Fresh or Canned: Can I Eat Raw Cactus Fruit?

Can I Eat Raw Cactus Fruit?

I can see you eyeing your reflection and thinking “he is insane for trying to make us consume cactus, he’s trying to get us to consume any food!

​​If  I  told you that the UN plans to convince us to consume the cactus “to protect the planet” Do you trust me?

Certain cactus species that are raw are edible since they can be a source of water, food, and fodder. Consuming raw cactus fruits has been practiced for many years. While there are numerous delicious recipes for cooking cactus but it is completely safe to consume the cactus fruits raw. The terms “prickly pear” or “opuntia” refer to a couple of dozen varieties of edible Cacti.

The tough outside skin layer of the cacti fruit is softened as it cooks. If you are sensitive to digestion, it is recommended to eat this delicious food only when cooked in order to avoid stomach upsets.

Are All Types of Cacti Edible in Raw?

No, not all types of cacti are edible. Many types of cacti can make you sick if you accidentally eat the wrong species.

It is not widely known that food items like cactus fruits can be consumed. Many think that a Cactus is an unassuming plant located close to an electronic device to absorb radiation. But, there are a wide variety of cacti that are not just edible, but extremely delicious berry fruit.

 Types of edible cacti are 

  • Prickly pear, called nopales or tunas.
  • Hylocereus.
  • Mammillaria.

Prickly Pear Fruit: The most commonly used species comes with edible fruits. However, it is true that in Opuntia it is not just the fruits are consumed and the stems too. At first, they’re green before turning red as they mature. The pulp is juicy and has a sweet flavor with a hint of acidity. Some associate the flavor of Opuntia in the same way as strawberries while others prefer Kiwi.

Prickly Pear Fruit

“Nopales have a moist, crunchy texture that has a slightly slimy appearance similar to that of the okra. Regarding flavor, they’re sweet, with a slight fruity flavor.”

Hylocereus with Fruits (Pitaya): It’s also known as Dragon Fruit. The pulp has a sour flavor. Some people compare the flavor of pitaya to strawberries. It is eaten raw, use it to make jams and even include it in desserts.

Hylocereus (Pitaya)

“Unlike prickly pear, the skin of Hylocereus fruits is not thorny or is thornless after the process of ripening.”

Mammillaria with fruits: the fruits of the Mammillaria Cactus. They are able to remain on the plant throughout the year, without shedding. The berries are sour in flavor. They can be used in raw form in addition to making jam.

Mammillaria with fruit

What Does the Raw Cactus Taste Like?

With an attractive orange exterior and a red interior, the inside tastes like a mixture between classic watermelon and bubble gum. Nopal is a blend of foods you might recognize, such as the green bean and asparagus. It’s slightly acidic and has an acrid, but chewy texture.

As described New Mexico  State University website, Cactus fruit and pads are cooked in order to cook them and to extract the juice. In addition, the fruit has been used in various recipes like drinks desserts, jellies, and drinks. However, the juice of the fruit of prickly pear is tart, it tastes great.

  • Tunas and nopales are becoming more popular across the globe, and are often widely used by many people in North America as an “adventurous” ingredient in new kinds of cuisine.
  • The cactus fruit, also called cactus apple or even “prickly pear,” is edible and so are the prickly green parts of the plant.
  • “The terms “prickly pear” or “opuntia” refers to a few dozen edible cacti species.”
  • It is still cooked traditionally and can be eaten as a meal or served with a taco made of cow’s tongue.

How to Prepare Nopal to Eat Raw?

The cactus has a distinct flavor that’s been compared to concentrated watermelon, with a bit of salt. Its pulp has soft, fluffy with a texture that is similar to the texture of a melon.

The cactus’s pulp isn’t as delicious as that of melons, or berries, but it is more similar to the pulp of an apple. There are lots of tiny seeds that you’ll need to get rid of.

Usual Preparations

  • While the nopal comes with a variety of edible components, the one most popular of them is called the pad. It is the piece that is shaped like a beavertail. It emerges from the body of the Cactus. Due to its shape, it is the simplest to make.
  • Raw cacti are frequently added to salads in order to add some flavor and crunch. For this, you need to slice the spineless cactus into half-inch square pieces, then toss them in the salad mix.
  • Cacti can be consumed in fresh form or can be preserved. When cooking using cacti, it’s crucial to be aware that canned cacti will already have been cleaned.
  • Although not crunchy, canned nopales could provide a unique flavor element to salads.
  • The tiny square chunks of nopales (raw or canned) can be added to soups in order to fill them with more volume and as an ingredient to thicken them. The “goo” excreted by them functions similarly to Okra in this respect.
  • Another popular way of cooking cacti specifically pads made of cactus is grilling them. They are then cleaned and cut to reveal the soft middle, then grilling just like every other kind of vegetable. The process aids in removing part of the “goo,” and the rest stops the cactus from drying out.

