New Orleans Pralines have a creamy consistency that is similar to fudge. They are generally made by cooking sugar, butter, cream, and pecans over a medium-high heat until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage. They are dropped by spoonful’s onto parchment paper or wax paper and left to cool. No Mardi Gras celebration would be complete without this delicious confection!
New Orleans pralines are different from their European ancestor in that the New Orleans variety uses pecans rather than almonds and includes cream. Pecans were used because they were, and still are, plentiful. Cream was introduced as a thickener.
When I was growing up in the South, I learned to cook at a relatively young age. One of my memories of those early days was making Pralines from the recipe on the back of the box of the Domino Light Brown Sugar.
I remember that the recipe only called for light brown sugar, i.e., it didn’t have granulated sugar. It also called for a small amount of cream of tartar and used evaporated milk. The Pralines always turned out great!
I grew up pronouncing Pralines as “PRAY-leans”. I’ve also heard them pronounced as “PRAW-leans”, which is the way they are pronounced in New Orleans. Whatever the pronunciation, Pralines are a creamy, sugary treat chocked full of pecans (pronounced “puh-KAHNs”, not “PEE-cans”.)
What You’ll Need To Make This Confection
This delicious confection uses standard praline ingredients.
- The Sugars: While some recipes call for granulated sugar, I’ve always used light brown sugar. I also use corn syrup which keeps the sugar from crystalizing as it melts.
- The Pecans: I like to use pecan pieces as opposed to pecan halves. That way, each yummy bite of the pralines contains pecans. I also like to toast my pecans first to enhance their flavor.
- The Flavorings: Vanilla extract and salt add a subtle enhancement to the flavor.
- The Richness and Consistency: Last but not least are heavy cream and unsalted butter. Both add to the richness and consistency of the pralines.
How To Make New Orleans Pralines
- To make the Pralines, I started by adding the brown sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup and salt to a heavy 3-quart saucepan that was fitted with a digital candy thermometer.
- I stirred the ingredients constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon until the mixture started to boil. This took about 15 minutes.
- Once the mixture started to boil, I continued stirring it occasionally until the candy thermometer registered 236°F which is the soft ball stage. This took another 7 to 8 minutes.
When I made Pralines as a kid, I had never heard of a candy thermometer. Rather, I always cooked the mixture until a small amount dropped in cold water formed a soft ball.
I still use this soft ball technique today double check the accuracy of the candy thermometer!
- At this point, I removed the pan from the heat and added the butter. It’s important not to stir the mixture once it is removed from the heat.
- I let the mixture stand until the candy thermometer reached 150°F. This took another 20 minutes or so.
I guess as a kid, I just let it cool off a bit!
Once it reached 150°F, I added the vanilla extract and pecans. I stirred the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until it began to thicken and lose some of its gloss. This took several more minutes.
- Once the mixture started to lose some of its gloss, I used a 1 ½-inch ice cream scoop to drop individual portions of the pralines onto parchment lined baking sheets. I had to move quickly here because the candy continued to thicken.
I set the baking sheets aside to allow the candy to thoroughly cool and harden. The result was 3-dozen delicious Pralines. Yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
Some people equate light corn syrup with high fructose syrup which can cause some health concerns. However, the label on Karo light corn syrup clearly states that it is not high fructose corn syrup.
While pralines and toffee are made in a similar fashion, they are not the same because they are cooked to different temperatures. Pralines have a soft, creamy texture while toffee is hard.
You can store pralines in an airtight container for up to a week.
The soft ball stage, reached at 236°F, occurs when a small amount of the candy mixture forms a soft ball when dropped in cold water.
If you’d like to try another variation of this recipe, check out my Pecan Praline Morsels.
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- 3 cups (22.5-ounces) light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 cup (8-ounces) heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons (1.375-ounces) light corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 cups (8-ounces) pecan pieces, lightly toasted (See Tip 1)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Add brown sugar, cream, corn syrup and salt to a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring mixture constantly, about 15 minutes.
- Continue cooking mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes, or until a candy thermometer registers 236°F (soft ball stage).
- Remove mixture from heat and add butter (do not stir). Let stand until candy thermometer reaches 150°F, about 20 minutes.
- Add pecans and vanilla. Stir constantly until candy begins to thicken, several additional minutes.
- Working rapidly, drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto wax paper or parchment paper. Let stand until firm. (See Tip 2)
- Yield: 3 dozen pralines. (See Tip 3)
Chula’s Expert Tips
- To toast pecans, place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 7 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure that the pecans do not burn.
- I like to use a 1 ½-inch ice cream scoop for portioning the candy. This way, each praline is the same size!
- You can keep pralines in an airtight container for up to a week.