There is nothing like old-fashioned Southern Pecan Pralines! This melt-in-your-mouth treat is a cross between a cookie and a candy and it's loaded with crunchy pecans, butter, and fabulous brown sugar flavor.

I also have a Chocolate Pralines version! If you love making homemade candy to share with friends and family, be sure to also check out my Easy Homemade Peppermint BarkOld-Fashioned Homemade Peanut Brittle, and English Toffee!

pecan pralines on and off of a blue plate with scattered pecans around it


On our recent trip to Savannah, Georgia, one of the first things we did was stop at River Street Sweets and pick up a couple of classic southern pecan pralines. The sweet smell of caramel and fudge and chocolate beckons you in off the street and the moment you walk in the door you are offered samples of their famous pralines. 

The classic pecan praline is my favorite, but you guys, you can also get a chocolate pecan praline too and they are divine.

There are actually two candy shops right there on River Street in Savannah, and I actually preferred the chocolate pecan pralines from Savannah Candy Kitchen, just down the block from River Street Sweets. But River Street Sweets made my favorite classic pecan pralines.

We even made multiple trips between the two stores over the weekend just to double-check. Because research. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

I wanted to share southern pecan pralines as part of my American Eats series representing Georgia since it produces more pecans than any other state in the nation. If you love pecans, you might also want to try my classic pecan pie or these decadent pecan pie cheesecake bars.

An image of pecan praline candy on a blue glass plate.

Quick Praline Recipe History

But pralines actually came to the USA from French chefs in Louisiana first and are often associated with New Orleans. From there they spread throughout the South and can be found all over in Georgia, South Carolina, and other southern states.

There is also a chewy version from Texas that my friend Kelly from Kelly's Kitchen Creation makes and sells. Kelly sent me a box of her chewy pralines last year and they are heavenly. You can order a box of them here and she will ship them to you. That's not an affiliate link and she didn't sponsor this post. I just think the world of Kelly and wanted to share since her chewy Texas pralines are totally different from these southern pecan pralines.

What is a Pecan Praline?

Southern pecan pralines are a sweet candy confection that is made with pecans, sugar, butter, and some form of dairy. I've seen pecan praline recipes using milk, cream, half-and-half, evaporated milk, and even buttermilk. 

I haven't tried every option in my pecan pralines recipe, choosing instead to stick with evaporated milk while recipe testing, but I'm pretty confident that you could sub in equal amounts of a different dairy choice and still have you pralines turn out just fine.

What do pralines taste like?

Pralines have a wonderful texture that melts in your mouth. They are firm and have a snap when you break them, but they aren't crunchy (beyond the crunch of the pecans) or hard.

While pralines are most typically made with pecans, they started out being made with almonds historically. It wasn't until the recipe arrived in America from France that pecans became the nut of choice for this sweet treat.

Pecans Praline Ingredients

  • Pecan halves - You don't need to toast the pecans first, but if you store your pecans in the freezer (like I do), be sure to let them sit out at room temperature for an hour or two before adding them to the praline mixture.
  • Sugar - The combination of brown sugar and granulated sugar gives these pralines their classic flavor.
  • Salt
  • Evaporated milk - Half-and-half, cream, or even whole milk can be used (and you might see them in other recipes), but evaporated milk gives me the best, most consistent results.
  • Salted butter
  • Vanilla extract

How to make Pecan Pralines

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 
  2. Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, evaporated milk, and butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. 
  3. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugars dissolve and the mixture comes to a boil. 
  4. Continue to cook until the temperature reaches between 235-240 degrees F on a candy thermometer (affiliate link) (soft ball stage), then immediately remove from heat and allow the praline mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the vanilla and pecans, beating by hand with a wooden spoon just until the candy begins to lose its glossiness and thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. If you beat too long, the candy will seize and start to crumble. If you don't beat it long enough, then pralines won't set properly and will stay soft and sticky. 
  6. Work quickly to drop heaping tablespoons of pecan praline mixture onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. I find that it works best to use a cookie dough scoop. If the mixture begins to harden before you have a chance to scoop all of the pralines, add a teaspoon of hot water at a time and stir until you can scoop again.
  7. Cool completely until pralines are set and firm. Store in an airtight container on the counter for 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.
An image of a candy thermometer in a saucepan of boiling sugar.

Praline Pecans Recipe Tips

  • Use a candy thermometer.  Like with most candy recipes, a good candy thermometer is crucial to getting the temperature of the ingredients just right so they set properly. I have always used a basic, cheap candy thermometer (affiliate link) and it works great.
  • Have some very hot water on hand in case your pralines begin to seize.  I found when recipe testing that it was very easy to overbeat the mixture and it seemed start setting up sooner than I anticipated. But stirring in a couple of teaspoons of very hot water totally saved my batch of pralines.
  • You might want to just plan on making this recipe more than once.  Having extra ingredients on hand can save you a lot of frustration if this is your first time making pralines. I made 3 or 4 batches before I felt good about how my pralines were turning out, although I hadn't actually tried an authentic pecan praline before and wasn't totally sure I had nailed the texture. I was also worried about the little bit of bloom you can see in the photos and wondered if that meant I had still overmixed or overcooked the pralines. But then we went to Savannah and it was very validating to see that even the pecan pralines at River Street Sweets had a similar bloom on top of their pralines. I'm a pretty confident baker, but candy and sweets are definitely more of a challenge for me, which I was reminded of when making these pralines. Give yourself some grace if your batch doesn't turn out perfectly the first time and try again!
  • Don't worry if you don't get it right on the first try!  If your batch doesn't set properly and are gooey, use it as an ice cream topping or chill and roll into 1-inch balls and dip in chocolate to make truffles! Or if they set too fast and you have crumbly pralines that can't be saved with the hot water trick, just roughly chop them up and add them to slightly softened vanilla ice cream (so good!). 