Fresh vs. Canned

As we’ve already mentioned one of the primary differences between canned and fresh nopales is that one will need to wash the fresh nopales prior to cooking them. In the event that they are not cleaned, the thorns could cause injuries.


  • If you plan to utilize fresh cacti, it is crucial that you are able to pick a suitable specimen. If you’re looking for cacti that are fresh choose those that are soft, without appearing mushy, or shriveled.
  • A plump meat indicator of freshness and soft pads are more pleasant to the touch. You can also choose to use larger pads, however, they are a bit stringy.


  • Canned nopal (buy from is typically much less viscous than freshly cut. It is because it has been precooked during the process of making cans and takes a lot of “goo” that is present in the meat of the cactus. If you aren’t a fan of the texture of fresh nopales, canned versions are definitely a good alternative.
  • It is crucial to remember that, along with the other ingredients “grease” can be a significant component in the nutrition value of nopal leaves. Because so much mucus leaks out in the process of canning as do a variety of minerals and vitamins.

Raw Vs. Boiled


  • The nopal pads or fruits must be thoroughly cleaned, after which you can cut them, later added to quesadillas salsas, fajitas ( grilled skirt steak) , or salads, or as a dish to accompany the meal.
  • It is also possible to eat them raw, but the bitter taste might not please everyone.
  • The nopal blades blend well with the flavors of cheese chilies, chiles corn, eggs, lime, lemons, onions salsa, oregano sweet peppers, chives tortillas, tomatoes, and tropical fruit.


  • One option: Cut the cactus into cubes, then boil them in a copper pan with onion and water. Copper keeps the cactus’s color green after cooking, otherwise, it will turn a dull gray.
  • Let it simmer for approximately 40 minutes. After that, drain it and allow it to cool.
  •  Another option is to put it in the bowl of a salad and then season the bowl with salt and pepper.
  • Mix in chopped onions, tomato slices, and pieces of fresh cheese and avocado slices Finally add a drizzle of olive oil.
  • The best method of removing the sticky texture will be grilling it until it has a crispy and tender texture, topped with a drizzle of olive oil, and then a squeeze of lemon.

Flavor and Texture

  • While the taste of nopal is distinct, however, it’s not overwhelming. The taste of nopal is subtle and doesn’t make any interference.
  • When cutting it, the appearance of the entire nopal is likely to be similar to okra or cucumber. The outside is tough and the inside is light and wet and has a thick Okra-like liquid.
  • A subtle “green” taste similar to asparagus or okra, but with an acidity component that is distinctive to nopal.
  • The taste of nopal is contingent on the method of preparation. It may be chewy and rubbery, or soft, meaty. Straight from the entire plant, nopal offers the texture of a vegetable, but with the same gelatinous coating as tomatoes or the okra.
  • One thing to be prepared for in terms of texture is the presence of slime. Certain cooking methods can decrease it however, for the most part, it’s an integral part of the prickly pear’s unique texture.

Benefits of Raw Cactus fruit 

The cactus fruit is used in various cuisines, especially in Mexico. It can be used in salads or as accompaniments for other dishes. It can even be eaten raw, depending on how ripe the fruit has reached.

  1. Micronutrients: They are the essential micronutrients that can be found in this fruit like magnesium, iron, riboflavin and vitamin C as well as calcium, potassium along with vitamin B6. From these minerals, those that have the highest concentration are magnesium and vitamin C. Purple and red fruits have the highest levels of antioxidants. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.

    A common website NMSU states that Both the fruit and the pads have nutritional benefits. A 100-gram serving of prickly pear fruit provides 220 mg potassium, 14 mg vitamin C, 56 mg calcium, and 4 g fiber (USDA, 2016). Additionally, the fruit pulp contains 29% glucose and 24% fructose.

    Described in WebMD The fruit of the Opuntia cactus contains health-boosting nutrients like amino acids, fatty acids, and antioxidants like betalains, polyphenols, and flavonoids.
  1. Weight loss: Adults who are overweight are more susceptible to developing chronic health conditions like osteoarthritis and other forms of cancer, diabetes mental illness, and more. One solution to weight gain could be to eat a lot of fiber. Cactus fruits are high in fiber, and eating them can make you feel fuller for longer while lessening the chance of experiencing frequent hunger cravings.

