Everything about prickly pear in one place or discover all the advantages of this exotic delicacy!

Prickly pear is not so well known in our country and it is a great pity!

Find out what are its health benefits and nutritional values.

We will also advise you on how you can use it in the kitchen.

How about a homemade lemonade recipe?

You will find all this and much more in our article!

Prickly pear, prickly cactus with sweet fruits

Prickly pear, also called nopal, is a genus of plants in the cactus family . It is known especially for its edible fruits. Among the most famous species of nopal is the Mexican prickly pear , which is an important food for many people in tropical and subtropical countries. Its fruits are called cactus figs in our country.

Prickly pear has broad, flat, green pads (or paddles) commonly referred to as nopales . Nopales are edible and are served in a variety of Mexican dishes such as salads, tacos, and soups. They are quite crunchy, but can have a slimy texture, depending on how they are prepared. The taste of nopales is often described as herbal, slightly sour and similar to citrus.

The small, oval fruits that grow on nopals have a soft, juicy interior that is bursting with sweet flavor and small, edible seeds. Their taste is often compared to watermelon or kiwi, sometimes with a hint of bubblegum. They are known not only for their tiny spines , which can stick to your hands and be very painful, but also for their beautiful flowers , which are easily recognized by their numerous colorful petals and striking stamens. The fruits themselves can be a variety of colors, including lime green, yellow, orange, or red.

Nopales, on which prickly pear fruits grow.

Health benefits of eating prickly pear

Prickly pear has many health benefits such as:

  • It aids weight loss by binding to dietary fats, increasing their excretion and reducing energy absorption.
  • Improves skin and hair quality .
  • The soluble fiber pectin contained in prickly pear reduces blood sugar and has beneficial effects on blood fat levels.
  • Antioxidant compounds in prickly pear help protect against inflammation and oxidative stress , which can damage the liver.

Prickly pear is safe to eat in moderate amounts when properly prepared. Due to its high fiber content, excessive consumption of this fruit can lead to digestive problems and related symptoms.

Nutritional values of prickly pear

In the following table, look at the nutritional values of fresh prickly pear in 100 grams.

Nutritional values Prickly pear
Energy 41 kcal
Fats 0.5 g
Carbohydrates 9.6 g
Fiber 3.6 g
Proteins 0.7 g

Vitamins and minerals in prickly pear

Also look at the amount of vitamins and minerals that 100 grams of fresh prickly pear contains.

Vitamins and minerals Prickly pear
% of the recommended daily dose
Vitamin A 2.00 mcg 0%
Vitamin B1 0.014 mg 1%
Vitamin B2 0.060 mg 5%
Vitamin B3 0.460 mg 3%
Vitamin B6 0.060 mg 4%
Vitamin B9 6.00 mcg 2%
Vitamin C 14.0 mg 16%
Calcium 56.00 mg 4%
Copper 0.08 mg 9%
Iron 0.30 mg 2%
Magnesium 85.00 mg 20%
Phosphorus 24.00 mg 2%
Potassium 220.00 mg 5%
Selenium 0.60 mcg 1%
Sodium 5.00 mg 0%
Zinc 0.12 mg 1%

How to choose a good prickly pear and how to store it?

Ripe prickly pears can be red, green or pale yellow – unlike other fruits , a green prickly pear does not mean it is unripe . The fruit is best when it is plump, round, heavy for its size and with a perfectly smooth skin. Any wrinkling towards the end of the stem means that the prickly pears were harvested a very long time ago and will have an unsatisfyingly mushy texture.

When choosing a suitable fruit, hold it between your thumb and middle finger. Its blunt end and stem end are spineless. These hair-like bristles are called glochids , and when they lodge in your skin, they are very irritating.

You can find cactus figs in larger supermarkets and hypermarkets such as Makro or Tesco, or online, for example at Rohlik.cz.

Store fresh prickly pears in the fridge in the fruit and vegetable compartment for up to a week. You can keep prickly pear juice in the fridge in an airtight container for up to five days or in the freezer for up to 12 months.

How to use prickly pear in the kitchen?

The prickly pear plant has three different edible parts:

  • nopales , which are used as vegetables
  • petals , which can be used as a decoration or added to salads
  • prickly pear , which is a fruit

To prepare prickly pears for eating, first chill them in the fridge – they are always best cold. Although commercially sold prickly pears are usually sold without the sharp glochids, it is still better to be careful in case there are any forgotten spines left on it.

And how to easily prepare prickly pear to eat?

  1. Use gloves when handling prickly pear.
  2. If glochids are still on the prickly pear, scrape them off with a blunt knife, then remove the eyelets that held them.
  3. Prick the prickly pear on the work surface with a fork in the middle.
  4. Cut off both ends with a sharp knife.
  5. Make one long vertical cut down the length of the prickly pear.
  6. With a second fork or knife, squeeze the skin from the prickly pear and release the fruit.

How to get prickly pear juice?

Prickly pear juice is great for various drinks, cocktails, lemonades, smoothies or even for preparing jam or salad dressings.

  1. Place the prickly pear flesh in a blender or food processor and blend until completely blended.
  2. Then transfer the blended mixture to a fine sieve and squeeze out the juice so that only the pulp and seeds remain in the sieve.
  3. Discard the pulp and seeds.

Tips for consuming prickly pear

  • Enjoy it peeled and sliced as a delicious snack.
  • Blend it into smoothies.
  • Use it to make a sauce for pork or lamb.
  • Cook it with a little orange and lemon juice for a sauce on fruit salads and cheesecakes.
  • Prepare chutney from it.

Use in recipes

Prickly pear lemonade recipe

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup prickly pear juice
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 4 and 1/2 cups water

How to do it?

  1. Juice the prickly pear and lemons.
  2. Mix the juice, add sugar and mix.
  3. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the water and enjoy!
Nopal lemonade in glasses with ice cubes and a slice of lime.

Cultivation of prickly pear

Prickly pear grows mainly in desert environments, so it is very common in Mexico and the American Southwest. It is also grown in Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean.

It will not bear fruit in our conditions, but in home conditions you can grow beautiful plants.

All prickly pears bloom in spring. At that time, they are covered in spectacular, waxy, yellow (sometimes red) flowers, which usually disappear after a day. In autumn, the plant develops fruit and is then ready for harvest from late September to October (in some areas even until November).

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)