Low Sugar Prickly Pear Jelly Recipe

Few plants have as many uses as the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica). In our climate it grows like a weed, with no supplemental irrigation, and produces a voluminous amount of edible pads and fruit. In addition to food, Opuntia provides medicinal compounds, a hair conditioner, building materials and habitat for the red dye producing cochineal scale insect. As for the fruit, you can consume it raw, dry it or make jelly. Several years ago I posted a recipe for prickly pear jelly. But the large amount of sugar in that recipe, in my opinion, covered up the subtle taste of the fruit. I’ve concocted a new prickly pear jelly using low-sugar pectin that substantially reduces the amount of sugar.

Low Sugar Prickly Pear Jelly
4 cups prickly pear juice (requires around four pounds of fruit)
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cups sugar
1 package low sugar pectin (1.75 ounces)

1. Burn off the spines by holding the fruit over a burner on the stove for a few seconds.
2. Quarter the fruit and place in a pot. Cover with water (around 2 1/2 cups). Boil for ten minutes. Crush the fruit with a potato masher.Β  Update 12/5/2012: I now recommend using a food mill, though the boiling technique also works. See our post on using a food mill to juice prickly pear fruit.
3. Strain through two sheets of cheesecloth placed in a colander. Gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and give the pulp a squeeze to extract as much juice as you can.
4. Pour four cups of the prickly pear juice into a pot and add a half cup of lemon juice.
5. Mix a quarter cup of the sugar and a package of low/no sugar pectin and add to the juice.
6. Bring the mixture to a full boil.
7. Add the remaining sugar and bring back to a full boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
8. Pour into six 8 oz jars.
9. Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.

Prickly pear fruit (called “tuna” in Mexico) come in a variety of colors. My plants make an orange fruit that matures in August. I love the taste of the fresh fruit, but it’s a bit of an acquired taste due to the abundant seeds and the nasty spines (technically called glochids).

Unlike a lot of jelly recipes floating around the interwebs, I guarantee that this one works. It basically follows the ratios and instructions for red raspberry jelly as detailed in the Sure Jell pectin box. In my experience with jam and jelly recipes, sticking with the directions in the pectin box yields consistent results. And stay tuned for a video I shot on how to make this jelly.

Update: Green Roof Grower Bruce wrote to suggest using Pomonas Universal Pectin to reduce the sugar level of this recipe even further. I’m going to give it a try. In the meantime the folks behind Pomona’s have a very similar recipe for prickly pear jelly that uses less sugarhere (pdf).
Update 8/28/2010:Β  I tried the Pomonas Universal Pectin prickly pear jelly recipe linked to above. It works, and uses one cup less sugar than my recipe above. The color is also more vibrant due to the larger percentage of fruit. However, both Mrs. Homegrown and Homegrown Neighbor found the more gelatinous consistency of the Pomonas prickly pear jelly objectionable. Verdict: for now I’m going to stick with SureJell or equivalent.

Leave a comment


  1. Here we get nice red tuna that are ripe for the picking in October. Because of the large amount of sugar for jelly – and since all our family is over 2000 miles away and who wants to mail glass! – I switched to making prickly pear fruit leather. Has been a big hit, especially with the kids as they see it as a candy treat they can have anytime. Follow the basic directions for getting out the juice and then mix with applesauce (natural pectin, and helps the leather stay together). a little lemon juice and sugar to taste – probably less than a cup here. It has a nice tang and color and even holds its own when other fruits are added.

  2. Here in Mexico, the orange ones are the most difficult to find and the most valued ones, in my experience, I prefer their flavor, although I have to say I love the fruit in all of its colors, thanks for the recipe, just in time for tuna season.

  3. David,

    Do you know anything about pruning nopale? I’ve been trying to find someone who knows. Clearly there’s a way to maximize either pad or tuna production but I haven’t figured it out. Hoping to meet someone from Mexico who farms them someday. It’s just about my favorite plant.

  4. I have 12 jars of prickly pear jelly cooling in my kitchen right now. I used your lower sugar recipe and I love the delicate flavor of the ‘tuna’. The little sample I put in the fridge jelled beautifully so I think the rest of the batch will be great too. Thanks for posting your recipe. I had never tasted prickly pear jelly til now. I’ll be doing this every year.

