low moisture high heat method effective so far for producing tasty results with nopales. I'll post back here when I get results! Just giving you the mechanism of gelling as a thing to look into for possible solutions, not directly related to nopal or okra. I'll look at okra too.
    – austinian
    Jul 25, 2015 at 14:19
  • Another thing to mention: nopal mucilage, has been found to chelate some toxic metals, such as lead and cadmium, so it may even be the case that cooking nopal with copper will reduce the bioavilability of copper ions dissolved into solution by cooking (a potentially toxic situation!)
    – austinian
    Jul 25, 2015 at 15:50
  • @WillemvanRumpt, not yet - I'm on a quest for a grocery store that sells nopales at the moment.
    – RSid
    Jul 25, 2015 at 18:54
  • 3
    Here's a good article on the topic at hand: Complex Formation of Copper(II) and Cadmium(II) with Pectin and Polygalacturonic Acid in Aqueous Solution. It has data on how much copper is "sequestered" by pectate (polygalacturonic acid). I'm suspecting that the reason that copper may "neutralize" the mucilaginous texture of boiled nopal is that by chelating the copper ions from solution, the polygalacturonic acid loses its ability to increase the viscosity of water, due to losing its water retention capabilities and becoming more rigid.
    – austinian
    Jul 25, 2015 at 20:33

1 Answer 1


I just came across to this website looking for an answer related to sushi rice. Then I started to look around to find out what is all this about, so I found this question about nopal cooking. It happens that I am mexican so I wanted to give some advice about it. I have never seen a person here in Mexico cooking nopal with a copper coin. It seems to me like a way to do things on those days where people had only copper and "barro" pans and the so to cook. I am not saying there are no people out there who are not using them nowdays, of course, but they might be the least. As I have not done it nor seen it, I can not say if it works. Maybe I can help by telling you the way I cook them, which is very simple actually. After the nopal has been peeled and washed, I put it directly in a hot pan just like that, let it cook for a moment at medium temperature, then turn it over to allow the other side to cook as well. That is it. No oil, salt, water, and nopal turns just mucilage free. I hope it helps.

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