Delicious, Easy Southern Pecan Pralines are a delicious and creamy Southern candy that's ready in about 30 minutes. Creamy & crunchy, they're made with basic ingredients (butter, heavy cream, pecans, and brown sugar!). No candy thermometer and no hassle!
Originally posted December 2014, updated February 2022.
Since I live in the deep South, next door to Louisiana, I've been eating pecan pralines for as long as I can remember. As far as sweets go, they're a staple around the holidays, and in New Orleans, they're a staple year-round. And let me also say, there is no one right recipe for pralines.
Every person you meet has an opinion on how pralines should taste and whether you should use chopped pecans or pecan halves and what kind of texture is perfect (most prefer them creamy!).
For years and years, I've made pecan praline candy, but never Easy Pecan Pralines. You see - the pecan pralines recipes I used in the past required candy thermometers or microwaving with just the right bowl and a wooden spoon. They were always finicky and didn't always turn out just right.
However, last year, after my microwave pralines recipe failed me again, I decided I had to find a recipe that was more reliable.
I started searching and trying and I finally landed on a recipe that works and never fails me! I've made them many, many times and they're always so good!
Okay, they failed me once, but I have no idea why.
It probably had something to do with my whole family being there and I was running my mouth the entire time I was making them... I'm sure I mismeasured something or didn't let them boil quite a full minute. I don't know - it'll forever be a mystery 🙂
Oh wait - but I should make it clear that the day wasn't a total loss. Every single crumb of the pralines was still eaten - we just used spoons to scoop them up! 😂
You see... this big ole family of mine wouldn't let pralines go to waste - even if they were sticky!! Hahaha.,.. I love my family!
Anyway, I've been making candy/cookie trays this Christmas season and in every tray, I've included some pralines. I thought it was about time I shared the recipe!
Pecan Pralines Recipe Video
Southern Pecan Pralines Ingredients
- Brown sugar - I always use light brown sugar for this recipe and feel like you get the best flavor with this sugar. However, dark brown sugar will also work, but give you a much stronger molasses flavor.
- Heavy whipping cream - Heavy cream makes these pralines so creamy and smooth. A great substitute for heavy cream is evaporated milk. The flavor will change slightly, but they're still delicious.
- Salted butter - you can certainly use unsalted butter in this recipe, but if you do, add a pinch of salt to bring out the flavors.
- Pure vanilla extract - you can never go wrong with a little vanilla extract in a recipe. It always enhances the flavors. I make homemade vanilla, but any quality premade will work great!
- Powdered sugar - adding powdered sugar really makes the pralines smooth and creamy and removes any graininess of the brown sugar. I do not recommend substituting granulated sugar here.
- Pecan halves - I love gthe look and texture of pecan halves in a praline. Having said that, some recipes call for chopped pecans and if that's all you've got, they will work!
Tools needed to make this recipe
- Saucepan - use a medium-to-large sauce pan for this recipe
- Baking Sheet - any cookie sheet will work here and you may need two!
- Parchment Paper - you can also use a silicone mat if you prefer
Now let me show you how easy they are to make!
How to make Pecan Pralines
3. Okay... here's the important part! You're going to bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. But as soon as it starts to boil, set a timer and boil for exactly 1 minute. Then remove it from the heat.
6. Allow the mixture to thicken and cool slightly, but it only takes a minute. You do not want the mixture to get too cool and begin to harden in the pot.
If this happens, add a teaspoon or two of hot milk and stir until creamy, then begin dipping out.
7. And last, drop heaping spoonfuls of the praline mixture onto paper and allow it to cool and set up for at least 30 minutes. You can speed this up by popping the sheet in the fridge if you're impatient like me 😉
Then try your very best to not eat the whole platter pan of them!
Pralines Pro Tips and Notes...
- Work quickly! As mentioned above, this is not a recipe where you can drag your feet. If the mixture gets too cool and begins to set up in the pan, add a teaspoon or two of hot milk and stir until creamy, Then begin dipping it out.
