Southern Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly

Chef’s Notes:

For this Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly, we once again find ourselves looking around at the local “Farmers Market” for the delightful prickly pear buttons. If you can’t find them there and you live in Texas, you want have to go far. Once should note that you should always use an extreme amount of care when approaching cactus for several reasons, but for now we’ll just mention the nasty little critters on the cactus that love to stick you.

There are two good ways to cut the buttons. One, you must have a sharp knife and a very strong pair of gloves. Or some people will actually use a long set of tongs and never touch the cactus or the buttons themselves. They go right from the cactus to your container. I prefer the latter!

One quart of the buttons should produces approximately 2 1/2 cups of juice, which is all you should need for this recipe, but always pick a few more than what you think you’ll need. Once you have gathered the buttons, you can take a knife and scrape some of the larger spines (while wearing good thick gloves and using a small hand towel that you can dispose of immediately after using as it will contain many of the needles) then brush and clean the button to rid yourself of the remaining spines. Most of the rest will come off while boiling and you can strain those quite easily.


  • 2 1/2 Cups Of The Prickly Pear Cactus Juice
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 Tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 package powdered pectin


Wash the buttons/fruit under running water, then brush excess spines left on the fruit. Next steam fruit until it is soft and tender. If you prefer, you can cut them in two and cook and strain through cheesecloth. In the event you steam you would then mash and strain the fruit with a fine sieve or a jelly bag. Do not add any water at this point. Allow to settle and cool. We are making prickly pear cactus jelly; therefore we should not use the portion containing the sediment.

Next take a saucepan and measure out 2 ½ coups of the prickly pear juice. Then add 1 package of Sure-jell. Bring the mixture to a very fast boil over high heat, stirring the mix constantly and boil for at least 3 – 4 minutes. This is a very important step; as you want your mixture to jell properly.

Next remove from heat and skim the top layer; then pour into your “hot” canning jars. You should leave approximately ¼ inch or so of space at the top of each jar. Clean each jar and seal lids. This step is easily done, by merely putting jars in a boiling water bath until sealed.


You should expect to get approximately 6 1/2 pint jars from this prickly pear cactus jelly recipe.

return from Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly To Jams and Jellies