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Fun with Sour Prickly Pears (Xoconostle)


My friends in Mexico have made their careers from xoconostle at Xoxoc. I've always liked them but they seemed so exotic and destined for trips to Mexico that I've ignored them. Then one fine day a friend brought some into our store in Napa. He'd bought them at the local Mexican grocery store! It was like a miracle. And the good news is they keep coming! Unlike regular prickly pears, or tunas, these sour prickly pears last for months when kept cool. I see them all the time now in Mexican stores and I've become very framilair with them.


Most recipes call for a gentle, long roasting. I roast mine on a clay comal, carefully rolling them around until they're brown and roasted. I warn you, the smell is wonderful.

Keep dry roasting them until they become almost soft. It's as if they've given up. Try not to burn them as it makes harvesting their flesh that much harder.


After roasting and cooling, I slice them in half. You can see that the seeds are in the center and easy to scoop out as opposed to regular tunas. Their seeds are dispersed throughout the fruit and in general, you just eat them instead of fighting to get rid of them. They're like little rocks and it's weird but you do get used to it soon.

I take a teaspoon and scoop out the seeds and they come out almost perfectly.
The flesh from the xoconostle is then scooped out from the skins. A few little char marks are good but you want to avoid seeds if you can.
All that's left are the skins, which will go into the chicken coop.
The pink sacks of seeds had enough fruit to make me think I could do something with them and that throwing them out would be a waste so I put them in a blender with some piloncillo and water. I blended and then let it sit all day. Blended again and then strained the seeds and had a nice little glass of sweet/sour juice from the xoconostle!
The flesh from the actual fruit went into a salsa, made by our resident molcajete maestro, Nico. From a Diana Kennedy recipe, first he blended pan-roasted garlic and salt, followed by 2 chipotle chles that had been toasted and re-hydrated in hot water, then chopped fine, followed by alternating a little of the xoconostle meat and the water that was used to rehydrate the chiles. A little salt and that's that.
He's really got a fine technique and is much more patient than I am.
Diana Kennedy has you roast the xoxonostle and then steam them in a bag, as you would roasted peppers, and then you slip off the skin. I'm not sure if I made my technique up or if someone taught it to me. I'll be sure and ask my friends at Xoxoc.

As you can see, the salsa is a real thing of beauty. Works great on a simple quesadilla with some fresh mozzarella cheese.
Remember, if you don't want to make a salsa, use the xoconostle for a classic Mole de Olla, a kind of short rib stew from Hidalgo that is unimaginable for some without xoconostle.

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