How to use a prickly pear

Eating prickly pears properly & Cactus recipe for prickly pear

What is the best way to eat prickly pear? Can you also eat them raw? If yes how?

How healthy are prickly pears?

Topic overview:

  1. What are prickly pears?
  2. Eating prickly pears: this is how it works!
  3. # 1 Consider before eating
  4. # 2 can you eat prickly pears raw?
  5. # 3 Peel prickly pears properly
  6. # 4 When are prickly pears ripe?
  7. How healthy are prickly pears?
  8. Make prickly pear jam
  9. Differentiation of the edible from the inedible prickly pear
  10. Eating the prickly pear, cactus leaf / recipe
  11. Prickly pear, nopal or chumbera?
  12. questions and answers
  13. Conclusion

What are prickly pears?

Prickly pears are the fruits of the prickly pear.

The prickly pear on which the prickly pear grows can be found in the Mediterranean region.

There are plenty of cacti and prickly pears in Andalusia. The cacti on which the edible cactus fruits grow are called here Chumberas.

In Germany they are mainly called Prickly pear known. The prickly pears or prickly pears will be Chumbos called.

I like to eat prickly pears and prickly pear, nopals and chumberas are some of my favorites. That's why I even brought a prickly pear leaf from a hike years ago.

I then used the cactus leaf to grow my own fig catus on the terrace, which has now grown quite a bit.

Eating prickly pears: this is how it works!

In the following step by step guide, I'll show you how to eat prickly pears properly. Without hurting your spines.

With a simple trick, you don't even have to touch the prickly pear to peel and eat it. This trick originally comes from the Andalusian farmers.

# 1 Consider before eating

You should keep this in mind when consuming prickly pears:

  1. Fine spines on the cactus fruits: Prickly pears have many fine spines. The spines are very small, but all the more annoying. Once you've pulled them in, it's very hard to see them with the naked eye. And you won't get it away so easily either. That can get really uncomfortable.
  2. Don't eat too much at once: Prickly pears are delicious. However, you shouldn't consume too much of them at once, or you can get painful constipation.

# 2 can you eat prickly pears raw?

You can either eat prickly pears raw or process them into jam.

# 3 Peel or peel prickly pears properly

Depending on the degree of ripeness, you can peel off the peel of the cactus fruits or cut it off along the flesh.

When peeling off, however, a large part of the pulp often sticks to the skin. Therefore, cutting just under the skin along the flesh of the prickly pear is more beneficial.

Here everyone can decide for themselves how they want to proceed. However, cutting is not a problem with a sharp knife.

Incidentally, the outer skin is not eaten. And you should avoid that anyway. Because there are spike nests here, with small but very annoying spines.

This is how prickly pears are peeled

Prickly pears are best peeled with a sharp knife and a carved fork.

If the prickly pears are to be eaten fresh from the nopal and peeled, a sharp outdoor knife can make the job easier.

The trick of peeling prickly pears with a carved fork is also used by farmers in Andalusia. So you don't need gloves to peel the cactus fruits.

A sharp knife and a fork of a branch are sufficient to protect you from the fine spines.

Last update on 05/22/2021 / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API

# 4 When are prickly pears ripe?

Harvest time for prickly pears in the Mediterranean is late summer to early autumn. This is also the time when the cactus fruits are ripe.

If you are not sure whether a fruit is already ripe or not, you can find out very easily. Ripe cactus fruits have a soft pulp. The fruit can be easily pressed in between two fingers.

Another characteristic of ripeness is the color of the fruit. Prickly pears that are not ripe are green. Ripe prickly pears, on the other hand, are red or yellow in color.

How healthy are prickly pears

Some ingredients of prickly pears:

  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • calcium
  • vitamin C
  • Vitamin E.
  • B vitamins

The ingredients show that prickly pears contain vitamins and minerals. So consumed in moderation can even be healthy.

Make prickly pear jam

I prefer to eat prickly pears raw, but I've already experimented with them and Prickly pear jam prepared. The preparation of the jam is very easy.

Peel the figs and reduce them with a little sugar. The prickly pear jam is ready.


  • ripe and peeled prickly pears
  • Sugar for boiling down


Peel ripe prickly pears and place in a saucepan. Mash a little and add sugar. Since the prickly pears are very sweet in themselves, you need very little sugar.