  5. I am putting the prickley pears through a juicer and the juice coming out seems like it has natural pectin in it, it is very thick. Can you make cold stirred prickly pear jelly or jam?

    • Yesterday, I picked some tunas and ran them through a blender. Since the fruits have a lot of mucous in the outer skin, the mixture was extremely thick and frothy and there was nothing I could do with it. It’s even too thick to strain through a cloth to get juice. The best way to handle prickly pear fruits is to press/crush them for the juice, then you can make whatever you want with them. You’ll have to use pectin if making jelly. The fruits may contain some natural pectin but it’s an unknown amount, so it’s best to use store bought pectin/Sure-Gel so you know how much you have and it can be controlled.

  6. @Anonymous:

    Erik and I have consulted on this. We don’t think that thickness in the juice has anything to do w. pectin. It’s likely the natural mucilaginous texture of the cactus.

    Not sure what you mean by “cold-stirred” — we’ve not heard that term before–but to make jelly or jam out of cactus fruit juice we’re pretty certain you’d need to use pectin, either in box form or perhaps by mixing your juice w. apples.

  7. Dear Mrs. Homegrown,
    πŸ™‚ I’ve recruited some friends and we’re heading to my mother-in-laws ranch in south texas this weekend to try our hand at this yummy jelly; so I’ve been doing a TON of research.
    Some of the research says I should “parafin wax” seal the top of the jelly…With the jars / lids today; do I still need to do this?

    Also, I’m hoping to make these in 2oz jars as a favor for a wedding reception…Is this fool-hardy and nieve for some reason?

    πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience- Katie K ([email protected])

  8. Hey Katie,

    I’ve never used a wax seal. It’s an old technique that’s no longer recommended for food safety reasons as the seal can fail. I’ve only used canning jars with this recipe, though you could pack them in 2 oz jars and tell people to use it or refrigerate immediately. The lemon juice and sugar in the recipe will make a jelly that lasts a long time in the fridge. Try a small test batch first. Good luck.

  9. Hey there,

    I tried out this recipe and was pleased with the results, however still VERY sweet. But all in all good. As an alternative to burning off the glochids, i’ve found that 2 minutes in boiling water and then an ice bath enables efficient peeling of the fruit. I hear that the peel has a good deal of pectin which might aid in the congealing…but i didn’t find a significant difference. i’m about to try an even lower sugar recipe-will let you know how it turns out. πŸ™‚

  10. I am trying this for the first time. My juice is really thick and mucus like is this right? Slimy too. I was thinking it would be more like fruit juice.

  11. Dumb question: When are the pears ready to be picked? It is now May and I would like to make some jelly in June (before I leave Texas). Any chance I can do it?

    • I just picked the prickly pear tunas in Austin today, 8/8/2015, so that’s about when they’re ready in this part of Texas.

  12. @Anon: Sorry, there’s no way for us to answer this question. It will vary so much by plant, variety, region… Generally harvest is in the fall here where we live. We decide when to harvest by tasting the fruit.

    May seems early, but we don’t like to make generalizations about areas we don’t know. If it’s sweet enough, you can pick it for jelly. In our experience the best jelly–of any sort–is made with good ripe fruit–but with the help of sugar and cooking even crappy fruit can be made to work.

  13. I added a bit of pomegranite juice and pureed ginger with honey to my juice–was great.

  14. Hello! I live in West Texas and I think our fruit is ripe. it is nice and big and a good deep red/magenta color, some of the fruit is still green though. I am going to try you jelly recipe sense we have six acres and tons of natural prickly pear.

  15. Recipe says 1 package low sugar pectin.

    I bought 4.7 oz jar (Ball, low or no-sugar needed pectin).

    Can you help me to figure out how much pectin I should use per 4 cups Prickly Pear juice? 1 tbls?

  16. I followed the recipe to the letter and for some reason my jelly didn’t set. It’s still runny. I have another batch or fruit and will try again. The unset jelly makes wonderful syrup for pancakes though so it’s not a loss. I’m going to try again this weekend and hopefully it works out.

  17. To Anonymous (above)
    If you use Sure-Jell brand Pectin, there are instructions in the box on what to do if your cooked jelly doesn’t gel. My first batch of jelly ended up like syrup, too. I followed the directions in the leaflet inside the Sure-Jell box to the letter, and re-cooked my runny jelly and it came out very nice and firm. I’ve been making prickly pear jams, jellies and syrups for the past week and I now have about 45 8-ounce jars put up, with enough raw juice left in the fridge to do another 8 to 12 jars. I started with 20 pounds of tunas, for what it’s worth.

