prickly pear cactus

What is Prickly Pear? (& why do we use it?)

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Our prickly pear flavored plant-based jerky is one of our best sellers, and we’ve got two delicious flavors to choose from; prickly pear chipotle and prickly pear teriyaki.

Prickly pears on their own can be quite an intimidating fruit. After all, they are very prickly and grow on even more prickly cacti. But it’s a shame they aren’t enjoyed by more people as their sweet, honey flavor and soft texture is one of a kind.

Using prickly pear is a relatively new concept in the food industry. Unless you live in the southern states and are surrounded by cacti, then you may not have ever seen or heard of it.

So, what exactly is prickly pear, and why have we chosen to include it in our signature vegan jerky recipes?

Can humans eat prickly pear?

prickly pear cactus

Although cacti have a daunting exterior, they are very much edible. In fact, nopales, which are the pads of the cactus, are very common in Mexican cuisine. The same goes for the fruit of the cacti, which is the prickly pear. Both are not only edible but very healthy. The hardest part is getting to the edible interior.

The type of cactus that produces the prickly pear is called Opuntia. Rather than having large spines, they have tiny thorns called glochids. These thorns are very thin and can easily become embedded in the skin, which is very painful. The glochids are more like splinters, meaning they are very hard to see and remove. That said, you can eat prickly pears right off the plant, but it’s important to handle them correctly and never with bare hands. If you purchase prickly pears from the store, the glochids should already be removed.

You’ll also need to remove the skin before consuming a prickly pear, but it should come off easily using only your fingers. Another thing to note about prickly pear is their seeds. You cannot chew through them because they are extremely hard. They are entirely safe to swallow, though, or you can just spit them out. If you’re making juice or syrup, then you’ll want to strain out the seeds.

When choosing the perfect prickly pear for your taste, look at the color. Green prickly pears are the least sweet variety. They become extremely sweet once they turn red, comparable to honey or syrup. You can also find them in orange or purple. But regardless of color, they are all edible. 

What is prickly pear good for?

Prickly pear isn’t just a fruit you can eat on its own. It’s also great for making jams, chutneys, or adding to fresh juice. You can also turn it into syrup and use it to prepare tasty cocktails. Since it’s begun to grow in popularity, you can now find it in everything from shampoo to our vegan jerky!

Add prickly pear to salad dressing in place of honey for a vegan-friendly option. It pairs great with red wine vinegar, mustard, and olive oil. The prickly pear taste is a great complement to summer salads with walnuts, spinach, and berries.

What are the nutritional benefits of prickly pear?

prickly pear cactus fruit

Beyond just being delicious, prickly pears have many nutritional benefits. They are very high in fiber, with about five grams per cup. That’s 19% of the recommended daily value. They also have about 30% of the DV of magnesium, 23% DV of vitamin C and 7% DV of potassium. They even contain some calcium, protein, and antioxidants.

The high vitamin C content helps support a healthy immune system, with calcium, magnesium, and potassium keeping your blood pressure in check.

Mexicans have been using prickly pears for years in holistic medicine for treating liver problems and ulcers. That is likely due to the antioxidants in the prickly pear fruit, which are anti-inflammatory, helping to prevent stress on the liver. There was even a study that measured how prickly pear juice could help reduce the negative impacts of alcohol on the liver.

Is prickly pear sustainable?

Recently a study was published by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, which found that prickly pear may soon become a sustainable fuel source, as well as a food source. The cactus plant thrives in very dry, hot areas where it’s nearly impossible to grow other types of food.

Climate change has become an increasingly serious issue as the years go on, and researchers are predicting much higher temperatures and more droughts in the future. Cacti are one of the only plants that can thrive in high heat and require little water to survive while still producing fruit. The Opuntia cactus requires about 80% less water compared to other fruit-producing plants. While we continue to plant crops like corn and soy to make biofuel, they can’t be grown in arid regions like Opuntia can.

Prickly pear is a very sustainable crop, and researchers will continue to explore how the plant can be converted into biofuel and work to replace fossil fuels.

Why do we use prickly pear in our vegan jerky?

the best vegan jerky by all y'alls foods being held by a woman

When creating our vegan jerky, we wanted to craft delicious flavor combinations that were both unique and complementary. Something that has always been important to us is staying true to our Texan roots. So, why not incorporate that into our jerky?

The prickly pear cactus is the state plant of Texas, and we adopted it back in 1995. The dry soil in South and Central Texas provides the perfect conditions to grow the cactus and help it produce big, juicy fruit. Since most of the United States doesn’t have access to local prickly pear, many people aren’t even aware of its existence. The creation of our vegan jerky recipes provided us with a unique opportunity to bring the sweet, honey flavor of prickly pear to consumers around the United States.

Prickly pear pairs perfectly with the salty umami of teriyaki and the mild spice of chipotle. The ideal flavor combinations are always those where the ingredients are balanced, and that is what we’ve achieved with our plant-based jerky.

Buy Our Prickly Pear Jerky Online

Prickly Pear Chipotle Jerky

Prickly Pear Teriyaki Jerky