13 Edible Prickly Pear Varieties and Taste Profile

Are prickly pears edible? What do they taste like? Below you will find a list of prickly pears and what to expect when it comes to taste.

There are dozens of species of Prickly Pear that fall under the scientific classification ‘Opuntia‘. They produce a tasty edible fruit commonly known as Prickly Pears. There are also many non-native varieties and identification is at times a tad tricky.

Prickly Pear Cactus

They produce leaves that are flat paddle-like to cylindrically shaped which in turn produce the edible prickly pears. They bear vibrantly colored flowers from stunning shades of red to bright yellow.

Most sub species are somewhat tolerant of cooler climatic conditions than other cactus.

Various varieties differ in shape and size, from some that are almost as big as a tree to others that are suitable for a groundcover.

Grown outdoors they fare best in zones 7 to 10, but as a potted plant, they can be grown just about anywhere and transported indoors in inclement weather.

Prickly Pear Cactus Varieties

Prickly Pear Varieties

1. Indian Fig Prickly Pear 

A picture of an Indian fig prickly pear.

One of the most common and well known prickly pears.

Indian Fig Prickly Pear is grown commercially in desert regions for its abundant flushes of sweet prickly pears which are found in markets in the US and Canada.

They are sometimes referred to as ‘tuna’ which is mutilation of its scientific name ‘Opuntia’. The prickly pears are eaten fresh or incorporated into a number of dishes, drinks, candies, and preserves.

Seeds should be aged at least a year before making an attempt to germinate them. They should well dried and free of pulp before planting.

They ripen in late Summer and early Fall. When fully mature they are fire engine red and the interior flesh and pulp are burnt orange. Other varieties are sometimes yellow on the outside and honeydew green on the interior.

2. Purple Prickly Pears

1 Cactus Purple Prickly Pear
  • 1 Purple, Prickly Pear Cactus Pad Live Plant Fresh Plant
  • This Prickly Pear Cactus Pad is in excellent hearty condition These cactus pedals hold up very well in the heat or cold & don't need much water once rooted. You can easily plant them in any dirt about 2" deep, water them once a week & they will root themselves. They are nearly indestructible, you can even just lay them on the dirt & they will eventually sprout roots out of the sides & grow a new plant.
  • They turn purple in the cold winter & turn more blueish in the hot summer time. They produce large yellow flowers in season and have hundreds of tiny thorns. They measure about 5 - 6" long and may vary slightly in color from the picture but will be basicly just like what you see. We have lots of them available and they are all very healthy - "see last picture for planting reference only"

Includes several varieties, produce a lavender to purple blush on their pads. The blush is known to intensify on some varieties under drought conditions.

3. The Spineless Prickly Pears 

Best suited as an ornamental plant outside of its native region. They do not produce well unless conditions are near perfect.

4. Miniature Prickly Pears

Suitable as an edible ground cover as they grow in ground-hugging clusters and produce miniature pads and smaller fruits.

5. Roja Pelona

 Has been compared to a kiwi.

6. Santa Rita Purple Prickly Pear 

Opuntia Santa Rita Purple Prickly Pear Cactus 1 Pad to Add to Your Cactus Collection
  • Cultivation and propagation: This is a much decorative frost hardy cactus easily found in cultivation. It is a summer grower species that offers no cultivation difficulties. Its purple pads provide a striking accent for an otherwise dormant cactus garden.
  • Water: In summer, during the vegetative period, it must be regularly watered, but allowing the substratum to completely dry up before irrigating again (but do not overwater ); in winter, it’s to be kept dry. Preferable not to water on overcast days, humid days or cold winter days.
  • Hardiness: It is a quite frost resistant cactus, hardy to -7° C (- 12° C or less if very dry). However, in cultivation it is better not to expose it to temperatures lower than -0° C, even if in an aerated and protected location, in order to avoid the formation of anti-aesthetic spots on the epidermis. In presence of high atmospheric humidity avoid any frost as it is particularly sensitive to root rot. USDA Zone 6-10. It can handle extremely high temperatures in summer.

It has bluish-green pads. Variant shades of purple can be striking at times. Cooler temperatures enhance the purple hue. Used as an edible fruit as well as for its outstanding beauty. The taste is pleasant, mildly sweet.

7. Naranjona 

It has a sweet honey like flavor and smooth texture.

8. Cristalina Prickly Pear 

A bit bland, something like an under ripe honey dew.

9. Xoconostle

A Sour Prickly Pear, and best not eaten fresh – unless of course, you are one of those folks who like sucking on a lemon. It is used in Mexico in sauces and as a spice.

11. Juana 

Is tart but nearly as tart or sour as Xoconostle. Its seeds are also eaten fresh. 

12. Yellow Platenera 

One of my favorites, but its hard to find. It tastes like a cross between bananas and mango.

13. Amarilla Montesa 

Has a mildly sweet yellow flesh that simultaneously betrays a tad of tartness.

Wrapping it Up

We hope you have enjoyed this list of edible prickly pears. If you are on a journey of finding some or already have found one and want to to know what it tastes like, you now know what to expect.