  18. Im in west texas and made a batch of 6 jars using a simlar recipe 4 years ago. I opened up my last jar this morning and its still as good as it was at the begining. My first batch of jelly I ever made. I sterilized the heck out of the jars and lids. I looked out today and noticed all the great pears ripe for picking and decided to look up the recipe. (picked about 7 lbs) This one looks great. Does anyone know how long jellys can last like this?

  19. I have made Cactus Jelly from red and yellow tunas(I call them apples). Anyway, each hes a different flavor, the yellow more like peach and the red sort of like raspberry.
    I will try your low sugar recipe this week. Our neighbors cactus is loaded ready to pick.

    As to the question about using parafin… I would say not to. Why risk spoiling a good product as well as it could be messy to transport. Water bath is easy and much safer.

  20. The beta a betaine cyan colored pigment present in cactus fruit and in beets has been researched in India and is a specific to assist in treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia, a kind caused by an extra abnormal chromosome.

    I have cactus fruit on the stove cooking down right now.

  21. I only have regular powdered pectin- it was all I can find here in southern France. I followed your recipe last year with this pectin and the result was syrupy. Surprise, surprise that same jelly is now more jelled, although still soft. What can I do differently with the regular pectin- add more? boil longer? for instant gelling? Thanks.

  22. Does Aqave nectar change the amount of pectin you have to use.
    I had 40 lbs of tunas and it did not set…all jar lids sealed but juice is runny.

    • sometimes your product won’t gel because you killed the pectin by not bringing to quick rapid boil, not timing it, or cooking too long. The pectin is sensitive. Also be sure to use the correct pectin for the right amount of sugar (you cant modify)

  23. Not sure what happened…we used aguave nectar instead of honey.
    All lids sealed beautifully but it is not solid.
    Do I need more pectin and should I also boil longer.
    about 3 lbs of tunas were used.

  24. Hi Debra,

    We have to moderate our comments here–that’s why your comments weren’t showing up. If you commment again, just hang tight–it will appear.

    As to the agave syrup, as far as I know you cannot make jelly with agave syrup. Jellies require white sugar and a lot of it. They’re just not health food.

    Erik–who is Mr. Jam around the house–is not here to comment, and he’s more of an expert. Perhaps he can come back and comment on the technical side of this problem. For instance, I don’t know if agave syrup would set up a sufficiently acidic environment for safe canning in a water bath.

    I don’t like to use much white sugar myself. A good alternative to jelly are fruit butters, which can be made entirely with the sugars already present in the fruit. But unfortunately tunas are too watery to make a butter.

  25. Debra–try a batch following the recipe exactly and let me know if you are still having trouble. An alternative is to dehydrate sliced prickly pear fruit if you are concerned about eating too much sugar. Or just eat them fresh seeds and all.

  26. DON’T DUMP if it doesn’t set, it makes great syrup on waffles. Even to flavor milk or over ice cream. I had this no setting problem too with 2 batches of jelly this year, using sure-jell. No problem in the batch using store brand pectin. SO, I took 1 Tbs of store brand pectin and mixed it with 1/4 cup water in a pan, stirred and heated to boil, pouring in 4 half pints of the jelly/syrup with 1/4 cup of sugar, boiled hard and stirring for a minute and then rejarred and processed. One redo I added a tbs lemon juice, and the other I didn’t. Both batches re-set well. I also made a no sugar batch using 12 packets splenda, 2 cups juice, Tbs lemon juice, 2Tbs no sugar Ball pectin. Worked great. If you add a couple green or half ripe tunas when doing the juice it raises the natural pectin.

  27. Can you give a weight or volume measurement for “one package low sugar pectin?” I have a huge jar of it and certainly I won’t need to use all that. My cactus is loaded and I’m ready to start making jelly! Thanks!

  28. I made a 138 jars of cactus jelly and syrup last fall. A quicker way to juice the fruit is to steam the whole fruit in a double boiler for 10 min, no need to burn off the needles, then follow the rest of your directions. The steaming causes the needles to be too soft to go through the clothe. I just juiced 6 quarts this morning and not one quill, nor did I get one needle in the 138 jars from last year.

