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Cactus Candy – A Treat from the Deserts of Arizona

cactus candy

Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by Jim Edwards

Cactus candy is one of the most eccentric confections available in the market today. Everything from its packaging and name to its recipe and ingredients scream unique. However, this uniqueness puts the candy in a somewhat gray area where some confectionery enthusiasts really dig it while others cannot digest the unprecedented flavor of this candy, pun intended!

So, join us as we take a deeper look into the cactus candy and try to understand why it’s so popular around the United States.


A History Lesson on Cactus Candy

Although a candy made from actual cacti is unheard of even today, it is worth noting that the concept of such a candy is not a new one. As a matter of fact, a Mexican cacti-based candy was first introduced in the United States back in the early 1900s. The candy was made from the barrel cactus and quickly gained a lot of popularity in the country.

In fact, the unforeseen popularity of the candy resulted in the overharvesting of the barrel cacti driving them to the verge of extinction. However, today, the cactus candy is made right here in the United States in Arizona. Instead of using the barrel cactus, however, the recipe for the candy now uses sustainable prickly pear cacti found in Arizona and Mexico.

How Does Cactus Candy Look?

cactus candy pieces

Visually speaking, the appearance of the candy speaks handmade. This is perhaps because of the varying thickness of the candy pieces or because the candy pieces don’t quite fit into the cupcake-like paper cups they come in, at least not all of them.

As for the packaging, the candy comes in cool retro-style yellow colored box with cacti depicted on them and a large wooden signboard saying “CACTUS CANDI.” The most common package size is the 1/2lb (240g) box containing 12 pieces of candy.

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The pixelated graphics of the box and its retro appearance suggest that the company hasn’t changed the packaging since the product first came out back in the mid 1900s.

As for the candy itself, it has a square shape and a dark purple color and is coated with granulated sugar which gives the candy a somewhat glittery appearance.

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How Does Cactus Candy Taste?

cactus candy

For starters, the cactus candy bears a slight resemblance to the orange slice candy, in that they are both sugar-coated soft candies. It is worth noting that the cactus candy is, however, softer and chewier than orange slice candy.

Overall, the cactus candy is a soft, jelly-like gumdrop with quite a bit of thickness to it. The candy is very sweet, thanks to the granulated sugar coating. However, once you move beyond the initial sugar rush, you are met with the unique and somewhat fruity flavor of the prickly pear fruit, harvested from the prickly pear cactus.

The flavor has hints of tanginess as well and is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before. The unprecedented flavor of the candy has gathered a mixed bag of reviews. A majority of reviews are positive with people loving the extraordinary sweet and tangy flavor of the prickly pear fruit and the soft and chewy texture of the candy.

However, there are also those few who found the candy to be displeasing. Some negative reviewers simply found the overly sweet flavor of the candy too extreme. Some others complained that the candy was stale and hard. But to be fair, the latter could simply be due to poor storage or delivery of the product and not the fault of the candy or manufacturer itself.

Flavors of Cactus Candy

While the cactus candy is mainly popular for its prickly pear flavor, this is not the only flavor option that the company introduced. Here are some other cactus candy flavor options that the company used to offer previously:

  • Pomegranate
  • Orange (tastes very similar to orange slice candy but tangier)
  • Lemon
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Want to Know How to Make Cactus Candy?

cactus candy pieces

First of all, you need sugar, water, prickly pear cactus, food coloring, and a large knife. First use the knife to slice away the outside layer of the cacti skin, this will allow you to remove the spines from the cacti in one fell swoop. Then cut the pulp you’re left with into smaller slices, 1-inch thick would work nicely.

Then you need to soak the pulp slices in cold water. Leave the slice in the water overnight and store them in your refrigerator to keep them cool throughout the night. Take the slices out from the cold water and cook them in boiling water until they become soft and tender.

Meanwhile, you need to prepare a batch of sugar syrup. You can do so by adding sugar to water and heating the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Take the cactus slices from the hot water and cook them in the sugar syrup slowly. Let the slices absorb the syrup until they have become completely saturated.

Remove the cacti pieces from the syrup and roll them in powdered or granulated sugar. You can also add food coloring to the candy to make them even more appetizing.

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Nutritional Value

The serving size for the cactus candy is 3 pieces per serving which weighs in at 56g. The nutritional facts per serving are as follows:

Serving Size 3 pieces (56g)
Calories 140
Total Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 45mg (2%)
Protein 0g
Total Carbohydrates 35g (12%)
Total Sugars 20g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 0%
Iron 0%
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These jellied jewels of the desert are made right here in Phoenix.


The Cactus Candy is one of the most unique American candies in the market today. The never-before-seen combo of sweet and tangy flavors offered by the prickly pear fruits coupled with the soft and chewy texture of the candy makes it a true adventure for your taste buds.

Keep in mind that while the candy has a lot of admirers, it also has its fair share of critics. In light of this, we recommend trying out the candy for yourself and find out which ot the two you are.

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Image Credits

Cactus Candy” by CalamityJon is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Cactus candy” by quinn.anya is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Cactus candy” by mag3737 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Cactus candy” by quinn.anya is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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