I also added a dash of water to boil it down. This will prevent the jam from boiling too quickly on the pot.

Differentiating the edible from the inedible prickly pear

There are different types of prickly pear. Some are bigger, some are smaller.

With some cacti the colors of the fruits are brighter and they have longer spines.

Inedible cactus and inedible prickly pears

In the Andalusian town of Tarifa you can admire particularly lush cactus hedges behind some beaches.

There are some cacti here whose fruits in the form of prickly pears have particularly inviting bright colors. They look very similar to the edible prickly pears. However, they are inedible.

I once had the fun of testing other prickly pears that were smaller and had more iridescent colors.

To do this, I harvested a cactus fruit, cut it up and only tried a little of the juice from the open fruit with the tip of my tongue. Just like you know it from survival training to distinguish between edible plants.

With the help of this little test, it was immediately possible to determine that these prickly pears are not edible. They tasted strongly of chlorophyll and very different from the sweet and delicious prickly pears of the prickly pear, which is called here Chumbera designated.

Edible cactus and edible prickly pears

The edible prickly pears can easily be distinguished from the inedible cacti and prickly pears.

Eating prickly pear, cactus leaf

The leaves of the nopal can also be eaten. They are used in many ways, especially in Mexico.

In Spain and southern Europe, cactus leaves are rarely eaten, but they can enrich your outdoor kitchen.

I've used the Cactus leaves experimented with the prickly pear in the outdoor kitchen.

It is advisable to always cook the cactus before frying it.

I once fried the prickly pear in oil right after it was peeled. In some places it was still very strawy. And it wasn't a pleasure in terms of taste either.

The prickly pear has a high proportion of chlorophyll. If you bite into it raw, it tastes like biting into a potted plant.

When roasting, the chlorophyll remains and becomes acidic. That's why it gives a strange taste.

A large part of the chlorophyll goes into the boiling water through boiling. That's why the prickly pear simply tastes better when cooked.

After cooking, you can then process the cactus leaves as you wish.

Either you give them cooked directly to a rice or another dish. Or you can use the cactus as a side dish. Once it is cooked, it is enough to briefly fry it.

Just let your enthusiasm for experimentation run wild.

Prickly pear, nopal or chumbera?

Prickly pear, chumberea or nopal belong to the plant genus of Opuntia.

With over 190 species, the opuntia genus is one of the most species-rich genera within the cactus family.

The prickly pear or prickly pears may be familiar to some from their holidays in Spain. The prickly pear grows wild in the Mediterranean or is often even grown as a natural fence.

The prickly pear or nopal does not need any care, grows very quickly and scares off many intruders with its spines. Overgrown cacti are the ideal demarcation of the property. Completely free but very effective.

Prickly pear is not only useful and good looking. It is also completely edible.

You can eat the following from the prickly pear:

  • Fruits: prickly pears
  • Cactus: the leaves of the prickly pear are also edible

questions and answers

Do prickly pears have spines?

Yes. In contrast to the spines on the leaves of the prickly pear, the spines on the prickly pears are very small. For that they are all the more annoying. Once you've pulled in the fine spines, they itch for a very long time.

How do you remove the prickly pear spines from the skin?

You can remove the spines very well with fine tweezers. Since the spines are particularly small, this is a laborious task with many spines.

With a trick you can remove all the spines from the skin at once. Use some tape to do this. Stick it to the area of ​​skin with the spikes and peel it off. The spines no longer adhere to the skin but to the adhesive tape.

Can a cactus be poisonous?

Yes. Although the prickly pear cactus is edible, there are many cacti that are poisonous. If you are not one hundred percent sure, then you better keep your hands off the cactus.

To determine the edibility of the prickly pear, just check the corresponding section in the article again.


The prickly pear or nopal is a species of cactus that is found in large parts of southern Europe.

If it is the edible prickly pear, it can in principle be completely used. Especially the fruits, which are also known as prickly pears, are sweet and tasty and also have a high vitamin content.

If you also want to use the cactus leaves, then you should opt for the younger and more tender cactus leaves. To prepare the cactus leaves, they are first peeled, then boiled and finally fried.

Do you know any other edible cacti? Always bring it to me. Share your experience with us via a comment.

Further reading tips: