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Cacti and their fruits are a big part of Mexican cuisine. The exotic cactus fruit, also known as prickly pears, is used in many Mexican main courses, salads and also as a filling for other dishes. The cactus fruits are very sweet and can be eaten raw, straight from the plant. Depending on how ripe a prickly pear is, it can range from slightly sweet to sugary sweet. But you can only test this taste once you know how to eat a prickly pear. Read on to find out…

Have you eaten a prickly pear yet?

The cactus fruit tastes pretty delicious

Cactus fruits can be green to dark red depending on how ripe they are

What kind of fruit is the prickly pear?

Prickly pears are the fruits of the Opuntia cactus plants. They grow on top of the cactus and are pear-shaped. Their tasty flesh ranges from a gorgeous saffron yellow to a rosy magenta color. The small spots that can be seen on the skin of the prickly pears are not thorns but are covered by glochids. These look like small hair-like splinters. They can penetrate the skin and are very painful. You can hardly see them. Therefore, it is highly recommended to use thick gloves. So equipped with gloves, grab and carefully rotate the prickly pear. The greener fruits require a firmer grip and twist, and the riper fruits pop off with very little effort.

The cactus fruits are sometimes referred to as "prickly pears"

The fruits of the Opuntia cactus plant

Eating prickly pears - how does it actually work?

First you need to get the glochids off so you can process the cactus fruit. If you buy the fruit from a store, these glochids should already be removed. The glochids can easily over be burned with an open flame. Pick up a fruit with tongs or poke it in with a fork. Slowly turn the fruit over the open flame. As the glochids burn off, you may hear popping sounds or see small sparks flying from the fruit. Keep going until all the spots are blackened. This is already a sign that the glochids have disappeared. Make sure to use the tongs or fork all the time - never touch the skin of a prickly pear!

Do not touch the fruit with bare hands

Cut off the two ends

Use thick gloves

Remove the skin of the prickly pear by snipping off the ends of the fruit about half a centimeter. Then, slice the rind of the fruit lengthwise across the top, about half an inch deep into the fruit.

Slit the skin of the cactus fruit lengthwise

Using the tip of the knife, lift the skin slightly away from the slit

The skin of the fruit usually comes off in one piece

Pull the peel back from the fruit with your fingers. The peel is thin on the outside but has a thick layer underneath that also peels off. Peel off the entire skin, leaving only the inner pear-shaped flesh.

Once the peel is removed you can slice the fruit

For example like this…

Now that the skin is already removed, you can cut open the fruit and eat the prickly pear. The prickly pear has small, hard seeds that you cannot bite through. You can swallow or spit them out. You can also use a juicer or strainer to remove the seeds. There are a few more ways to separate the seeds from the pulp. For example, use a simple strainer.

Enjoy the delicious taste of the exotic fruit!

Preparing prickly pear syrup

Now that you know how to eat a prickly pear, you can also prepare a prickly pear syrup. underneath is the recipe…


  • 12 large or 24 small cactus fruits
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 lemon (juiced)

Recipe for prickly pear syrup


  • Roughly chop the flesh and place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover the fruit.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until the pulp loses its color and flavor, about 15 minutes.
  • Strain the liquid through several layers of cheesecloth or in a sieve.
  • Measure the strained liquid. You should have about 4 cups. Pour the prickly pear liquid back into the pot (wash the pot first, any seeds may stick to it).
  • Add the sugar and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves completely.
  • Suds will usually form on the surface of prickly pear syrup as it is brought to a boil. Skim off as much of it as possible and dispose of it.
  • Pour the still hot syrup into clean mason jars. Don't fill them to the brim, leave half a centimeter free. Wipe the rims of the glasses with a damp paper towel.
  • Close the mason jars and process in a boiling water bath for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can skip the canning process and store your prickly pear syrup in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Cactus fruits in nature

This is how prickly pears are sold on the market

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