Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly

Prickly_pear_cactus_in_TexasPrickly Pear Cactus Jelly is a low-sugar or low-honey cooked jelly made with Pomona’s Pectin. Pomona’s Pectin contains no sugar or preservatives and jells reliably with low amounts of any sweetener. See below for where to buy.

Yield: 4 to 5 cups

Before You Begin:
Prepare calcium water. To do this, combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona’s pectin) with ½ cup water in a small, clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use.

Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly Ingredients

4 cups cactus juice
4 teaspoons calcium water
½ cup lemon or lime juice
¾ cup up to 1 cup honey or 1 ¼ cups up to 2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons up to 5 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin powder

Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly Directions

1. Wash jars, lids, and bands. Place jars in canner, fill canner 2/3 full with water, bring to a boil. Turn off heat, cover, and keep jars in hot canner water until ready to use. Place lids in water in a small saucepan; cover and heat to a low boil. Turn off heat and keep lids in hot water until ready to use.

2. Prepare prickly pear cactus juice.*

3. Measure juice into saucepan.

4. Add calcium water and lemon juice and mix well.

5. Measure sugar or room temperature honey into a bowl. Thoroughly mix pectin powder into sweetener. Set aside.

6. Bring juice mixture to a full boil. Add pectin-sweetener mixture, stirring vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve the pectin while the jam comes back up to a boil. Once the jam returns to a full boil, remove it from the heat.

7. Fill hot jars to ¼” of top. Wipe rims clean. Screw on 2-piece lids. Put filled jars in boiling water to cover. Boil 10 minutes (add 1 minute more for every 1,000 ft. above sea level). Remove from water. Let jars cool. Check seals; lids should be sucked down. Eat within 1 year. Lasts 3 weeks once opened.

* See comments section below for ideas on preparing the juice.

Photo by Jon Sullivan from Wikimedia Commons. Taken in Texas.

For more inspiring recipe ideas, see Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin: The Revolutionary Low-Sugar, High-Flavor Method for Crafting and Canning Jams, Jellies, Conserves, and More by Allison Carroll Duffy and the Pomona’s Partners, published by Fair Winds Press, June 2013, and available in paper or ebook everywhere books are sold.

Pomona’s Pectin is available at your local natural food store, food co-op, and many farm stands. Find it also at Sur La Table and a growing number of more conventional grocery stores with natural food sections (Wegmans, Hy-Vee, Rosauers, Nugget Markets, Coborns, Fairway, and others). If you can’t find a store near you on our store locator, you can order from our website or many other online sellers.

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25 thoughts on “Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly

  1. I am getting ready to make the Prickly Pear Jelly. Can I add jalapeños to this recipe? If I do not have enough juice what can I add to make the necessary amount for the recipe?

    • Hello Vicki,

      We have never added jalapenos to this recipe, but you could give it a try. If you choose to give it a go, maybe look at one of our other fruit/jalapeno recipes to give you an idea of how much of each ingredient you will need.

      If you do not have enough juice, you can add water or some 100% juice or juice concentrate to your mixture.

      Happy jamming!

  2. Hi, thanks so much for all of your advice and your incredible product. I used another method to prepare the pears. I peeled them with a knife while holding them down with a fork. (It’s from a website). I then put the pears into a blender and strained the juice out through a metal sieve. It took some time, but it was less prickly than trying to mash it out through cheesecloth and I froze the juice in ice cube trays till I had enough to make the jelly. I looked everywhere for a food mill, but could not find one at a local store. I got some pears from a friend who torched them to remove the prickles and there were still a few prickles even after such careful strategies were used to render them harmless! I made a mango prickly pear jelly that is really good! Thanks again, so nice to be able to make low sugar recipes!

  3. We made your prickly pear jelly and it turned out perfect!!! We used honey and now we would like to make the next batch a little sweeter using more my question is how would I adjust the ratio of ingredients to make a double batch without changing the consistency? Thank you!!!!

    • Wonderful! You will just need to double all the ingredients, as they are written. Once your mixture is about ready to go into jars you can add additional sweetener/honey. Once that is mixed in well, proceed with canning your jars and water-bath canning.

      Happy jamming!

  4. Hi, I followed this recipe but my prickly pear jelly turned out very watery. I put it back on the stove and added more pecin, repeated that process, and it’s still watery. Any suggestions or help tips? Thanks!

    • Hello Chelsea,

      Thank you so much for choosing Pomona’s Pectin! I can’t say for sure what happened in your recipe, but it sounds like your pectin may have become deactivated. If the pectin in boiled too long before it is canned, or is in the water-bath canner too long, the excessive heat can deactivate it’s jelling abilities.

      4 cups cactus juice
      4 teaspoons calcium water
      ½ cup lemon or lime juice
      ¾ cup up to 1 cup honey or 1 ¼ cups up to 2 cups sugar
      4 teaspoons up to 5 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin powder

      Should jell up nicely.

      Please let me know if there is anything else I can do help.


