Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Prickly Pear Barbecue Sauce

Adapted from Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA

The prickly pear is the desert’s dessert—the sweet, pinkish or greenish, oval fruit of a flat paddled cactus that grows throughout the American West. To prepare whole prickly pears, cut the ends off with a paring knife, holding the pear at the end of a fork. It’s a good idea to wear gloves: the pear may still have some prickles. Cut the fruit into ½ inch dice, then puree in the food processor, running the machine in short bursts. Strain the resulting puree to remove the hard seeds. You’ll need about 1 pound of prickly pears to obtain 1 cup puree.


  • Yield: Makes about 2-1/2 cups
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  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 small onion, finely chopped (2 to 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped prickly pear (see above)
  • The finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as needed (up to 3/4 cup) to thin the sauce to pourable consistency

Step 1: Place the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, oil, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, smoked paprika, and pepper in a heavy saucepan. Gently simmer over medium heat until the celery and onion are tender and the mixture highly flavorful, 15 minutes.

Step 2: Strain the mixture into another saucepan. Stir in the prickly pear, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Simmer over medium heat until thick and richly flavored, 4 to 6 minutes. If a sweeter sauce is desired, whisk in the sugar. Correct the seasoning, adding vinegar if needed or optional salt to taste.

Tips:

You can also buy prickly pear puree.

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