How to Cut and Prepare Prickly Pears

How do you cut and prepare prickly pear? Carefully. Here's a step-by-step guide to cutting and using delicious cactus pear with photos and recipe suggestions.

How to Cut and Prepare Prickly Pears
Elise Bauer

Please welcome Garrett McCord as he shows us how to cut up a prickly pear. ~Elise

What Is Prickly Pear Fruit?

Known to few, the fruit of the nopales cactus (cacti with beaver tail-like paddles), are actually quite edible. Called prickly pears, these neon fruits provide delicious juice that tastes like a cross between all-natural bubble gum (if indeed there is such a thing) and watermelon.

How to Use Prickly Pear

Prickly pear juice is often used to make jam or candy, but works wonders in cocktails and used in vinaigrettes for salads.

I've used the juice from prickly pear to flavor cream cheese frosting for a lime flavored cupcake, and have seen others boil cactus pear down with a bit of orange and lemon juice to make a sauce for fruit salads and cheesecakes.

Cactus Pear or prickly pear fruit on cutting board
Elise Bauer

Where to Get Prickly Pear

Many Mexican markets, farmers markets, and some natural food supermarkets carry prickly pear fruit, but you can find cactus pear growing in California, the Southwest, Mexico, and the Mediterranean.

Be warned though, while the prickly pear in markets have been cleaned of the tiny hair-like thorns, the ones fresh off the cactus are covered with them, so be sure to handle them with heavy leather work gloves and scrub them hard to ensure all the painful little barbs are off.

Either way, handle prickly pear carefully or with gloves just in case.

How to Cut and Prepare Prickly Pears

Total Time 0 mins
Yield 1 prickly pear

Ingredients

  • 1 prickly pear

Method

  1. Slice both ends of the prickly pear off:

    Discard them.

    Cutting prickly pear
    Elise Bauer
  2. Make one long vertical slice down the body of the prickly pear.
    Cutting prickly pear fruit
    Elise Bauer
  3. Slip your finger into the slice and grab a hold of the skin.
  4. Peel back the skin:

    Begin to peel back the thick fleshy skin that's wrapped around the prickly pear. Discard the skin. You'll be left with the prickly pear itself.

    peeling prickly pear or cactus pear
    Elise Bauer
    how to eat cactus pear
    Elise Bauer

    The flesh is studded with tons of little edible seeds, if you like them, feel free to just chop the prickly pear up and eat, seeds and all.

  5. Extract the juice:

    To extract the prickly pear juice, place the "husked" prickly pears into a blender or food processor and pulse until liquefied.

    Place the juice into a fine mesh sieve and push out the juice into a pitcher or bowl. Discard the remaining pulp and seeds.

    How to eat cactus pear - extracting the juice
    Elise Bauer

    Use the juice as you like. Depending on the size of the prickly pears, 6 to 12 prickly pears will get you about 1 cup of juice. It's great mixed in with some fresh lemonade, just use equal parts of prickly pear juice to lemonade.

Do you have a favorite prickly pear recipe? Please let us know about it in the comments.

Links:

Tuna Juice from Rambling Spoon (prickly pear is also called tuna)

Prickly Pear Juice
Elise Bauer