Prickly pears are one of the most underrated and delicious fruits on the planet. The prickly pear grows on the Nopal Cactus, native only to the Americas. The green cactus paddles themselves are an amazing dish as well when prepared in the traditional Mexican fashion (commonly known as Nopalitos), but this article is all about the pinkish-red gems that grow on top. Prickly pears taste like a sweet mix of watermelon and bubblegum -- a mouthwatering combination. The taste lends itself to the perfect ingredient for cocktails, jams, Pricklee antioxidant water, and more! This guide will show you everything you need to know to slice and dice this exotic fruit for recipes that impress.
Best Recipes Using Prickly Pears
Prickly pears yield a delicious juice that can be used for syrups, jams, glazes, dressings, and more! Here are some of the recipes you can consider before getting to work.
- Prickly Pear Jelly - This jelly is an excellent complement to any scone, toast, or waffle. For succulent jelly, combine orange, lime, and sugar. This jelly can dress up the most mundane breakfast or lunch dish with some serious pizzazz.
- A Grilling Glaze - Prickly pears can provide a sweet, tangy glaze for grilled chicken, steak, or carne asada. Try marinating your meats with prickly pear -- it goes perfectly with chipotle and other Mexican traditional dishes.
- Sorbets and Pastries - Since prickly pears are sweet, they provide the perfect touch to pastries like cupcakes, pies, and crepes. A sorbet with prickly pear will impress the pants off any guests you may have over.
- Cocktails - As far as preparing a fancy cocktail goes, there is no better ingredient. Prickly pears can spruce up margaritas, mojitos, martinis, and more. The pears create a beautiful pink color that helps with the presentation, and the simple syrup is to die for in your favorite drink.
- Dressings and Vinaigrettes - Prickly pear packs the perfect punch for salad vinaigrette but adding sliced pears to salads also makes for an exotic meal.
Whatever dish you choose, prickly pears are guaranteed to provide a tasty treat packed full of antioxidants and other health benefits.
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Where Can You Find Prickly Pears?
Prickly pears aren’t always the easiest fruit to come by, and that’s part of their exotic flair! With a little bit of searching, you can easily find prickly pears in farmer’s markets, fruit stands, and fruit markets in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico. You can also hunt for them yourself if you live in an area where the Nopal Cactus grows. However, harvesting these little gems takes practice to do efficiently (with no pokes and gouges)!
Prickly pears in markets will have already been de-thorned of the tiny translucent thorns that are a real pain to touch. Use a pair of leather gloves and some hardy clothing if you decide to rough it and gather them on your own.
How to Prepare the Prickly Pears!
Once you finally have the coveted prickly pears in a bowl at home, you can begin the process of preparing them for whichever dish or drink you’ve chosen. There are a few steps involved, but the process is relatively straightforward. Soaking your prickly pears in cold water beforehand can make these next steps even easier. Check this video out if you’re more of a visual learner :)
1. Toss the ends - First, cut the ends off of your prickly pears and throw them into your compost or garbage. Be sure to use your sharp knife for precise cuts!
2. Make a cut down one side - Make a cut that is about a quarter-inch deep (or enough to get through the skin) on one whole side of the prickly pear.
3. Skin the prickly pear - Once you have made this cut, you will be able to work your fingernails in to start peeling the skin. Work your way around the prickly pear to remove the entire skin.
Depending on what you are planning with your prickly pears, step 3 may be all you need to accomplish. However, if you are planning to juice your pears, move forward to the final step.
4. Juicing the pear - After you have removed the prickly pear’s skin, you will notice that each fruit contains several seeds. The small seeds are completely edible, so there is no need to remove them if eating them in slices. However, if you want a seed-free smoothie, syrup, or drink, you will need to mash the pear and strain it through a mesh sieve.
Once you have put the pear through the sieve, you will have a beautifully colorful juice remaining. It will take around six or more pears to yield one cup of prickly pear juice. The juice is fantastic on its own and amazing with sparkling water, lemonade, and other beverages.
These steps are all you will need to prepare the prickly pears for your recipes.
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Now that you know how to cut and prepare the delicious fruit of the desert, you are free to try any recipe or culinary experiment you can dream of! Keep in mind that prickly pears are packed full of antioxidants, electrolytes, fiber, and vitamins. At Pricklee we’ve done the work of processing these fruits for you in the form of our superfruit waters! With half the sugar and calories of coconut water, you’ll love it!