New Orleans-Style Pralines

CATEGORIES: Candy, Kate, Louisiana

I kind of can’t believe that we’ve lived in Louisiana for almost 5 years. In some ways, it feels like we just barely moved here and in others, it feels like so much life has happened here–when we left Utah, my daughter was a baby, just a little bit older than Baby Willbo is now, and my oldest son had just turned 3. Since we’ve lived here, Sara and I started this little cooking blog, 2 kids have made it through 2 years of preschool, we’re in our 3rd year of elementary school (and our first year of having 2 in elementary school), we’ve lived in two houses (including the first house we bought), we’ve owned 2 cats (not at the same time…Hoarders has instilled in me a strong sense of solitary feline companionship), 1 dog, remodeled a kitchen, and had a baby. Plus a million other things. For better (and sometimes for…not better), this has become our home, full of roots and friends and history, people who know us and wave while we’re driving or stop to talk in the grocery store or the halls of school. Because no matter how much I complain about the heat or the bugs or the lack of seasonal diversity, when we leave (a hypothetical someday leaving…we don’t have any plans to go anywhere soon), I will miss it. Because of the friends and the food. And, if you’ve lived in the South, you know that the two are intertwined.

If you get one homemade treat at Christmastime in Louisiana, it’s probably going to be a praline. And if you call it a “pray-leen” within earshot of anyone from here, you will be mocked mercilessly because it is apparently pronounced “prah-leen.” But since I can’t call it a prah-leen without feelings of wrongness climbing into my throat, whenever I’m around native Louisianans, I try to do everything I can to just not say the word at all.

Now…here are a few facts about making pralines. And many of these facts are applicable to all homemade candy, but I have pralines on the brain.

1) There are a few simple ingredients and the instructions are short. Don’t be deceived. What starts out as what you think will be simple, harmless fun could end up going on for hours. And you can’t leave, because those are the rules of candy.

2) Altitude and humidity can impact your results. Higher altitudes may need to cook things a touch longer than lower altitudes. Don’t try to make these if it’s raining or snowing or overly humid outside–they won’t set up.

3) Sometimes candy just doesn’t work out. And it SUCKS, because you spent all this time and money on something that flops, but such is life when you try wild and crazy adventures like making candy. I have this incredible toffee recipe, but it fails about 50% of the time and I don’t know why. Whenever we post candy recipes, we get a lot of angry or frantic comments or questions because their candy didn’t work out. And the truth is that while sometimes the answer is that you used the wrong ingredient or your candy thermometer is off or it’s a monsoon outside or your altitude is off-the-charts high, there are things I can’t explain. If I can’t explain why my daughter felt compelled to hide a Ziploc baggie full of pickles under her bookshelf, I sure as heck can’t explain why some people’s candy didn’t work. Rest assured that until my candy sets up, I’m crossing my fingers and toes that everything turned out okay because I’ve had my share of flops, too. Usually, the best solution is try and remember what you did and do things slightly different the next time. If there is a next time.

Don’t get me wrong–making homemade old-fashioned treats can be really fun and rewarding, but it’s like when you’re at Disney World and they tell you it’s going to be a 35 minute wait and you’re on the ride in 10 minutes. If I tell you everything that can go wrong and you’re wildly successful, then we’re all happy. And if it goes south, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂

Anyway. Pralines. You’re going to need a quart of heavy whipping cream, a pound of sugar, a tablespoon of corn syrup (light or dark, doesn’t matter), 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans, and the zest of 1 orange. The orange zest is optional, and you’re not going to find it in traditional pralines. But it is super yummy. Plus, after you zest the orange, you can eat the orange and then not feel bad about the 10 pralines you’re about to eat later.

In a large saucepan (think large stockpot…the pan in my pictures gave me anxiety), combine the cream, corn syrup, sugar, and orange zest (if using). Cook over low to medium-low, stirring occasionally. In the early stages, be careful not to let it boil over.

In the original instructions, it tells you to line 3 baking sheet with parchment paper before you start cooking because once you have to scoop out the pralines, you have to do it quickly.

I do agree that you have to scoop out the pralines quickly. But trust me, you’re gonna have a lot of time to line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper while you’re in the early boiling stages.

At first, it’s going to get all frothy and bubbly and syrupy. For awhile.

And then it will really start to cook down and thicken up. And you’ll keep using your handy-dandy instant-read thermometer to check the temperature and get sick of it, so you clip your cheap-o thermometer that’s off  by at least 10 degrees onto the pot so you can have some idea if you’re even in the ballpark.

When the mixture starts to thicken, start stirring constantly. The mixture will gradually turn golden brown and become thick and bubbly.

