Hot Pink Agua de Tuna (Prickly Pear Agua Fresca)

Agua de tuna is an agua fresca made by blending red prickly pear cactus fruit, water, and sugar. You can make it with red or green tunas, but the hot pink color can only be achieved with the red ones!

agua de tuna
prickly pear agua fresca drink

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved prickly pears. In Mexico, they’re called “tunas,” not to be confused with tuna fish – that’s “atún” in Spanish. Prickly pears are often served peeled, in a cup or plastic bag, topped with chile salt and lime juice as a snack. There is a variety of cactus fruits that range in flavor, color, and size, but the ones I use are in the photos below. Feel free to use either green or red – the flavor is similar and both work well in this recipe.


Agua de tuna is a classic Mexican agua fresca that is probably better known in Mexico than in the U.S. or other parts of the world. I’ve taken cooking classes in Oaxaca where we literally just muddle peeled tuna prickly pear fruits and then mix them with water and sugar to make our agua fresca. I imagine that this process is similar to the one used by the Aztecs to make drinks back in the day. I’ve grown accustomed to blending my fruit in a blender, and for this recipe, all you need is some prickly pears, water, and your favorite sweetener.

barbie pink drink


  • Healthful alternative to juices and sodas: agua de tuna is rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, which can contribute to improved digestion and immune health.
  • No artificial sweeteners: you can leave out the sweeteners altogether or use sugar, honey, agave, or homemade simple syrup made with pure cane sugar for this classic Mexican drink.
  • Wow factor: the all-natural vibrant color wows just about anyone who sees this beautiful pink drink. I’ve never seen anything like it!
  • Base for cocktails: Mix in your favorite alcohol and use it as the base for a prickly pear margarita. While you’re at it, check out some of my other Mexican cocktails.


  • Agua fresca literally translates to fresh, cold, or refreshing water, but literal translations do little to describe the true essence of these fruit-forward and fun drinks.
  • Aguas frescas are non alcoholic beverages typically made by blending water and sugar with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Some are also made with dry ingredients such as ricetamarind pods, and hibiscus, which are Mexican pantry staples. 
  • According to the author and Mexican confections queen, Fany Gerson, aguas frescas have indigenous roots. “When Aztecs traveled from their farmlands to the markets in Tenochtitlan (what is now Mexico City), they would paddle through channels in the valley’s wetlands and mash some ripe fruit with water as a way to refresh themselves through the journey.”
  • Nowadays, aguas frescas are available just about everywhere in Mexico, from street-side food stands and ice cream shops in rural towns, to high-end restaurants in large cities. They are fresh, diversified, and vibrant and are part of daily life and culture in Mexico. While wildly popular in Mexico, aguas frescas are still relatively unknown in the U.S.
prickly pear margarita


A tuna prickly pear is the fruit that grows on a type of cactus belonging to the Opuntia genus, known for its paddle-shaped stems covered in spines. Both its paddles and colorful oval fruits are edible. Once peeled, the fruits are perfect to make jams, candies, and cocktails. Mexican tuna fruit also makes the most refreshing agua de tuna (prickly pear drink!).

agua de tuna


Its flavor is both refreshing and distinctive, reminiscent of a mix between a cucumber and a cantaloupe, with the texture akin to that of a dense watermelon. And guess what? Prickly pears are good for you!

agua de tuna
prickly pear agua fresca drink


Some of the health benefits of prickly pears include:

  • Antioxidants: prickly pears are rich in antioxidants, such as betalains, which help protect cells from oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and may lower the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Immune support: tunas are a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, K, folate, and magnesium, which can support the immune system and bone health.
  • Digestive health: the high fiber content in prickly pears can aid in digestion and promote regular bowel movements. It may also help control blood sugar levels, making them beneficial for people looking to manage their blood sugar levels.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Some compounds in prickly pears may have anti-inflammatory properties, potentially reducing inflammation-related cancer risks.
agua de tuna


The red and green varieties are fairly easy to find in the U.S. if you have a good Mexican or Asian grocery store nearby. They’re typically in season from the springtime through early fall, and are most abundant in the summer. In Mexico you can find them at local markets and street corners stands like the one in the photo below.

agua de tuna 
cactus fruit prickly pear drink


  • Prickly pear fruit: red or green variety are interchangeable in this recipe.
  • Sweetener of choice: I like to use organic cane sugar, homemade simple syrup, agave, honey, or dates.
  • Water: I start with about six cups for most of my aguas, but you can adjust this based on personal preference.
mexican tuna fruit
prickly pear cactus fruit


