Acitrón is one of the few ingredients used for Mexican cooking that is still very hard to find outside of Mexico. Acitrón is made with the pad or paddle-leaf-of a cactus plant called biznaga, which is similar to the prickly pear but rounder in shape and it also grows in dry land. To make acitrón, the leaves are peeled off the outer skin along with the little thorns, sometimes soaked in a lime solution, dried in the sun and finally simmered in a syrup made with water and sugar or honey, then left to dry again.

In Mexico it is sold in stores and markets in square or rectangular small blocks along with other candied fruits or vegetables, of which my favorite is the candied sweet potato or camote.

Acitrón, with its pleasant and mildly sweet flavor and chewy consistency, is mixed with other ingredients ironically heightening the flavors of those other ingredients. It is used to make many dishes such as the famous Chiles en Nogada, picadillos or meat fillings for other chiles and tamales, in their savory or sweet takes, as well as in breads like Rosca de Reyes and also just as a candy.

For dishes that call for acitrón, if you can’t get your hand on any, you can substitute with candied pineapple, mostly the kind that comes without a heavy sugar coating.



10comments inAcitrón

  1. J.y. Vered

    Oct 27

    Actually, it takes the biznaga many years to mature to the level where it will be harvested. As most are wild, there have been unscrupulous persons destroying the plants (you have to kill the plant to take the portion used in candying).

    They are now threatened. So it’s sketchy if you can get the real thing anymore.
    This article says that candied camote is usable as a substitute.

    In addition the original acitrón is a candy made in Spain from Cidra (citrus medica, Etrog citron). It might also substitute.
    From Real Academia

    But this is basically a good quality candied citron (peel) which you can find in better stores, although industrial products are available around xmas ubiquitously.
    the name for the better quality candied citron peel in English is Succade
    But the French make it as well

    Or go to Spain

    BUt high end isn’t necessary. Walmart and Nuts sell industrially candied citron peel/acitron.

    and again Walmart has (di)acitron. the Spanish type, from Citron (Cidra, Cedrat).

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 27

      Thanks for all this information JY, I appreciate you taking the time to send this over 😉

  2. J A Davis

    Sep 27

    I am looking for Biznaga cactus candy, back in the 50’s my grandma would bribe me to play the piano with cactus candy, it was great. It looked like a French fry in size and was semi clear and was sugar coated and came from Biznaga cactus. Grandma said it came from the heart of the cactus and it tasted a lot like ginger. I have tried to fined it but no luck, can you help. I have tried the jellies but the is not the same. Please help? Jim

    1. Pati

      Sep 28

      I know… it is VERY hard to find in the US.

    2. Santiago

      Jan 06

      If you are in México you can find it in any small town mercado in Central or Western México.

  3. Tom Windwillow

    May 10

    The biznaga cactus is actually a large barrel cactus which has recently been listed as highly endangered. The Mexican government has criminalized all export and production of acitron from the biznaga. Anyone convicted of harvesting it can get up to nine years in prison. I am so sorry, we seem to lose something of our heritage every day.

  4. M. C. Fisher

    Nov 11

    I asked my Mexican neighbor to look for biznaga for me when she went to her weekly trip to the flea market. She got some for me and it cost 4.50 for a pkg of about 10 oz. She said there were 3 vendors selling it. So check your local flea market. Most communities nowadays have a large Hispanic population amd most have a flea market.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Nov 21

      MC, Thank you for the info! I really appreciate you taking the time to write.

  5. Jonathan Hernandez

    Dec 19

    Where could I find acitron? leaving near the chicago area? or in some websites where i could get it shipped

    1. Pati Jinich

      Dec 19

      Hi Jonathan,
      It is quite hard to find Acitrón outside of Mexico. you can however, ask grocers of Latin or International stores if they can source for you. You can surf online and see if you get lucky or ask friends that go to Mexico to bring you some! If nothing else works, substitute it for candied pineapple…. Best of luck ; )

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