  29. First time out of the chute making prickly pear jelly. One thing I did different was to roast them over a mesquite fire before running them through the juicer. Great flavor but the 8 oz jars I canned last night has not set a bit. They’re going to be my waffle syrup.

  30. While i have not made tuna jelly, i have been making jalepeno jelly with agave nectar. I use pomona’s unIversal pectin which has extensive directions for formulating your own recipes. I used the pectin instructions for honey and it gels perfectly. I use xgave brand nectar and follow their white sugar equivelancy ratio.

  31. I live in Central Arizona and this is the 2nd year I’ve made prickly pear jelly. This time, after using our camp stove and a skewer to singe the spines off each one, I rinsed and halved the pears and used my gadget for getting the meat out of avocados to get the flesh of the pears out. I ran the seeds and pulp through my sieve and came out with almost an applesauce texture. This year I tried using 1 cup of Stevia instead of 5 cups of sugar and also used the low sugar pectin. If what we scraped out of the pot is any indication, I would say it was a success. πŸ™‚ Oh, and I also use key limes instead of lemons and love the zing. I’m grateful I live where we can ride our quads all the time and I’m always making mental notes of where there are veritable forests of prickly pears. LOL Thanks for all the great hints and Happy Hunting!

  32. Dear Homegrown Evolution,
    I know it’s late in the year, but we found a wonderful batch of garnet fruit above what’s left of the Pedernales River outside of Austin. I’m using your recipe, but all I have is a pressure canner. Can I use this? How?
    Thanks, Karren at the Arfinage

  33. Hi Anonymous,

    I don’t know the answer to that question other than to say that there’s no need to pressure can this recipe as it has sufficient acidity and sugar to just use a water bath. I’ll ask some friends of mine tonight who are master food preservers.

  34. Dear Mr. Homegrown,
    Wow! Are you a prompt responder–and on Thanksgiving weekend, too! Thank you SO much! I have boiled, peeled and de-seeded my fruit. At this stage it smells very much like Mustang Grape jelly. Yum. I may try cooking a batch (I have a fair amount)and pressure cooking the result at 5 lbs for 8 minutes. I’ll let you know how it works, but I’d still be very grateful if you’d discuss this with your friends this evening.
    P.S. When I pressure canned my plums last year (the squirrels got every last one this year), they came out syrupy. I did exactly what your above correspondents did: I used the syrupy jelly as syrup…and I didn’t mention to folks I gave it to that it was supposed to be jelly!
    Thanks again for your prompt reply,
    Karren at the Arfinage

  35. I have the red tuna in arkansas. getting ready to do my jelly for the first time. I am so excited to try this. I pruned my cactus last year and I have 3 times as much fruit. Thanks for the information

  36. another way to remove the spines is while wearing leather gloves rub/roll the tunas around on some grass or thick bush like rosemary…the spines come off. much easier than burning off. this was shown to me by a MEXICAN.

  37. This the first time i have tried prickly pear jam. Have been making jam/jellies for few years. When extracted the juice from the tunas it was slimy and smelled like olavera juice. Tasted it without sugar and it was awful. I have read how wonderful the fruit is and the juice. Did i do something wrong. They were magenta red when picked a few days ago.

    • Sorry we missed your question. I have no idea what went wrong there. Ripe tunas should be sweet and not so slimy. Perhaps you weren’t picking true prickly pear fruit? There’s others which look similar. The most commonly eaten variety is Opuntia ficus-indica. Or maybe that cactus makes bad fruit for some reason. Tunas should be sweet enough to eat out of hand. They’re Erik’s favorite fruit.

  38. Last year when I made it the the fruit were magenta red and the fruit tart. The jelly tasted yummy though. Hoping to make some this weekend. Momma in Texas

  39. help im a new canner. after i do all of the above recipe i pour mix into jars then do i do wax on top or do i have to poil the jars and how long sorry if dumb question i dont have a big canning pot like my mom had

  40. My family has made prickly pear jelly for a lot of years (also jalepeno Jelly-mmmm). Quicker and easier way to remove spines and stickers: Pour pears out on BBQ grill and spread them out, using a hand held propane torch (available at all hardware stores)and burn the spines and stickers off, turn pears and torch other side. Easy and quick! My wife and I are canning 5 gallons of pears right now.