- You can use unsalted butter instead of salted butter, if you prefer. If you choose to do this, I do recommend adding a pinch of salt to the recipe!
- I really love pecan halves in my pralines, but if you want, you can use chopped pecans. The texture will be a little different but the amazing flavor will still be there!
- While this is by and far the easiest pralines recipe I've ever made, nothing is 100% foolproof. If your pralines don't set up, or they get dry and crumbly, don't toss them out! Eat them with a spoon, ball them up and dip in chocolate, or chop them up and use as a topping on cake or ice cream!
- While I truly hope this recipe will be foolproof and work for you, there's always a chance it won't. Pralines are finicky and tempermental. So maybe my best tip is - be patient and have extra ingredients on hand so you're prepared for a round two or three if needed. However, in the FAQ below, I do give you tips for how to (hopefully) fix your first batch if it doesn't work out!
How to Store Pralines
- First off - why are you storing them? These babies are best eaten fresh and barely hardened! Ours hardly ever last more than an hour unless I'm making them to take somewhere and I have to beat the family off of them to get them to their destination. But if you must...
- Store these in an airtight container at room temperature, between layers of wax paper or parchment paper or individually wrap them. They'll keep for up to two weeks. No refrigeration needed and they are a great candy to ship as long as you pack them well to prevent breaking.
- Can you freeze pralines? Yes! You can freeze pralines for up to 2 months. For best results, wrap them individually in plastic wrap then place them in an airtight container before freezing. Thaw in the fridge overnight when you're ready to eat them!
Here in the United States (the South in particular), the short answer is that pralines are a type of candy where nuts are covered in a cooked sugar mixture and it sets up to a soft candy. More specifically, pralines have sugar (usually brown or a mixture), nuts (most commonly pecans), cream or milk, and vanilla. The most popular pralines seem to be creamy, smooth, and melt-in-your-mouth soft. But some pralines are harder and more crunchy.
Well, while they may sound the same, they are emphatically not the same, as any good Southerner will tell you. Praline Pecans or "Pecan Candy" are individual pecans with a crunchy praline or candy coating.
Pralines, on the other hand, are cookie-shaped candy where pecans are mixed into a cream, sugar, and vanilla mixture, that is scooped out and it pools to make a patty-like candy. They're firm enough to hold but soft enough to melt in your mouth.
In short, no. For most recipes, the answer will be yes, but for my recipe, the answer is no! If you have a timer and follow my instructions closely, you can successfully make these delicious Southern Pecan Pralines without a candy thermometer! Can I get a "hallelujah?"
Well, that's a million-dollar question. Pralines are grainy because the sugar doesn't get hot enough to fully dissolve. You may think using a candy thermometer is the answer to this but even with all the recipes I've tried, that's not always true. The good news is - if you end up with grainy pralines, you can break them up, put them back in the pot with a little cream or milk (a tablespoon or two), and heat them again. Maybe add 10-15 seconds to the boiling time to try and raise the temperature a little more.
Similar to the answer above, it has something to do with not reaching the correct temperature. Or maybe it's a rainy day. Or maybe the stars aren't aligned for you. Just kidding... sometimes I have no idea why they won't harden.
But if your pralines are still gooey after 30-40 minutes, you may have to scrape them back into the pan and heat them again. Add a tablespoon of milk, melt the sugar, and as before, stir constantly while you bring them to a boil. When the mixture begins to thicken, begin dipping them out again and cross your fingers!
Christmas Candy Tray Ideas
I often make and sell Christmas Candy Trays and these are a great treat to include. You can see one of the trays I made here. Along with the Christmas Crunch Recipe, here's another I made this morning:
None of my trays have been exactly the same so far. This one included these Old Fashioned Pecan Pralines, Sugar Cookies with Vanilla Buttercream, Chocolate Peanut Clusters, Peppermint Bark & Graham Cracker Nut Roll.
More Easy Desserts
Are you ready to make this Easy Southern Pecan Pralines recipe? If you make them, I'd love to hear if you think they're like New Orleans Pralines? or different?