  5. ​When we process prickly pears the basic process is to: 1. Collect the fruits using tongs and place them in 5-gallon buckets. 2. Double rinse the fruit in the buckets and let it sit in the water while preparing for processing. 3. Cover the top of a bucket/bowl/kettle with a double layer of cheesecloth fastened in place with a rubber band/string/velcro strap/etc. 4. Using the tongs, place the fruits in a blender and crush for several seconds until there are no whole fruits left. ​Most of the Glochids (thorns/stickers) will come off while the fruits are sitting in the water, but it’s still a good idea to use the tongs to place the fruits in the blender. Any thorns or Glochids that may still be left on the prickly pears are strained out through the cheesecloth. 5. Pour the pulp onto the cheesecloth and let drain into the bucket. 6. After the juice is finished dripping, place the pulp into a mesh strainer and let drain while processing the balance of the fruit. Alternately, you can place the pulp in a cheesecloth bag and squeeze or press the juice out. A 5-gallon bucket will yield approximately 14 quarts of juice. 7. Boil juice to a full rolling boil. 8. Skim impurities off the top. Continue this process until there are no impurities coming to the surface when at a full rolling boil. 9. You are now ready to can the juice or make it into jelly.​

  6. I made Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly. It was good but I am wondering if I could use fruit juice concentrate in place of sugar.

    • Hi,
      Yes, you could use fruit juice concentrate as your sweetener instead of sugar. Follow the directions for dissolving the pectin in the boiling fruit juice concentrate on the back side of the directions and recipes that come with the pectin, the green section.

      If you are making a standard recipe, you would use 3 cups of cactus juice and 1 cup of juice concentrate for dissolving the pectin. Use the amounts of calcium water, lemon or lime juice, and pectin as stated in the Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly recipe.

  7. Just a note to those needing prickly pear juice info: 40 lbs of pears gave me 14+ quarts of juice. I quartered the fruit, just covered with water and cooked. Strained the juice…and got ‘er done. Beautiful jelly too. I used a recipe (5 cup juice, 7 c. sugar etc.) before I ordered Pomoma’s Pectin. But all I have left will be made with Splenda so I can share with ALL my friends, including those watching blood sugar levels. God Bless!

    • Dear Sharon,
      Thanks so much for sharing your method for getting the juice out of the prickly pears and also the number of pounds of pears you processed and how much juice that gave you — invaluable information for us and our customers!

      I’m very happy you discovered Pomona’s while you still have some juice left to work with.

      Best of luck in your project — feel free to let us know how it turns out with Splenda.

    • Hi Angelique,
      We don’t make freezer jelly with Pomona’s because when you stir in the teaspoons of calcium water, that is when the jell suddenly takes place. If you are stirring a “jelly,” when the jell suddenly comes on, the jelly will not be smooth like it should be. I don’t know if you can make raw freezer jelly with other pectins or not.

      I suggest you look around on the internet for instructions on handling the fruits and extracting the juice and pulp. This is not something we have experience with.

  8. Just exactly how do you prepare prickly pear cactus juice? And how much cactus (leaves,too?) must you buy to yield 4 cups? Looks intriguing otherwise….

    • Dear Dianne,
      We know how to make the jelly, but unfortunately, we are not experts in a particular method of preparation of the cactus juice. There are so many different methods discussed on the internet. Our best advice is to do some research and pick the method that you want to try. The juice comes from the fruits, not the leaves. One blog I have read says that depending on the size of the prickly pears, you need 6 to 12 to get about 1 cup of juice.

      Good luck if you decide to give it a try — and thanks for using Pomona’s.

      • Dear Diane Junker,
        Just use the pears, the darker the better. Twist them off the pads, using tongs. DO NOT HANDLE THE PEARS WITH YOUR HANDS!!! Put the pears in a 5 gallon bucket, then dump the pears in the sink; fill with hot water and let sit 10 minutes. WITH YOUR TONGS, swish a pear in the water, pull it out and cut in half, lengthwise. I fill a 16 quart pot with an inch of water; when I cut a pear I use a bowl or a high sided plate to catch the juice. After you cut a pear, put both halves into the 16 quart pot. When the pot is 3/4 full, boil the pears and spines — ALL for 30 minutes; smash it all down with a potato masher once every 10 minutes. Pour through 6 layers of cheesecloth. Let the juice drip from the cheesecloth into a large bowl for 2 hours. You may freeze the juice for long-term storage.

        Depending on how ripe the fruit is, I usually get a little more than 1/2 the amount of juice — a 5 gallon bucket of pears comes out to 2-3 gallons of juice. Hope this helps, my friend!!!

          • Hi Cannonball,
            Yes, any of our recipes can be made with Stevia. If you are using cup-for-cup Stevia, you would measure and use it just like sugar in the recipe. If you are using concentrated Stevia, you need to follow the directions on side 2 of our new direction and recipe sheet (the one with the colors in the background) titled “Directions for Cooked Jam, Jelly, Jello — Stevia Concentrate or No Sweetener.”

        • There’s some very good suggestions for preparing prickly pears. Always wash very well, then I simply cut into a few pieces drop them into a food mill over a pan or bucket then start turning the mill. Then strain through cheese cloth or a scolded white 100% t-shirt. Then freeze for later or use right away. All these methods will work. Don’t use directions that have u scrubing or senging of the little stickers it’s unnecessary. Do use tongs when handling the fruit.

  9. Incredible ….is your pectin. No other words for it. I may add too…..that your website is flawless….easy navigation, great tips, recipes that included the prickly pear jelly (which turned out perfect).

    I would love to write about Pomona’s Pectin on my blog!

    • Thanks so much for your comment on our website, and our pectin, Farmer Deno. I will share it with my partners and with our website designer, Jeremy Jones . We worked hard on the website, and continue to do so. It’s comments like yours that keep us going!

      Please feel free to write about Pomona’s on your blog. Sounds like you have taken on a rather large project, and are having a good time with it.

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