  41. We live in Arizona. We have made prickly pear jelly a few times in the past, but it’s been a while. I tried your low sugar recipe and it turned out great. Our method for processing the pears is as follows: Rinse them several times in a bucket with hot water. This gets most of the needles off. Then with kitchen gloves on we cut them in half and scoop out the pulp into a bowl. Then we run it through our juice extractor. (The kind you use to make carrot juice) This separates the seeds from the juice. This is much easier than burning the needles off or cooking the fruit.

    • Did the jelly have to be refrigerated to jell or did it thicken as it cooked down with all the ingredients including the pectin.I don’t have low sugar pectin because I bought the liquid type can I use it and not add as much sugar stated in the recipe in the box or will less sugar inhibit the thickening of the jelly?

    • You don’t have to refrigerate the jelly to get it to jell. But you can’t reduce the amount of sugar. The amount of sugar is part of getting the jelly to jell as well as a preservative.

    • We have tried using the liquid type sure jell because the stores where out of the boxed sure jell. This was with a different jelly but it did not work. We had to find powered sure jell and re-make it.

  42. My husband and I are a bit new to prickly pear jelly but not to jelly/jam making. We made some per my grandmas instructions in August that did not set up. We re-did it all when we came home from visiting her, adding more sure jell and it sat up beautifully and tasted wonderful, but it is very sweet. We are going to try the low sugar recipe you have here, this week. We still have some jars we need to re-do from August plus we have a lot of juice stored up in 2 liter soda bottles in the deep freeze. Can’t wait to try the low sugar recipe! Also thanks to whoever it was that posted about using splenda in place of sugar!! My dad is diabetic and misses out. We will make that version so he can enjoy! So glad I happened across this site.

  43. I am new to canning and prickly pear jelly. I followed your instructions exactly for the low-sugar pectin and it did not set up. I think that when I was adding the last of the sugar and it said to stir constantly and boil for a minute, that maybe I didn’t get it stirred as well because I was trying to add sugar and stir at the same time and it started to give me clumps in the pot as I was stirring. So, when I added to the jars, I noticed some of the jellied mixture was still on the bottom of the pot. Maybe I should have added more pectin to compensate for the lost pectin in the bottom?

    • I just used a big old pot that used to be non-stick but is all scratched up now and I use it for boiling pasta or making big sized dishes with it. I didn’t double the recipe, in fact, I weighed out 4lbs of fruit exactly, but after adding the water to cover it and then mash it, I had probably double the juice. But, I set the remained of juice aside and still followed the 4 cups of juice that the recipe called for. Do you think it was too watery? The recipe said to cover the fruit once it was quartered and that it should take about 2 1/2 cups, but it actually took more than that to cover it. Thanks for your help on this because I am thinking of making more with the left over juice that I have.

    • I think you’re right–probably too watery. Another technique I discovered recently is juicing the fruit with a food mill. In fact, I should revise this recipe.

    • Ok, so I’m going to try this again with the left over juice. Assuming it is too watery, what should I do differently? Add more pectin? More sugar? If so, I’ll need tablespoon measurments for the pectin since mine is in a jar. Thanks! The last batch called for a “package” of low-sugar pectin and the research on the internet said a package is equal to 3 1/2 tablespoons, so that is what I used last time. Thank you!

    • Maybe I was unclear or maybe I am confused, but when I made the first batch, I had double the juice that I needed (8 plus cups). The 6 jars I processed (using 4 cups juice) didn’t set up, but they sealed and I was going to keep them sealed & use for syrup. So, I wanted to make a brand new batch out of the left over juice that hasn’t been processed yet. Since we talked about it possibly being too watery, my question was do I add more pectin or sugar to help that out. I don’t think that would call for reprocessing directions since it wasn’t processed in the first place right? I eagerly await your reply so that I can try this again with more juice. Thanks for your help!

    • Hmmmm. If it’s too watery, I’d probably skip it. The flavor of the prickly pears is pretty subtle to begin with so you’d probably end up with something that tastes like sugar and lemon juice. Sorry it didn’t work out for you. I’m going to amend the recipe to suggest using a food mill.

  44. Prickly pear jelly novice…would it be possible to sub in honey for the sugar? The low sugar pectin I have lists honey as a possible sweetener. If so, do you know what the substitution quantity would be? Our honey is from our ranch, not bought of the store shelf, so is very pure. Thanks in advance for any advice you might have.

