How to turn cactus fruits into delicious prickly pear juice

By Amy Silverman, Steve Goldstein, Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, August 25, 2022 - 1:32pm
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2022 - 1:08pm

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Like baking cookies on the car windshield or squeezing citrus for limoncello, harvesting prickly pear fruit might just be on your Phoenix culinary bucket list.

But just like you better use an oven mitt for those chocolate chips, it's important to be prepared for prickly pears, which live up to their name with their invisible stickers that work their way into their skin and really hurt.

For advice on how to make this process as pain-free as possible, some of The Show called upon an expert — Arizona chef Minerva Orduño Rincón.

What you'll need

  • A bucket
  • Tongs
  • A stove or burner
  • Pots with lids
  • Water
  • Prickly pear fruit

How to prepare

Step 1: Find a bucket, a long pair of tongs and a prickly pear cactus. The fruit is ready to harvest when it's bright pink. If the cactus is on private property, make sure to get permission first.

prickly pear cactus in bloom
Amy Silverman/KJZZ
A Prickly pear cactus in bloom.

Step 2: Head to the kitchen to prepare pots and water for the fruit.

prickly pears
Amy Silverman/KJZZ
The fruits of the prickly pear cactus are its namesake prickly pears.

Step 3: Soak the pears in water, then drain. This will remove many of pears' prickly spines. 

prickly pear fruit on the stovetop
Amy Silverman/KJZZ
Prickly pear fruit soften on the stovetop.

Step 4: Add a bit of water to the bottom of the pot. The water doesn't have to cover the pears; it serves to prevent them from sticking to the pot when cooking.

Step 5: Cover the pot with a lid and turn on the heat. Use medium-high heat to start softening the pears.

prickly pear juice cooking
Amy Silverman/KJZZ
Prickly pears cooking on the stovetop.

Step 6: Once the fruit has broken down and is lost its shape, mash them. Use a potato masher to break down the softened fruit.

mashing prickly pear fruit
Amy Silverman/KJZZ
Mashing prickly pear fruit.

Step 7: Once it's really juicy and has broken down, strain it and wash the pot. This helps remove remaining, hard-to-see suckers.

Step 8: Make a reduction from the prickly pear juice by simmering. A reduction will remove as much water as possible from the juice to concentrate its flavor. Simply keep the juice cooking, and keep a close eye on it. The juice will get thicker and more vibrant in color.

prickly pear juice
Amy Silverman/KJZZ
Bottled prickly pear juice.

Step 9: Ready to serve! Once the juice is thick and vibrant, it's ready to be added to coffee, to be made into a cocktail or even to be drank by itself.

steve goldstein and lauren gilger in the KJZZ studios with prickly pear juice
Amy Silverman/KJZZ
Steve Goldstein and Lauren Gilger in the KJZZ studios with prickly pear juice.

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