You’ll start contemplating other homemade candies and their origins…peanut brittle…caramel…toffee…who came up with this? How did this come to be? Back when people were doing this in cast iron pots over fires and resources were scarce, what in the WORLD made them think, “Hey, let’s put some of our premium food products into this pot and see what happens?!” You’ll wonder if this is EVER going to reach 240 degrees. You’ll unload the dishwasher. You’ll answer some emails. The thermometer will move up 1.5 degrees. Sweet Kyle Chandler, will I ever leave this sugary prison? You’ll try stirring it more vigorously to see if that makes it heat up faster. Then finally…you reach the magical number. 240 degrees. Or almost, if you’re looking at this picture. Merciful confectionery angels, we’ve done it.

When it reaches 240 degrees, add the pecans and cook, stirring constantly (and into all the nooks and crannies of the pot, but being careful not to splash up the sides too much) until your mixture reaches 248 degrees. Remove from heat. Using two dessert spoons or a half-tablespoon cookie scoop, spoon the pralines onto the lined baking sheets.

They should have kind of a matte-ish finish instead of being shiny or oily and they should more or less hold their shape, especially in the middle. I like mine sprinkled with just a little bit of kosher salt–it kind of offsets the super sweet sweetness and adds another flavor dimension.

Allow them to cool. If you’re lucky, they’ll be ready in about 30 minutes, but if they fall apart when you pick them up, give them another day or so uncovered in a cool, dry area.

The texture should be similar to fudge, not chewy like caramel or hard like toffee or peanut brittle. When they’re set up, you can store them for a week in an airtight container. Makes 3-4 dozen, depending on how generous you are when spooning the candy mixture.



  1. I will think of your sweet Kyle Chandler paragraph whenever I watch a slow-to-rise thermometer. Great blog. And your sense of humor is the reason it’s great (both of you).

    And I’m officially jealous. I’m wondering if I’ll EVER find a bag of pickles on my kids’ bookshelf! Some folks have all the luck.

  2. Of the 3 “traditional” things I’ve actually eaten while actually in New Orelans (muffaletta, prah-leens, and beignets), this is the only one I’ve never made at home! Can’t wait to try it out! Even if you do make it sound like it’s the longest thing it will ever take me to make. 😀

  3. Yum! My mom makes homemade pralines, one recipe with sweet cream and one with buttermilk, and they are probably my favorite of all the candy she makes. Some day I’ll have the guts to make them myself, but now that I live in Washington it will have to be during the six weeks of summer we get up here. The rest of the year it’s too wet. And don’t feel bad if you call them “pray-leens.” I’m from Texas and my mom is a native North Carolinian and that’s what we call them.

  4. Thanks for the laugh! I just finished a week full of many (some failed, some successful) batches of caramels, and your post rang a little too true. I end up making candy about every four years. Just like having a newborn baby, you need a little time in-between each one to forget what it all entails.

    1. Love this!!! Third time was the charm for my first attempt. Sweet victory!!! 🙂
      And I did tell my friend that if I never made them again I would be ok. With a few of them left I’m already thinking about my next batch… so much like having a baby!!! Ha!!!

  5. Ever so often I take it upon myself to go on a quest to find the best pralines recipe. Thus far I have been disappointed with my results, most recipes use brown sugar and the end result is invariably grainy. Ick! I’m looking forward to trying this one! Thanks!! P.S. If you are referring to the toffee recipe that consists of sugar, butter (and a bit of water) and you’re baffled as to why it separates into a horrid mess try cooking it on medium high to high heat. If you don’t it will separate. Everytime. (I have also found a cast iron skillet works well but not absolutely essential.)

  6. Oooh! My mom used to make pralines when we lived in New Orleans, but I haven’t had them in forever. Maybe I’ll have to try making them with my kids after Christmas. Thanks for a little nostalgia trip.

    Also, thanks for the pickle chuckle. All I ever find is petrified string cheese and old, cheesy sippy cups, which aren’t nearly as entertaining.

  7. Oh my goodness, this made me laugh! I have a wild idea about trying to replicate a soft caramel at home (I am too cheap to buy them online and the only store that sells them is a craft store and I feel like an idiot going in there to buy individually wrapped caramels by the fistful), but I can’t decide if it’s worth the inevitable heartbreak. Merry Christmas!

  8. “sweet kyle chandler”….you guys are HILARIOUS! my husband is from georgia, so naturally, i’ve had pralines on my list of “try this” for awhile…i might just give it a try now!

  9. I have never had bad luck with caramels (*praying I did not just jinx myself*), but one of my good friends came over one day to teach me toffee. She makes it all the time, a couple streets away. I think we made three batches and they ALL failed! So yeah… I am afraid of toffee now, cause I don’t want to waste my precious ingredients (cause lol, butter and sugar are precious)!
    I will give this one a try too, cause that would be awesome. I just hope it works out! If I had the cream on hand, I would go make them right now!

