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

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 it also works wonders in cocktails and 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, and you can find cactus pear growing in California, the Southwest, Mexico, and the Mediterranean.

Be warned: while the prickly pear in markets has 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

Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Serving 1 serving
Yield 1 prickly pear

I recommend wearing work gloves when handling unpeeled prickly pears. This is to protect your hands from any barbs.

Ingredients

  • 1 or more prickly pears

Method

  1. Slice off both ends:

    Use a sharp knife to slice off both ends of the prickly pear. Discard them.

    Cutting prickly pear
    Elise Bauer
  2. Slice down the slide:

    Make one long vertical slice down the entire prickly pear.

    Cutting prickly pear fruit
    Elise Bauer
  3. Grab the peel:

    Slip your finger into the slice you just made and grab ahold of the peel from the inside.

  4. Peel back the skin:

    Begin to peel back the thick fleshy skin that's wrapped around the flesh of 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 mixture 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 (equal parts of prickly pear juice to lemonade).

    Prickly Pear Juice
    Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
139 Calories
1g Fat
34g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 139
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 8mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 34g 12%
Dietary Fiber 7g 25%
Total Sugars 16g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 87mg 433%
Calcium 84mg 6%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 591mg 13%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.