Prickly Pear Margaritas

With the prickly pear margarita, you can enjoy the treasure of the desert in a succulent cocktail! Hot pink and full of flavor, this delicious drink has summer written all over it.

pink margaritas garnished with black salt on the rim

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Prickly Pear Margarita recipe

The first time I had a prickly pear margarita, it was love at first sip.

It’s not a flavor of margarita I’ve seen much on the East Coast, but I tried one on a visit to Arizona and I’ve never looked back. Now, any time I see one on a menu, I have to order it because it’s such a special occasion for me. Definitely one of my favorite things ever!

Prickly pear margaritas are made with tequila and prickly pear syrup, which adds sweetness and flavor.

Hot fuchsia to the eye and bright and earthy on the tongue, these beauties will bring so much to the taco night table.

Why you will love this recipe

These margaritas are ones you will want to make again and again.

  • Prickly pear margaritas are easy to make at home with a prickly pear syrup and tequila.
  • They taste just like the ones you can get in a restaurant, full of flavor. If you have fresh cactus pears, even better!
  • These quaffable drinks are perfect for any occasion like taco night, hot summer afternoons and even Cinco de Mayo.
a bunch of cactus pear fruits on a white background

What is a prickly pear?

Prickly pear fruit, AKA cactus pears or tunas, are the fruit of the Opuntia cactus, called nopal in Spanish.

These cacti have a shape resembles a series of flat, green ovals stacked on top of each other, covered in defensive spines. When they bloom, they have beautiful flowers. This plant has uses in both medicine and food.

In fact, the whole cactus can be eaten. In Mexico and the Southwest U.S., the cactus itself is often stripped of its thorns, then boiled and eaten as a vegetable called nopalitos. The fruit, known as the tuna, can also be cooked or eaten raw. Prickly pear also an important ingredient in Native American cuisine.

Inside, the prickly pear cactus fruit has a bright pink hue with a sweet, juicy flesh, but they have one flaw! Tunas are covered in tiny, hairlike thorns called glochids. Most supermarkets will remove the thorns, but if the fruit is fresh from the cactus — watch out! The thorns can easily dislodge in skin, so the fruit should be handled with gloves or tongs.

ingredients for prickly pear syrup

Ingredients

You only need a handful of ingredients to make these delicious spins on the classic margarita in your own kitchen. Here’s what to pick up at the grocery store:

Best tequila for margaritas

Margaritas traditionally call for tequila, which is a transparent spirit made from the Blue Weber Agave plant in Mexico.

Since prickly pears also grow in the desert, they make for a really nice pair.

You can mix your favorite tequila into these margs. There are a few types of tequila that I detail in my Tequila 101 crash course, but the most important one for this delicious prickly pear margarita is blanco, or silver tequila. Clear and colorless, it works really well in any margarita recipe, but especially this one so the color can really sparkle and shine.

Gold tequila has added caramel color to make it seem aged, so I don’t usually recommend it, but it will taste just fine if you use it. However, it may change the color. Same is true for a reposado tequila, which is aged in oak barrels between two months and one year, and gets its natural caramel coloring from the oak.

Using an infused tequila, like this Spicy Jalapeño Tequila, is a great way to experiment with flavor.

Mezcal is one more choice you can try. It has a smokier flavor than tequila — technically, tequila is a type of mezcal that tastes cleaner than other types of mezcal.

My favorite tequila brands right now are Sauza, El Jimador and Lunazul, but there are tons more out there. For top-shelf margaritas, try Don Julio, Patron or Milagro.

You can use tequila for more than just margaritas, too. Try it in the Paloma, the Bloody Maria or a Mexican Mule.

Fresh lime juice

Juice from fresh limes will give your margaritas the best zesty lime flavor. Bottled concentrate can be helpful, but keep in mind it tastes more sour than fresh juice.

When I need to make a large batch of margaritas, I will either buy a bottle of organic lime juice or fresh pressed juice. But if I have the time I like to juice a bunch of limes — my favorite way is with an electric juicer (affiliate link).

Orange liqueur

Adding colorless orange liqueur to your margarita gives it complex flavor. The sweet orange balances the sour lime flavors in the margarita.

Triple sec and curaçao are low-cost versions that are still delicious, but for a more top-shelf choice, go for either Grand Marnier or Cointreau.

You can also use blue curaçao, which is orange-flavored as well, to make these into a darker purple color.

a bottle or prickly pear simple syrup with a pink color

Sweetener

Our sweetener this time is a prickly pear cactus syrup. That is how we are going to bring in all that amazing cactus pear flavor.

Prickly pear simple syrup can be bought or made at home from fresh fruit. Below in the Homemade vs. Store-bought Syrup section, I’ll talk a little more about the differences.

It is based on simple syrup, which is easy to make at home with sugar and water.

You can also use agave nectar to make it, which is a sweet syrup made from the agave plant. It pairs really beautifully with tequila, which is made from the same plant.

For the rim

You can use either margarita salt or pure sugar on the rim. Sea salt or kosher salt are my favorites for salty rims. This time I used a black lava sea salt for a visual twist.

Flavored salts can be a fun way to dress up your margaritas. I love this Tajín (affiliate link) chile lime seasoning for its pretty color and delicious flavor. I also love making my own salts with citrus zest, like this orange salt.

two prickly pear margaritas in fluted glasses

Store-bought vs homemade syrup

I’ve tried both and store-bought prickly pear syrup just isn’t as good as fresh syrup. However, if you live in an area where prickly pears aren’t as available, store-bought makes for a great option. Both Monin and Torani make prickly pear syrup.

Depending on where you live, you might find cactus pears at your grocery store, and if so you should totally try making this prickly pear syrup recipe!

You might also find them in specialty shops. They are in season from late summer through early winter, September through December.

Most tunas are a deep reddish purple color, but they can also be shades of yellow, orange and green, and you can use any of them in homemade syrup.

a jar of prickly pear syrup

How to make a prickly pear margarita

Making these beautiful, hot pink prickly pear margaritas is pretty easy! Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. First, rim your glasses. Rub a lime around the rim of a margarita glass. Then dip the rim of the glass in salt (or sugar if you prefer).
  2. Then add fresh ice to the glasses.
  3. Next, in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add tequila, triple sec, lime juice and prickly pear syrup. Shake well.
  4. Pour over ice and garnish with lime slices or lime wedges.

Cheers!

a prickly pear margarita with cactus fruit and syrup

Variations and substitutions

There are lots of ways to get creative with this beautiful drink.

Non-alcoholic prickly pear margarita: For a delicious mocktail, use a zero-proof spirit that has a smoky, agave flavor, such as Ritual tequila alternative (affiliate link).

Skinny prickly pear margarita: Use orange juice instead of triple sec for a lighter margarita.

Spicy prickly pear margarita: Add some jalapeños to your prickly pear syrup while it cooks, or use a spicy tequila.

Slushy prickly pear margarita: Blend the ingredients with ice to make frozen margaritas.

More margarita recipes

The margarita is the perfect cocktail, don’t you think? Try one of these easy margarita recipes for your next happy hour:

pink margaritas garnished with black salt on the rim

Prickly Pear Margaritas

Yield: 2 cocktails
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Make your own prickly pear margaritas with homemade simple syrup! You can use store-bought too.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. First, rim your glasses. Rub a lime around the rim of a margarita glass. Then dip the rim of the glass in salt (or sugar if you prefer).
  2. Then add fresh ice to the glasses.
  3. Next, in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add tequila, triple sec, lime juice and prickly pear syrup. Shake well.
  4. Pour over ice and garnish with lime slices or lime wedges.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 4 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 154Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 0g

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