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All Hail the Prickly Pear!

There's not a whole lot I get excited about in the summer here in Arizona. It's so hot, we hardly leave the house even when there's NOT a global pandemic going on. But this year I've found some solace. Something that makes me really happy...the prickly pear!

The fruit of the Nopal Cactus is a round, burgundy color orb, with LOTS of protective spines! They're ripe right around mid-late July and they can be used in all kinds of recipes!

You'll want to find the darkest most burgundy color pears you can find on the cactus. They'll be that beautiful magneta color once the skin is peeled off. I always look at the bottom of the fruit once its off the plant (they should come off very easily), and if I see that dark magenta color, then I'm good to go. If it's not quite ready yet, it'll be green on the bottom and it won't have as rich of a flavor.

The easiest way to use the fruit is to make a simple syrup with the fruit juice. It's a bit time consuming, but I guarantee you it is SO worth it! The hardest part is getting the spines or "glochids" off so you can handle the fruit, but I've found that using a blow-torch or pastry torch is the quickest and best way to guarantee you're not grabbing the tweezers and digging those sticky little stinkers out of your hands for days! Place the pears on a cookie sheet and use the torch to burn off the glochids on all sides. Don't forget the tops and bottoms!

Let the fruit cool and then peel the fruit using a potato peeler or a paring knife. Chop off the tops and bottoms. Again, you'll want to see that dark, rich magenta color once the skin is peeled off. If it's really green (partially green is okay), then it won't have nearly as much flavor. It's kind of like eating an avocado a day or two before it's REALLY ready, so try to stick with just the super red ones.

Once you're peeled, give them a rough chop. You'll see LOTS of seeds, and we're going to boil these babies up and strain them so we get all that goodness out and none of those seeds! Measure out the fruit first. For every cup of fruit you have, you're going to add a cup of water and a cup of sugar. I usually pick about 50 pears and get about 5 cups of fruit, so I use a big dutch oven to make my syrup.

Bring the mixture to a boil, mashing with a potato masher or large spoon as it comes up to a boil. Keep the mixture at a boil for about 7 minutes. Remove it from the heat and run the mixture through a strainer and in to a large bowl. Discard all the remaining fruit and seeds. You should have a gorgeous, bright magenta colored syrup! It'll taste like sweet cactus fruit!

I store mine in 8 oz. mason jars, so they're easy to use in recipes. It also makes it easy for them to freeze and/or give away as gifts. As soon as people find out I'm making prickly pear syrup, everyone is asking for a jar!

So now, you're ready to cook with your delicious prickly pear syrup! Here are some of my favorite recipes, that are kid (and adult) approved! I'd love to see your ideas and comments below!


Prickly Pear Pancake Syrup

Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 30 seconds / Servings: 6-8


  • 1/2 cup prickly pear syrup

  • 1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)

  • 1/2 cup honey


  1. Combine all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Serve immediately.


Prickly Pear and Red Wine Vinaigrette

Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 0 minutes / Servings: 6-8


  • 1/2 cup prickly pear syrup

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning

  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder

  • 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until all ingredients are combined and incorporated. Serve immediately


Prickly Pear Pickled Onions

Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 15 minutes / Servings 6-8


  • 1/2 large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1 cup white vinegar

  • 1/2 cup prickly pear syrup

  • 1 ½ tablespoons fine sea salt

  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns

  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed

  • juice of 1 lime


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat off. Allow the mixture to steep for about 2 minutes or until onions are slightly soft.

  2. Drain the onions and transfer them to a large container or mason jar. Spoon a small amount of juice into the container. Serve or seal and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Prickly Pear and Lime Sherbet

Prep Time: 2 hours / Churn Time: 20 minutes / Servings: 6-8


  • 2 cups prickly pear syrup

  • 1 cup sugar (optional)

  • 2/3 cup lime juice

  • 1 tbsp. Lime zest

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 1 tsp. Xanthan gum


  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pulse until combined and smooth. Transfer the mixture to the freezer and let if freeze for about two hours.

  2. Transfer the mixture to the churning bowl of an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions for churning. It should take about 20 minutes.

  3. Transfer the sherbet back to the food processor and mix on high speed for about 20 seconds. This will ensure that the Xanthan Gum is incorporated and smooth.

  4. Store in the freezer until ready to serve.


Spicy & Sweet Prickly Pear Glazed Wings

Prep Time: 20 minutes / Cook Time: 20 minutes / Servings: 6-8



  • 1 cup Prickly Pear syrup

  • 1 cup butter, melted (2 sticks)

  • 1 cup honey

  • 4 tbsp. Chili paste

  • 2 large cloves garlic

  • Juice and zest of 2 limes

  • Salt/pepper to taste


  • 4 lbs. bone-in, skin on, whole chicken wings


  • 4 scallions, chopped

  • 2 limes, sliced

  • Chili paste (on the side)


  1. Mix the glaze ingredients together and transfer half of the mixture to a large mixing bowl.

  2. Cut and separate the wings by slicing down the center and through the joint to separate the “dummy” and the “wing.” Place them in the mixing bowl with half of the glaze. Stir to combine, cover with plastic wrap and marinate for at least 2 hours.

  3. Heat a grill or pellet smoker to 425 degrees. Place the wings on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes on each side.

  4. Remove from the heat and toss them in the remaining glaze. Allow the wings to rest for about 5 minutes so they can cool set. Top with the chopped scallions and serve additional limes and chili paste.


Pink Moscato and Prickly Pear Mojito

Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 0 minutes / Servings: 1


  • 4 oz. Pink Moscato (I used Barefoot)

  • 1 oz. rum

  • 4 oz. prickly pear syrup

  • juice of 1/2 lime

  • 2 sprigs of fresh mint


  1. Place 1 sprig of mint in the bottom of a tall glass. Muddle the mint with the back of a wooden spoon.

  2. Fill the rest of the glass halfway with ice and add the pink moscato, rum, prickly pear syrup and lime juice. Top with an upside-down martini shaker, shake, pour back into the glass and remove the shaker. Garnish with the remaining mint sprig, a slice of lime and serve.


Classic Prickly Pear Margarita

Prep Time: 5 minutes / Cook Time: 0 minutes / Servings: 1


  • 2 1/2 oz. Margarita mix

  • 1 oz. tequila

  • 1/2 oz. triple sec

  • 1 oz. prickly pear syrup

  • juice of 1 lime

  • pinch of salt


  1. Combine all ingredients into a tall shaker filled with ice. Cover and shake. Pour into a large margarita glass. Serve immediately.

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