This pecan pralines recipe has been a beloved family recipe for over 35 years. Whole snappy pecans in a candied sugar coating make these treats irresistible. A classic Southern tradition, native to New Orleans, this one-of-a-kind cookie is quick to make but hard to forget.
If there’s one treat, I’d most associate with my childhood, it’s the particular style of New Orleans Pecan Pralines. My mother spent years perfecting them and has been making them for decades.
I was lucky enough to grow up under the influence of Cajun cooking. My father would delight us with tales while Mother created classic Cajun cuisine like Shrimp Etouffee, Pan Seared Pork Chops, or Blackened Chicken.
While pralines (pronounced praw-leens) are made throughout the south, a visit to New Orleans would simply be incomplete without a taste of these freshly prepared in candy shops around town.
Supplies and Ingredients
The ingredients are simple, but there are a few must-have tools for making these and there aren’t many substitutions that will taste even remotely the same.
- Wooden Spoon. I suggest using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula because neither transfer heat.
- Candy Thermometer. I highly recommend this tool to get the pralines cooked properly. No need to purchase an expensive model; the goal is accuracy.
- Sugars. This recipe calls for a blend of granulated and light brown sugar. Dark brown sugar will work but may increase the molasses flavor and increase moisture.
- Buttermilk. I use real buttermilk. You can use a DIY buttermilk in a pinch – In a cup, add 1 tablespoons lemon juice + enough milk to fill the cup and let stand for 5 minutes until thick.
- Unsalted Butter. Salted butter can be used, but I would skip the salt added in the recipe.
- Parchment Paper. This disposable non-stick surface is a vital tool for dropping candy on during cool down. My mother used greased wax paper as well.
Step by Step Video Guide
The full recipe is in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but I put together this simple video of me preparing them. Normally, I include a collage and step-by-step, but I felt there wasn’t much benefit that wouldn’t be better with a video.
Tips for Expert Pecan Pralines
A pecan praline recipe is fairly simple and straightforward. However, when making any candy, tips are helpful to avoid common pitfalls.
Read the entire recipe before starting. This recipe moves very quickly, and so make sure you have all ingredients and tools at the ready. You don’t want to be searching for tools in the midst of making.
Don’t Double the Recipe. The problem with doubling this praline recipe is that the pralines may start to cool too quickly as you are putting them out on the wax paper.
There is only a small window of time to drop the pralines. Too early, and the candy coating will run away in a pool. Too long and they won’t drop.
If it hardens during dropping, add a bit of boiling water. This is why we boil the water while cooking. Stir in a tablespoon or 2 of water to get it flowing again.
Variations & Add-ins
- Toast pecans in the oven for 7-10 mins at 350 degrees F to enhance the warm buttery flavor.
- Substitute other nuts such as almonds, pistachios, or hazelnuts. However, pecans are the best in my opinion.
- Dip one side of the cooled cookie in chocolate for a new twist.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, although I wouldn’t recommend anything smaller than halves. It will have a slightly different texture but taste just as delicious.
These are best fresh. However, pralines can be stored in an airtight container at room temp for 3-4 days. After a day or two the sugars may begin to crystallize in the pralines. They are still plenty delicious, so don’t be worried if you notice them turning lighter or beginning to show white specks or crystals.
The main difference between brittle and pralines is the hardness of the candy. Pralines are cooked to the soft crack stage and should be semi-soft but not chewy. Brittle, however, is cooked to a very high temperature, resulting in a much harder and “brittle” candy.
Pralines have been a signature treat since the 1700’s, introduced from French settlers. In Louisiana, locally abundant pecans replaced almonds to create the version that Southerners know as pecan pralines.
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PS. If you make this recipe, leave a COMMENT AND A STAR RATING in the comments section at the bottom and be sure to take a photo and tag it #cravingcreative on Instagram! I appreciate you for taking the time to read about me and my family recipes.
- Candy Thermometer
- Wooden Spoon or Rubber Spatula
- Parchment Paper
- 2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
- 1 cup Granulated sugar
- 1 cup Light brown sugar firmly packed
- ¾ cup Buttermilk
- 2 cups Pecans Whole or Halves
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- dash Salt ⅛ of a teaspoon
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- ***Get out your supplies (candy thermometer and parchment paper) before starting. This recipe can move quickly at the end so be ready. While making the pralines, boil a few cups of water in a small saucepan.
- Combine the butter, sugars, buttermilk, and salt into a large, heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir to combine and add the pecans in. Continue to gently but consistently stir until the sugar dissolves and starts to steam.
- Once it starts steaming, cover and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes to wash down the sugar crystals from the sides. It doesn't necessarily need to boil at this point, but it might start.
- Uncover and, stirring constantly, to 234 degrees on a candy thermometer. This is called the soft ball stage. (Softball is technically 235-240 degrees, but 2-3-4 is easy to remember!)
- Immediately remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to thicken.
- Working quickly, drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper. Let stand until firm (about 20-30 minutes). If mixture begins to harden or crystallize, stir in a tablespoon or 2 of boiling water to get it flowing again.
Elsie Turner says
These are exactly like my mother’s who was born in 1920. I’m from Louisiana and I can attest to it that these are the authentic pralines of the Creole and Cajun South. Thank you
Came out perfect!
Yummy. I’ve been looking for good recipe and this one was great, thank you!!
Janiece Cason says
Are these the softer sugary pralines rather than the chewy kind…?
To be honest, New Orleans style is the only type of praline I have ever had although I hear Texas has a version. These are sugary, softer and not snappy or crunchy like brittle. They are definitely not chewy or stringy like a taffy. I hope that helps.
Sandy young says
Where is the recipe?
Oh no! I have no idea how that happened but I had some technical improvements done today. A glitch must have erased it from the post. It is back now and thank you so very much for letting me know!
Brian Kelly says
Watching your Mom perfect this recipe over the years I can tell you that the most important part is getting that temperature right. Too hot is no good and too cool is no good.
Ultimately, what makes Mom’s pralines so special is that she uses a lot more pecans than any commercial praline company could afford to do.
I don’t know if you remember but Mom tried to get this recipe right for years before she came up with this one. Most people, when they first taste pralines, assume there is a lot more going on with the recipe than there really is. It’s the heat that makes the simple ingredients come together to make pralines the candied perfection that it is.
I remember the many, many trials of experimentation trying to get this one just right. You are lucky to have such a wonderful wife who would keep trying, haha. (and a great Mom, of course) This is the recipe that she made the observation about keeping recipes simple. With respect to recipes, I find it true that the simplest version is usually the best one too.