    • Hi Sarah, According to the Food Safety Advisor (published by the University of Washington Extension Service), “In a recipe with no added pectin, you may replace half the sugar with honey. In a recipe with added pectin, you can replace approximately one-forth of the sugar with honey. Jams and jellies made with honey will have a darker color and slightly different flavor than those made with sugar.”

  45. How much pectin is in a box? I am having trouble getting the ratios correct, and I want to be sure that the boxes of pectin that I am using are the same as the ones you are! Thank you

  46. Thanks for the recipes, they’ve been great! What would happen if I used regular pectin instead of low sugar pectin? Is there any way to sub regular pectin? I have 6 boxes of regular pectin to use up before I can go out and buy the low-sugar version.

  47. I usually just swish the fruit in cold water to get the spine and prickles out, worked great for me. Also lime juice instead of lemon juice, I made both last year can not decide which one I like better.

    • I did a batch with lime juice instead of lemon as well, and I prefer it. I don’t know that it makes any difference to the taste, but the lime juice is fragrant and it completely masked the odd cut-grass smell of the prickly pear (something I found a tad off-putting).

  48. Pingback: Still Canning Season Here | Mary Jane's Button Box

  49. Tip for getting spines off prickly pears: 1. Always wear protective eyewear when doing this!! 2. Stand upwind from cactus plants and using a clean paint brush, gently brush spines off the “tunas.” Yes, this works! I do it every year. Oh, and then, 3. Using kitchen tongs, crack or cut tuna from cactus and place in a clean bucket; 4. Fill bucket with water and using the tongs, roll tunas around (this helps release more stubborn spines. 5. Drain water (maybe outside?) and rinse again. Viola`!

  50. Help, I’m hoping that some one has tried to make soft candy from prickly pear fruit. Thanks Elisa

    • There are a lot of instructions out there for gummy bears type candy and they probably use gelatin for the flavor. Some use “unflavored” gelatin. You could probably just add prickly pear juice for the flavoring. Anyway, that’s where I would start.

  51. In your ingredients list, you say “package” of pectin but in your instructions you say “box” of pectin. A box sounds like a lot more pectin than a package of pectin. Could you clarify this by maybe stating the ounces?

    • Bill. Thanks for catching this. I meant package–the post has been corrected. The brand I use–Sure Jell–is a box with one package (1.75 ounces) of pectin. Hope that answers your question.

  52. Thank you for this recipe! I was looking all over for a reliable one for cactus pear! Do you have one for Pakistani mulberry jam?

    • Thanks! Unfortunately, I don’t. I have a friend with a Pakistan mulberry tree, but I always eat them all before even thinking about making jam!

  53. The picture you have at the top of the page with the prickly pear fruits in the colander shows fruits that are way too green. Last week I picked some fruits that had turned a much darker red but they were STILL too unripe to get any good use out of.

    • Prickly pear fruits vary in color. Ours are actually sweet and mature when they’re light orange.

  54. Greetings, I live in Tucson az and it’s monsoon season. My problem is that my cactus fruit is falling off the plant. They are a nice garnet color, but when I cut in to one. The edges are still green. Question, will the fruit continue to ripen if I were to put them in a bag? Thanks Elisa

    • I’m sorry to say I don’t know the answer to this. Prickly Pear has a lot of genetic variation. The one we have in our front yard produces an orange fruit. I’ve noticed that I can use the ones that don’t look ripe for eating raw and for recipes.

    • You could but I don’t think I would. The taste of prickly pear fruit is already so subtle (and covered by the sugar to a great degree) that I think other fruits would dominate. But I’ll open this to anyone else on this thread who has tried mixing fruit? Any suggestions?

    • The longer these articles stay online, the more off topic they become. The subject of the article is prickly pear jelly. It’s not about the endless varieties of other fruits or jellies. People need to stop straying off the topic and trying to dream up every possible alteration or scenario that is possible. If you have no interest or intent of making prickly pear jelly, the internet is chock full of jelly recipes and instructions for other fruits. Common sense would tell you that mixing other fruit with prickly pear wouldn’t even be prickly pear jelly anymore.