  10. Pralines are my favorite food- hands down. It is for that reason I can not learn to make them. That said the best baby shower gift I got- a batch of my sister in laws pralines. Can you say gestational diabetes? I do however make this awesome praline-type thing (ok it is basically a praline, but I’m lying yo myself) you spread it over havarti cheese and serve with crackers. So delicious!

  11. I totally said ‘pray-leens’ when I read this in my head. But, then I am from Pennsylvania where we say things…hmmm how should I put this delicately…we say things correctly 🙂 j/k all my southern hommies 🙂

  12. These look yummy!! But if we shouldn’t make them when it’s raining or snowing… lol, I live in Ohio and I swear we’ve had rain the whole month. Tomorrow they’re calling for an inch. And then it’s turning to snow… joy

  13. This post had me cracking up! From the pickles under the bookshelf to the sugary prison. That describes exactly how I feel when I’m making candy. And I’d love to try these, but we’ve got non-stop summer thunderstorms brewing here, down under, so I guess I’ll have to wait a while. Nevertheless, I believe that you may be a merciful confectionary angel.

  14. I love pralines probably more than any other candy. I want to make some now to share with friends, but my old glass tube thermometer broke and I don’t want another one like it. Please tell us what brand that pretty pink instant one is that you used for this? Is it a true candy/deep fry thermometer?

  15. In your post you say to start stirring constantly when it starts to thicken and then again at 240F. The recipe just says at 240F. Can you clarify? Thanks!

  16. My grandma used to have a praline business when I was little. She had a secret recipe and made some of the best candy I’ve ever eaten. She hung up her apron long ago though and tells me she’s “forgotten” the recipe. I’ve been dying to make them for years! I’m so glad you posted this. I know I can trust you ladies for a great recipe!

  17. “Sweet Kyle Chandler, will I ever leave this sugary prison?” I am stealing this comment for all my expletives from now on. And didn’t Meredith say the pickles were “cute?” At least she didn’t put the pickles in the same place as the cough drop!

  18. Funny, funny, funny! I laughed out loud at this post, just like everyone else! I love that you girls are so dang real!Wrongness oozes up in my throat when I try to say “prah-line,” or “ah-men” for that matter! Some people can do it here in Utah, but not me:) Love you site and your recipes! Thank you:)

  19. These were EVERYWHERE growing up in Houston, TX and then I moved away and could not find them anywhere in the Northeast or Midwest. I’ve tried several recipes throughout the years to get my PRAY-leen fix and I’ve never found a good recipe. I’m sure THIS will be the one! Funny, I always thought pralines were Mexican because they were always sold in Mexican restaurants. It was perfect after a spicy meal.

  20. I lived in Gonzales LA for 5 years. The people there are the most wonderful “take you into the family” people you will ever meet. I learned to cook black beans and rice, pralines, THE BEST biscuits, gumbo, king cake…… on and on from some of the sweetest Cajon people.

  21. I just tried these and I’m afraid they broke the successful candy streak that I had going. I made great fudge (the real way) and toffee this year, but these bombed. 🙁 Don’t worry – I’m well aware that candy is hit or miss so I’m not mad!

  22. I am from the south. I’ve ordered from southern kitchen sites in the past for pralines. My family LOVES them! Your pictures and notes gave me courage to give this a try! These are yum! I didnt even have a candy thermometer. (And SURELY wasn’t going to the store for one!). I used the cold water method for testing. I’d surely make these again. The only info I’d keep track of next time is how long it took to get to each stage and maybe how long each stage took. It took a long time to get the mixture out of the frothy stage in the beginning and it worried me. Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe!

  23. This post make me crack up laughing. I live in New Orleans and have started my own little Praline business, Creole Confections. There is a debate between my friends and I over the whole “pray-leen vs prah-leen”. I even had a poll going on my FB page for a while. My recipe is quite different from this one, so I am looking forward to trying yours for fun.

  24. I’m another Barbara who would love to know what that cute pink thermometer is and where to buy one. I don’t like the glass ones at all because I break them. And I am in desperate need of a pra-leen (I only call them prah-leens when I’m in NOLA)fix, because they are my favorite candy. Or maybe they are second, after toffee. Or first. I can’t decide. But I’d sure love to have a cute pink thermometer. Sigh.

  25. Hi Kate – I ended up with “caramel pralines” which from Googling around, I understand is a failed attempt! 😛 Still tastes so yummy however. Any magic solution to prevent caramel, and get the right texture? Thanks!

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