Home Recipes How to Make Prickly Pear Jam

How to Make Prickly Pear Jam

by Bay Sandoval
5 minutes read

This fall, I finally got around to making prickly pear jam and it is absolutely delicious! Prickly pears are the fruit that is produced by the prickly pear cactus. I’ve heard of prickly pear jam for years being from New Mexico, but never made it before this year.


prickly pear recipe header title with prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactus in the high desert of New Mexico.


If you have prickly pears in your area, follow along and make some for yourself! You won’t be disappointed!

You might be intimidated by the cactus needles, but don’t be! Use a pair of pliers to pluck the fruit of the plant using a twisting motion. I tried using gloves, but still ended up with cactus needles in my fingers. Take a five-gallon bucket to toss the fruits into and get yourself a nice harvest!


prickly pear recipe header title with prickly pear cactus

Once you’ve gathered all the fruit you want, all you have to do is burn off the needles with a torch or roast the prickly pears like marshmallows over a fire. As long as you scorch all sides of the fruit, the cactus needles will burn off and you can enjoy the harvest without fear of being poked!


The other thing to remember is that the prickly pear seeds are much hard to eat, so you’ll need a sieve to separate out the seeds from the fruit after you’ve puréed the whole prickly pears in a blender.


prickly pear recipe in bowl

You’ll need 30 prickly pear berries to make this jam recipe but you’ll want even more if you want to make a sizable batch.

It’s very easy to prepare prickly pears for making jam. In fact, it’s much easier than I expected! And what’s really special about it is that you’ll have your very own foraged food to enjoy and the satisfaction of using something that otherwise would have gone to waste.

You’ll need about 30 fruits to make a batch of jam. If you want to fill up a quart-sized jar, you’ll need to double or even triple the recipe depending on the size of the prickly pears. If you have a lot of prickly pear cactus nearby, I’d recommend gathering as much as you can and even freezing some for later use! Prickly pears last a little over a year in the freezer.

prickly pear jam in mason jars canning with sunflowers in the background

Here’s what you’ll need to make the jam:

  • A blow torch or fire
  • 30 prickly pears
  • A blender
  • A sieve
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar

Use a blow torch to burn off the cactus needles or roast them like marshmallows over a fire.

Make sure the flame scorches all surfaces of the fruit so the cactus needles don’t end up in the jam.

Blend all 30 prickly pears in a blender until smooth. No need to remove the seeds — you’ll push the purée through a sieve next, which will leave you with just the juice!

I think the prickly pear jam has a beautiful color!

Boil the prickly pear purée on medium for about ten minutes, stirring constantly.

Next, make a slurry with the water, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Mix it well so it’s smooth.Next, remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. It needs to cool off a bit before you add the cornstarch slurry or else the cornstarch will get clumpy and make the jam look weird…

Stir the slurry into the purée so it’s blended well, then return the purée to the burner and set the heat to medium. Cook until the purée is the desired consistency. The longer it cooks, the thicker it will be.

Finally, pour the finished jam into jars and enjoy!

prickly pear with flower in background finished product

You can save what’s left of the prickly pear berries by freezing them on a cookie sheet and then storing them in freezer bags.

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