If you have ever wondered how to make prickly pear juice, now is your chance. Prickly pears can range from gorgeous pink fruits with a berry-like taste to yellow ones with a tropical flavour. The juice is perfect to enjoy on its own or to blend with other beverages like cocktails.
About Prickly Pears
Prickly pears go by several names, like cactus berry, barbary fig, and tuna in Spanish. They come from the nopal cactus (Opuntia) which has paddle-shaped leaves and grows in different parts of the Americas including the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
There are several varieties of prickly pears ranging from deep pink to red, green, or yellow and brown even. The challenge with dealing with them is that they are very prickly on the outside due to being a cactus fruit. Once you get inside, it is worth it, though, as the inner pulp is a deep colour like the outer skin.
Prickly pears have an interesting sweet but subtle flavor profile that is a unique combination of watermelon and bubble gum. While the cactus plants grow all year, the fruit doesn’t tend to be ready to harvest until late summer to December. As a result, there is just a short time to enjoy these cactus fruits.
Nutritionally, these fruits have plenty of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and more. In fact, a single prickly pear includes approximately 5 percent of the daily recommended intake for calcium.
What is Agua de Tuna?
This juice is basically pureed prickly pear pulp that has been strained to remove the seeds. In this juice recipe, I also recommend the addition of some limes for some added tang and fruitiness, but they are optional.
Mint leaves are also great for a refreshing flavor. A little agave syrup is an excellent inclusion, especially since you may want the juice a little sweeter to add to smoothies, margaritas, and other beverages.
While you could utilize another syrup like honey, I recommend agave syrup because it is more authentic to Mexico. This syrup comes from the blue agave plant and is actually sweeter than refined white sugar. I give the option of adding it to taste, so you can determine how much to add depending on the preference of your taste buds.
How to Handle and Peel Prickly Pears
If you are lucky enough to live in a place where prickly pears grow, you may be able to harvest them yourself. You should either wear thick rubber gloves to harvest them or use tongs to pull the fruit from the cactus because they are prickly.
Once you have them in hand, wash them under cold running water. While doing that, I also recommend that you scrub them with a brush because that will help remove the prickles on the exterior of the fruit, otherwise known as the glochids. If you purchased your prickly pears from the store, you may be able to skip this step as the glochids are usually removed before being sold.
You will need to peel the prickly pears as they have a tough skin and you want to get to the flesh for the juice. You should wear gloves or utilize tongs for this step because there still might be some prickles on the prickly pears.
The best way to peel the prickly pears is to trim the ends followed by slicing the skin down the length of the fruit. Now you can peel away the skin in one large sheet and free the fruit inside.
How to Make Prickly Pear Juice
Once you have the prickly pears prepared and peeled, making the juice is easy. Simply add the full prickly pears to a blender. To flavor the juice you can add lime juice or mint leaves, and some agave syrup for sweetness.
You may think that you should add some water at this step, but it shouldn’t be necessary. Prickly pears have a lot of natural moisture that they should blend quite well without the need for additional liquid.
Next, set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and pour the juice through. This is to remove the seeds from the fruit and to give you a nice, smooth juice. At this stage, you can feel free to taste and add additional lime juice and agave syrup if needed.
Once prepared, you can drink the juice as is or diluted with water, use it in a recipe, or place it in the fridge in a sealed container until you are ready to enjoy it.
How to Use this Juice
Using your homemade juice may be the most fun part of this recipe. You could certainly enjoy it as it is if desired, as the fruit is so sweet and flavourful already. It should keep fresh in the fridge for between 2 and 3 days.
Of course, if you won’t be able to use the juice within that time or have a lot of prickly pears to process, you could simply divide the juice between ice cubes trays to freeze until you are ready to use it. These ice cubes are wonderful to add to cold beverages or water for some extra natural flavour.
Additionally, you could blend them into smoothies in place of regular ice or pulse them into frozen margaritas. Other possibilities are to use the juice in vinaigrettes, add it to marinades, or turn it into a fruit curd for a pie. There are so many possibilities with this lovely, exotic fruit.
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How to Make Prickly Pear Juice
If you have ever wondered how to make prickly pear juice, now is your chance. Prickly pears can range from gorgeous, prickly fruits with a berry-like taste to yellow ones with a tropical flavour. The juice is perfect to enjoy on its own or to blend with other beverages like cocktails.
- 3 pounds prickly pears (also called cactus berries, tunas in Spanish) about 1.35 kg or 12 medium-sized pieces
- 3 limes optional, more or less to taste
- agave syrup to taste
If you are picking fresh prickly pears from a nopal cactus, be sure to use thick rubber gloves or tongs to avoid pricking yourself with the glochids.
Before handling the prickly pears, brush them under cool running water to remove as many of the glochids as possible from the skin. (Store-bought prickly pears may already have most of their glochids removed).
To peel the prickly pears you still may want to wears gloves or use tongs in case of any remaining glochids. Cut off both ends of the prickly pears. Make a skin-deep incision along the length of the fruit. Now you can easily pull the skin away from the inner flesh.
Add the peeled prickly pears to a blender along with optional lime juice and agave syrup. Prickly pears are so juicy that I have never needed to added additional water to get the blender going. Blend until smooth.
Pour the blended juice through a sieve to strain out the hard seeds.
Adjust lime juice & sweetener if needed. You can drink the juice as is or diluted with water. It is also great in smoothies or margaritas.
The juice can be stored refrigerated for 2-3 days. To store for longer, fill the juice into an ice cube tray and freeze. The frozen prickly pear juice cubes can be added to water for flavoring, or blended into smoothies or frozen margaritas.
To add a refreshing mint flavor, you can blend a few mint leaves together with the prickly pears.