    As stated in NCBI Cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica) fiber was shown to promote weight loss in a 3- month clinical investigation.
  1. Prevents inflammation: This fruit is famous because of its properties to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s reaction to injuries. In most cases, a healthy diet can help control inflammation. Cactus can be incorporated as a fruit in your meals.

    Cactuses contain vitamins C, E, A, iron, calcium, and more. This wide range of nutrients and more can help reduce inflammation in the body…. WebMD
  1. Stimulates the immune system: Cactus fruits are excellent immune system stimulators. They are rich in vitamin C which is essential for the development of the body and development such as maintaining teeth, bones, and cartilage. Vitamin C is involved as healer in healing wounds and also increases levels of white blood cell production that eliminate the organisms responsible for the disease.
  2. Help your stomach & IB: Cactus is an excellent food supplement that cleanses the stomach and boosts the flow of the bowels.

    Nopal fiber supplementation at doses of 20 and 30 g/day was associated with short-term improvement in IBS symptoms…quote from Wiley Online Library
  1. Lower cholesterol levels: According to some research that has examined cactus consumption, it is believed that the consumption of these fruit significantly lowers levels of blood pressure, body fat, and cholesterol, putting you at risk of heart ailments like coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.

    As written in Science Direct, The Opuntia spp., Prickly Pear (PP) fruit is rich in dietary fiber and may have lipid-lowering effects.
  1. Helps prevent gastric ulcers: Gastric ulcers are sores that hurt that typically appear on the stomach’s lining. When the lining becomes thinner digestion acids can ruin the lining of your stomach, which causes gastric ulcers. Cactus fruit contains a chemical called betanin that assists in preventing ulcers.
  2. Cleanses the colon: It aids in cleansing the colon and improves its functioning. The colon is typically vulnerable to inflammation, however, the consumption of cactus fruits with antioxidants can help remove any inflammatory substances. Consuming juices of cactus fruits and smoothies are an excellent alternative to cleanse your colon.

    OTTIMMO INTERNATIONAL shared that According to Mahadianto (2007) Hylocereus fruits (dragon fruit) offers a variety of benefits to well-being because it balances the blood sugar level, cleanses the bloodstream, strengthens kidneys, feeds the lever, bolsters brain’s function, reduces the risk of colon cancer and helps improve constipation and eases the process of feces.
  1. Decreases the frequency of migraines: Anti-inflammatory substances are required to control migraine. They are also present in the cactus fruits. Consuming cactus regularly can aid in reducing migraines, by reducing their intensity and frequency.
  2. Stronger bones: Strong bones and teeth are crucial to your overall well-being. Calcium is essential for maintaining their health. the majority is stored in teeth and bones, which is why it is crucial to consume foods that are rich in calcium.

    It can be a problem for both genders however, it’s more prevalent in women who have entered menopausal. The cactus fruits help the bones and teeth to become stronger and decrease the chance of developing osteoporosis.

    According to Indian Journals.Com, Prickly pear, an underutilized fruit in India is known for its functional benefits such as boosting immunity and building strong bones and teeth.
  1. Prevents premature aging: Cactus fruit contains vitamin E and vitamin K, which are responsible for keeping the skin looking fresh. Also, it has fatty acids that help to nourish and moisturize the skin.

    “Daily consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, premature aging, and stress.”  European Journal Of Science and Technology
  1. Prevents liver damage: There are many times when we consume carcinogens that can cause harm to the liver. However, consuming cactus fruit with antioxidants can, in turn, decrease the stress caused by oxidative substances that they typically create in the liver. This helps significantly.
  2. Nourishes the hair: Extracting the oil from fruits is rich in fatty acids which aid in rejuvenating the skin. When used on hair, it can help nourish not just the hair, however, but the entire scalp by giving the oils needed for hair growth.

Related questions

What Cactus Fruit is not Edible to Man?

Different kinds of cactus, such as peyote Bolivian as well as San Pedro cactus are toxic and should not be eaten.

Can You Eat Thanksgiving Cactus Fruit?

The pods of Epiphyllum plants can be eaten. The best flavor is believed to be large with bright, red. As soon as the fruit starts to shrink and the seeds begin to swell, they are ready for harvesting however the flavor may be bland.

Key Takeaways

Some cactus fruit is edible: All cactus fruits are not edible. The most famous edible cactus fruit name is prickly pear or tunas. 

Raw fruits are a sourelike taste: Cactus fruits taste is not bitter but like sour, a little acidic. Its taste is more like a mixture of watermelon and bubble gum.
Beneficial for humans and pets: No doubt, Cactus fruits are much more beneficial than we imagine. It can improve our physical, mental, and emotional bodies.

Anwar Hossain

My name is Anwar Hossain. I am a cactus lover, researcher, and cactus blogger.

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