  55. I live in Comanche county, TX. We have TONS of prickly pears and they have been ripening for several weeks now. Even after the pears have ripened to a very dark magenta color, they still aren’t at their ultimate sweetness, so I go gather a few every week or two and sample them. I have a large shop press I’m using to squeeze the juice out with, however the bottle jack I’m using to power it is only a tiny 2 ton one bought at Wally World. Yesterday, I picked exactly 60 large size pears and got about 2 cups of juice. After squeezing the pears, I filtered the juice through a funnel with 2 or 3 coffee filters into a mason jar. I did NOT waste my time burning the glochids off, which would have taken forever by doing one pear at a time. I also didn’t peel or even crush the pears. They went straight to the press. Straining through the coffee filters removed all glochids. A T-shirt would also work. I sampled the juice and it had a fair amount of sweetness to it but by waiting longer, I know they will get even sweeter with future pickings. I added a couple of teaspoons of sugar to the jar and it was VERY tasty. Better than Kool-Aid. Had a nice twang to it. I drank every drop. I did all this a couple of weeks ago and it took much longer to strain because it had a lot of sliminess to it. Not so much this time for whatever reason. The sliminess comes from the skin of the pears but I guess this time, not so much of the sliminess went into the juice. Last winter was very severe in our area and the prickly pears were heavily damaged, but surprisingly, they bounced back this year and produced the largest crop of fruits I’ve ever seen. I’ve only been testing the waters so far to see what I’m up against in getting enough juice to do something with. I’d really like to make jelly, but since it’s such a tricky process to get it to gel right, I would hate to just end up with syrup, so I may just make wine from it. I’m not really much of a drinker and not a fan of wine, but I’m still interested in how it will come out. I know that I’ll need to pick at least two 5 gallon buckets of pears. Just for fun, I’ve made drinkable wine from store bought grape juice in one week, so making wine will be easy compared to making jelly. I wish my dear old grandmas were still around. They were experts in making jelly.

  56. Hi
    I am from India, I tried to make JAM from cactus fruit available here same like Texas but it is small in size.

    Pl share about how much time I need to boil the mixtures, at what degree temperature and here only petting available is Germany made petting.

    I tried twice to make JAM but it was like syrup.
    Pl provide me recipe along with time duration required to boil and also wants to make low sugar jam.

  57. Thanks for the recipe! I’m trying it out for the first time. I live in CO and we have a different variety of prickly pear here, with much smaller fruits(only 1.5-2 in long). The small size (and thus quantity) made burning off the spines too difficult, so I found another way: scrub them off with the dish-washing brush! Worked beautifully. I hope they cook up as well as your south-western variety, I’ll let you know!

    • I’ve learned to not even fool with removing the spines. It takes way too much time to burn them off each individual pear and scrubbing is even worse and you usually end up not getting them all. I feel I’ve done enough work by the time I’ve picked a bucket’s worth of pears or more. I simply put the pears in a pot and press them until all the juice is out of them then strain the juice through cloth and I’ve got completely sticker-free pure prickly pear juice.

    • I just interviewed Wendy and Mikey of the blog Holy Scrap Hot Springs for our podcast–we talked about this issue. Mikey suggested a steam juicer and agreed with you that it’s impossible to get all the spines out no matter what method you use. Thanks for your tip!

    • Try the dish-scrubber brush — really! I just wore rubber kitchen gloves, scrubbed each pear with the damp brush (rinsed periodically), and rinsed the fruits off when I was done. This morning I didn’t bother with the gloves when I halved them all — a 3 lb bowlful of strawberry-sized fruits — and I don’t have a single spine in my fingers. Not ONE!

    • My Colorado prickly pears cooked up just fine! I used this low-sugar recipe, the jelly is setting up nicely and the taste is DELICIOUS! Thanks very much Mr Homegrown, I will be making this again!

  58. Made my first batch of prickly pear jelly yesterday. I used the low sugar version of Sure-Jell and simply followed the included Sure-Jell instructions for grape jelly but used prickly pear juice instead. The low sugar Sure-Jell turns out just as sweet as anyone could want. I followed the instructions to the letter and didn’t deviate one iota. It turned out very well. It could have been a little stiffer but it’s just right for easily spreading on toast or biscuits. It really wasn’t complicated at all and I’ve truly never had better tasting jelly. I’m not your average jelly maker since I’m a 59 year old male but this year I was determined to make some good use of the millions of big, plump prickly pear fruits that surround me. The only other jelly I would consider making is blackberry, but it takes a lot of motivation picking blackberries from those extremely thorny bushes. Not so with prickly pears since tongs are required. I might add that I didn’t bother at all with burning or removing the bristles (glochids). I simply picked the fruits, pressed the juice out of them, strained it through cloth and that was it. I never even wore gloves and never got a sticker through the whole process.