Vitamix Professional-Grade Blender

Jugo Verde


1. Prepare ingredients

  • Using gloves, tongs, or a produce bag, cut off each end of the fruit (invisible thorns known as glochids can be irritating!).
  • Next, make a lengthwise slit along the skin of each fruit.
agua de tuna
prickly pear agua fresca drink

2. Peel prickly pears

  • Remove the skin, the way you would peel a banana, to reveal the fleshy interior. Compost or discard the skin.
agua de tuna
prickly pear agua fresca drink

3. Add ingredients to blender

  • Add prickly pears, 3 cups water, and sweetener of choice to a blender and remember to secure the lid.
agua de tuna recipe

4. Blend ingredients

  • Process on low to medium setting, careful not to break down the seeds, for 60 seconds.
prickly pear recipes

5. Strain ingredients

  • Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a pitcher to remove any remaining seeds and pulp. Stir in remaining water.
prickly pear margarita

6. Chill and enjoy

  • Refrigerate the agua de tuna before serving. When ready to drink, pour over ice cubes and garnish with edible flowers, lime slices, or prickly pear slices if desired. Sometimes I even mix in chia seeds!
Mexican pink drink

I love the color of this vibrant pink drink – it reminds me of my Hot Pink Corn Tortillas!

agua de tuna

This is the same recipe, but made with green prickly pears. I like the green agua de tuna with a chili-lime salt rim.


Aguas frescas are best enjoyed fresh, but you can store this prickly pear juice in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Always remember to stir before serving as ingredients tend to settle at the bottom when sitting. 


Agua de Tuna (Prickly Pear Agua Fresca)

by Lola Dweck
Agua de tuna (prickly pear agua fresca) is a traditional Mexican beverage made by blending prickly pear cactus fruit, water, and a touch of sweetness.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6
Calories 32 kcal


  • 6 prickly pears red or green
  • 6 cups water divided
  • 1/4 cup sugar or to taste


  • Using gloves, peel prickly pears by cutting off about ½ inch from each end. Then slice lengthwise, about ¼ inch through from one end to the other lengthwise, cutting through the thick skin. Carefully remove the entire skin in once piece, by hand. It should come off easily in one piece and leave the fruit in tact.
  • Blend tunas, 3 cups water, and sugar on medium setting for 60 seconds.
  • Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into large pitcher. You may need to agitate the mixture to let the juice through, avoid pushing through the pulp to keep juice light in consistency. Discard or compost seeds and pulp.
  • Stir in remaining 3 cups water.
  • Chill and serve over ice. Garnish with edible flowers, slices of lime or prickly pears, chia seeds, or rim the glass with chili-lime salt (optional).


Serving: 8ouncesCalories: 32kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 0.01gFat: 0.03gSodium: 12mgPotassium: 3mgFiber: 0.02gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 5IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 9mgIron: 0.01mg
LOVE THIS RECIPE?Leave a comment below or tag me on social media @lolascoina

Recipe originally published on March 17, 2017.

Lola’s Cocina is a small business that earns various revenue streams. This includes sponsored posts and affiliate commissions from linked products, which I use and love, at no extra cost to readers. This income helps sustains the site. 

Lola Wiarco Dweck

Lola is a Mexican-American recipe developer, writer, and cooking instructor who loves sharing her culture with the world. Growing up in California and spending summers in Mexico, Lola celebrates her family’s Mexican recipes and vibrant culture through Lola’s Cocina.

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    1. I do too. They were my favorite when I was little and we’d visit Mexico. I hope my son loves them as much as I do. It’s funny when people don’t know how to eat them because of the seeds.

  1. Hi Lola! This is one of my favorite aguas. I love getting the red tunas in September. My mom and dad visited Cancún a few times, and I remember my mom saying that she loved eating these for breakfast. They hold a special spot in my heart. 😉

    1. The red ones are my favorites. I love the hot pink color of the agua fresca!

      My dad and I used to be the only ones who liked them when we’d go to Mexico so we’d share an entire cup with limón y sal. They hold a special place in my heart, too. We can put some on their altar this year.:)

  2. I love prickly pear anything from margaritas to a lemonade I fell in love with at Joshua Tree. Cant wait to try out this recipe I just know it’s going to be delicious!

    1. I just found the red prickly pears at the store and made this exact recipe but with the red ones. New photos coming soon! Oh and I had a lemonade with prickly pear simple syrup – delicious!

  3. 5 stars
    I love the color of this agua fresca! It’s flavorful without too much sugar and I love the tip about using gloves. The first time I ever worked with prickly pears, I was hating life after with those little invisible pricklies in my hands.