Tortitas de Camarón con Nopales – a traditional Mexican Lenten dish. Chopped nopales are cooked and simmered in a slightly spicy guajillo chile sauce and poured over shrimp patties made from a fluffy egg batter and ground dried shrimp.
Did you grow up eating Tortitas de Camarón? I grew up in El Paso and my mom owned a small neighborhood grocery store named Soza’s Grocery. We used to sell whole dried shrimp and camaron molido (dried shrimp powder) and I remember we had many customers who would buy them during Lent.
I always wondered what they made with them. My grandma and my mom were not fond of seafood, and besides tuna fish sandwiches we didn’t eat much seafood growing up.
What are Tortitas de Camarón?
These tortitas are similar in texture to the breading of a chile relleno. Light and fluffy patties made of dried shrimp and whipped eggs. In fact, they are very similar to shrimp fritters and crab cakes, but airy in texture.
They are like sponges and soak up the red chili sauce that is also a big part of this dish.
Chile Colorado (Red Chile sauce)
This red chile sauce is similar to our family red chile sauce to make enchiladas. But this sauce is made with guajillo chiles, one of the most popular dried chilies in Mexico. The slightly spicy guajillo chile sauce is combined with cooked nopales making this delicious served on its own.
Nopales are cactus pads. The nopal cactus is a plant native to the mountains of Mexico. It has been used since ancient times as both a food and for its medicinal and health benefits. In Mexico, nopales play a role in traditional medicine for the treatment of diabetes.
You can also add cooked shrimp to this dish for a complete meal. This dish is very popular in Mexico during Lent and Holy Week.
As I mentioned, I did not grow up eating seafood or this dish for that matter, but thankfully my friend Alva showed me how to make her beloved family recipe to share with you all. In addition, I have another friend Anabel who also shared her family recipe with me and they are both very similar.
I’d love to hear from you, did you grow up eating this dish?
Love nopales? YOU’LL LOVE THESE RECIPES, TOO:
- Huevo con Nopales en Chile Colorado
- Ensalada de Nopales Asados (Grilled Cactus Paddle Salad)
- Nopales con Huevo
- Huevo con Nopales en Chile Colorado
- Licuado de Nopal (Cactus Smoothie)
Tortitas de Camarón con Nopales (Shrimp Patties with Red Chile Sauce and Cactus)
- Place diced cactus in a stock pot with 4 cups of water and onion, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and let nopales cook for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard onion, drain and rinse nopales with cold water and set them aside.
- Remove stems, seeds, and veins from the chile pods. Place in a colander and rinse well with cool water.
- Add the chiles to a large pot and add enough water so they are just covered. Bring water to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain cooked pods and allow time to cool down before blending. Discard water.
- Fill blender with 1/2 cup of water, chile pods, garlic, and salt to taste. Blend until smooth. Add more water, if needed.
- Strain sauce through a fine sieve to remove skins and seeds; discard skins and seeds.
- In a stock pot, add olive oil and lightly cook nopales for about 1 minute and add red chile sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer on low and add oregano and season with salt.
- Using an electric hand mixer beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks and powder shrimp. Carefully fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites being careful not to mix too much so the egg whites don’t fall.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Take a spoonful of the mixture and place it in the hot oil. While cooking mold into a patty using a wooden spoon. Spoon some of the hot oil on the sides of the patties, to cook evenly.
- Fry until golden brown about 2 to 3 minutes each side, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Change paper towels frequently to absorb excess oil.
- Arrange the Tortitas de Camarón on a serving platter and drizzle with red chile sauce with nopales and serve with cilantro and cooked shrimp, if using.
Photography by Jenna Sparks