    • Assuming the fruit is edible, then yes, you can probably make jelly out of it. But you need to identify your cactus first!

    • Any juice can be made into jelly! Have you tried these fruits? Many cactus fruits are edible, but not all are tasty. If you’re already eating them and think they’re tasty then I’d say go ahead and make some jelly. If you haven’t tried them yet you might want to see if you can identify them and make sure they’re safe to eat first.

    • Besides prickly pear, I just can’t think of any cactus that would be growing in the southwest that would have actual “fruits”. And whatever cactus they’re referring to, it sure wouldn’t take much effort to find out what they are.

    • My first thought was that it might be a Peruvian Apple. They are attractive cacti which people grown in their yards around here.

    • That’s a good guess. I’m just not familiar with that cactus since all we have around here is prickly pear and a few small barrel type cactus.

  60. ha, that might be a good idea but it’s rather bad poetry. Today, I got a fake Paypal email and found out my “reckoning” has been suspended:

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  61. Hi, I usually make syrup but wanted to try jelly this time. I failed. I followed the recipe for low sugar pectin but failed to realize I didn’t use the pink box. Any recommendations on trying to make this batch into jelly? I assume I should reboil and add more sugar & lemon but no idea how much since the two recipes are pretty different. Thanks.

    • Since you mistakenly used the regular Sure-Jell, did you use the 7 cups of sugar the regular one calls for instead of the 3 1/2 cups the low-sugar version calls for? I was successful in my first attempt at making prickly pear jelly though it could have been a bit stiffer. I used the low-sugar Sure-Jell and followed the instructions included in the box for grape jelly. I followed the instructions to the letter and didn’t deviate at all. I’m not referring to you but after tasting how sweet the jelly was, I can’t imagine why anyone would use the regular Sure-Jell that calls for a whopping 7 cups of sugar. As I said, my jelly could have been stiffer but it actually could also work as syrup by simply leaving it at room temperature for awhile. I made the refrigerator jelly, not the long-term storage type.

    • @Tegas, I followed this recipe so I only used 3 cups of sugar. But the other recipe on here calls for 5 cups of sugar but only 2.5 cups of juice (whereas this recipe used 4 cups of juice). So I used a lot of juice, not a lot of sugar and regular pectin, which does not equal jelly. I am not sure how much sugar or whatever to add to try and get jelly.

  62. Been making jelly for a while and would like to add jalapeΓ±o or another chile to make a hot jelly I could baste or thanksgiving ham with. Any idea I’d how much to use and when to add in?

  63. I’d like to make a hot prickly pear jelly with jalapenos or another type pepper for my glaze for a Thanksgiving ham. Any suggestions for procedure or quantiy/type peppers?

  64. I made a second batch of this jelly and swapped out the lemon juice for lime juice instead. It cooked and set just fine, and if there’s any difference in flavor, it’s very subtle. But the lime juice has one bonus: it’s fragrant, and it completely masked that odd cut-grass smell of the prickly pear (something I found a tad off-putting in the first batch)!

  65. Hi Mr. Homegrown,
    My 13 year old son is giving a speech on Prickly cactus. May we have your permission to use your prickly pear and jam photos in his speech?

  66. I am surprised that the ratio of cactus juice to lemon juice is different from the original recipe. How does this affect the outcome? Is it as shelf-stable?

  67. I just made this, and while I have yet to open a jar, the stuff I have been licking from the pot as I clean up is FANTASTIC. I did a couple of things a little differently: I pre-mashed the fruit a little before starting to boil to extract the juice, which allowed me to boil it in its own juice rather than adding any water. I also added about 1 tsp of fresh lemon zest to increase the lemony goodness. I am currently impatiently checking jars because I plan to eat some as soon as it cools. Super yum.

    • When you pre mashed the fruit, did you actually have enough juice to boil without adding any water at all? It seems to me that you’d have to THOROUGHLY mash the fruit to get enough juice to boil.

  68. Has anyone tried using Splenda cup for cup instead of sugar with the Low Sugar recipe? Wondering if it works the same as sugar?

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