How to Grill Cactus


Federal law protects most cactus species from harvest in the U.S., but prickly pear cactus is cultivated for consumption and is available in grocery stores. Grilling the prickly pear cactus softens the fibers in the fruit and enhances its natural sweetness.

Things You'll Need

  • Prickly pear cactus pads
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Vegetable scrub brush
  • Cooking oil
  • Butter
  • Brown sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Soy sauce
  • Lime juice
  • Cilantro
  • Olive oil
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Sugar
  • Caramel sauce
  • Choose fresh fleshy pads, also called nopalitos, with no evident shriveling. Look for small pads, which are tender and devoid of tough fibers. If you harvest your own cactus, take small pads between August and October.

  • Remove the needles with a vegetable peeler. Slice the pads vertically and remove the skin with a vegetable peeler. You can also remove the fine needles and soft skin of immature specimens with a vegetable scrub brush.

  • Enjoy the fresh taste of prickly pear cactus unfettered by marinades or sauces. Brush the cleaned cactus pieces with cooking oil to prevent sticking. Sear the cactus for 10 minutes on each side to reduce water content and carmelize the natural sugars.

  • Complement the savory flavors of beef or pork with tangy, sweet cactus in a kebab. Melt 1 cup butter and add one juiced lemon and 1 cup brown sugar to create a simple glaze. String chunks of meat and equal-sized chunks of cactus on a skewer and grill until the meat is cooked through.

  • Add grilled cactus to your salad. Combine 2 tbsp. soy sauce with 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add 2 tbsp. minced cilantro and1 tbsp. lime juice. Brush this sauce over cactus while you grill and add the zesty chunks to mixed greens.

  • Create an exotic dessert with grilled cactus chunks over vanilla ice cream. Toss 2 cups cactus chunks with ¼ cup sugar and grill over medium-high heat. Serve over ice cream and drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired.

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