Peeling the cactus pear fruit, or better in known in some grocery stores as the prickly pear (or Tuna, Indian fig) can be painful, because of thorns on it. The skin of the fruit is covered in tiny needles (called glochids). They’re so thin that you don’t even feel them when they enter your skin. The problem is that they sting like crazy when you touch that area of the skin and are nearly impossible to find and pick out. They are also invisible if they fall onto the floor, counter or dish towel, so you can uknowingly get stuck even if you’re nowhere near a prickly pear.

So what methods do you use to peel prickly pears without pain? And how do you prepare it, to make sure that prickly pear thorns won't be lodged in the throat?

9 Answers 9


There are many ways to do it, so it is personal choice. Here is a google search if you need to know more. Here is how I do it. You are going to need two forks and a knife.


Place the prickly pear on a cutting board or a plate using a fork by firmly pushing the fork lengthwise into the skin of the prickly pear


With a sharp edge knife, cut of the two end of the prickly pear.


Now, cut through the skin lengthwise. The skin is quite thick, so you need to make a deep cut.


With the second fork, pull away the skin on one side from the inside of the fruit as far as you can


Now, firmly hold the fruit with the second fork by inserting the second fork into flesh of the fruit.


Remove the first fork and use that to peel away the rest of the skin from the flesh of the fruit.


The inside of the fruit is now free from the skin, so you can remove it. Place it on a clean plate


Discard the rests, and properly rinse all the utensils under running water before cleaning the next fruit

Other tips:

  • Wearing welding gloves also works well to handle the fruit To remove most of the thorns before hand, hold the fruit lengthwise between your fingers and gently rub the skin over loose sand. Rinse with water afterwards. Be careful when removing the gloves

  • A bottle brush or nail brush can also be used. Wearing gloves, hold the prickly pear in one hand while you scrubbing the skin of the fruit with the bottle brush/nail brush. Rinse under running water.

In both of the above cases, you still need to treat the fruit as you normally would as if it would still have thorns on.


When I was young I was taught TWO ways to get the spines off...

  1. With a broom, knock the prickly pear onto the ground then roll it around in the dirt until they are gone.
  2. Use a wand torch to quickly singe the spines off and you can pick by hand. This method kept cactuses in the country under control...we would singes ALL of the spines from the entire cactus and the cows would eat them.

Stick a fork in one end and hold over an open flame burn all the tiny thorns of then peel relax and enjoy.


Through my experience the last couple years and the safest I have found so far is to put prickly pear fruits in boiling water for 3 minutes to soften the tiny little hair spines. I then take them out of water and can actually handle them without gloves. I cut off the ends, split them with a knife and scoop out the fruit for preparation. And yes I do occasionally get the spines in my fingers. I use a fine screened colander to separate the seeds from the pulp. Yummy!


I never tried myself, but I remember I heard that Algerian people peel them in a basin, under water. The water would molten the very thin spikes.


We pick ours with open type tongs (used only for this purpose!) and drop in a STURDY paper grocery bag. Don’t overcrowd the bag. When you have a few inside shake the bag carefully but, vigorously to help loosen the glochidia. If you have very ripe fruit you might not want to do it because you could puncture the fruit and have the glochidia penetrate into the fruit, defeating the purpose! Use the tongs to remove each fruit and use the two fork peeling/burning method or what you find best. The glochids are terribly tricky to remove from the fruit and yourself so use very good gloves when processing. Our favorite way to use them is to make prickly pear (“tuna”) and apple or strawberry jelly or jam for Christmas gifts.


I usually pluck the ripe fruit from plant using tongs....if you can find some that have "teeth" all the better. After i collect the amount that I want, I use a stainless steel strainer (lasts much better) and drop one at a time into the strainer. Then using a number of different type of flames (have even used campfires) burn off the tiny thorns while rolling the fruit in the strainer. Try not to burn the skin severely. Most of my uses for the fruit is making jelly and I have provided a considerable amount for making wine. Very seldom ever have to deal with those tiny little stickers using this method.


We use tongs to pull the pear/fruit from the cactus and collect in an empty 5 gallon plastic bucket - we then used the tongs to hold each one over the sink while we scrubbed the pricks off with a small knife washing each one as we were done - we then rinsed them all in a large colander and then blended them whole - the juice is delicious


How about burning the tiny thorns with fire? I imagine since they’re so tiny they’d burn quickly with a small blowtorch faster than you could burn or damage the fruit itself.

  • 2
    Is this something you’ve tried and can confidently recommend, or is it just an idea you had?
    – Sneftel
    Feb 26, 2021 at 7:23

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