How long do pecan pralines last?

Pecan pralines will last up to 2 weeks when sealed in an airtight container, although I definitely prefer them fresh. Heck, I prefer them still warm while they are setting up!

Can pecan pralines be frozen?

Yes, you can freeze your pralines, just like you can freeze fudge or caramels. Be sure to place them in an airtight freezer safe bag and they will last for up to 2 months in the freezer. (Yeah right, they won't last that long because they will all be eaten long before that point.) 

Just allow them to thaw in the fridge overnight before eating.

An image of southern pecan pralines on a plate.

How to use Praline Pecans

We like to makes pecan pralines to deliver to friends in small cellophane bags or boxes during the holidays. They are a great choice for a cookie exchange even because they are similar in size and shape, even though they are a candy instead of a cookie.

You can also chop them up and add them to a dessert cheese ball, ice cream, a batch of caramel corn, or even mix them into cookies or brownies if you wanted to use them in a recipe.

Pecan Praline Recipe FAQ

What is the difference between a pecan and a praline?

A pecan is a type of nut while a praline is a type of candy that is made with sugar and nuts. While pecans are the most common type of nut used in pralines, almonds or hazelnuts will work too.

Are candied pecans the same as praline pecans?

Most any good Southerner knows that pecan pralines and praline pecans are not the same thing, despite the confusingly similar names. Praline pecans and candied pecans are individual sugared nuts that are much closer to each other than the melt-in-your mouth patties or discs that are the pecan pralines we are making with this recipe. You could grab a handful of praline pecans and pop them into your mouth one-by-one whereas with a pecan praline you would pick up one of them and eat it more like a cookie, even though it's a candy. Confusing? Yes, but let's just go with it.

Why are pecans called pralines?

Pecans and their candied version, pralines, are so intertwined as to have become synonymous to some folks, I suppose. You could probably get away with throwing in sugared pralines into a recipe that call for regular old pecans and it would still turn out.

What to do with failed pralines?

If your pralines don't turn out just the way you wanted them too, all is not lost. You might be able to save them just by stirring in some very, very hot water if the pralines are seizing because they were stirred too much. I've had great success with this approach because this is my number one mistake. If all else fails and the pecan pralines got too crumbly and dry, you can still sprinkle them over ice cream or mix them into homemade vanilla ice cream for a delicious treat.

More Candy Recipes To Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

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Southern Pecan Pralines

4.91 from 141 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 -20 servings
There is nothing like old-fashioned Southern Pecan Pralines!  This melt-in-your-mouth treat is a cross between a cookie and a candy and it's loaded with crunchy pecans, butter, and fabulous brown sugar flavor.  

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar packed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup evaporated milk or half-and-half
  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups pecan halves

Instructions
 

  • Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper and set aside.  
  • In a medium-size heavy pot, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, evaporated milk, and butter. Cook and stir with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the sugars dissolve and the mixture comes to a boil.
  • Continue to cook until the temperature reaches between 235-240 degrees F on a candy thermometer (affiliate link) (soft ball stage). Remove from heat and allow the praline mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the vanilla and pecans, beating by hand with a wooden spoon just until the candy begins to lose its glossiness and thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. If you beat too long, the candy will seize and start to crumble. If you don't beat it long enough, then pralines won't set properly and will stay soft and sticky.
  • Work quickly to drop heaping tablespoons (I use a small cookie dough scoop) of pecan praline mixture onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. If the praline mixture begins to harden in the pan, add a teaspoon of hot water at a time and stir to keep the mixture loose enough to scoop and drop. 
  • Cool completely until set and the pralines have reached room temperature. Store in an airtight container on the counter for 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.

Video

Notes

Some people prefer to chop their pecans.  I leave mine whole just like the pecan pralines at River Street Sweets. 
Adapted from AllRecipes.

Nutrition

Calories: 296kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 97mg | Potassium: 129mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 41g | Vitamin A: 176IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series

Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa • KansasKentuckyLouisiana • MaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontanaNebraskaNew JerseyNew YorkOregonPuerto RicoSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTexasUtahWisconsin

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. cynthia says:

    5 stars
    I followed the instructions exactly, but at the end, I had a hard time reaching that "semi-glossy" stage that would allow me to drop them onto parchment paper. No matter how long I stirred, they remained glossy and too liquid. Then it occurred to me that the deep ceramic pot I'd cooked them in might be retaining too much heat. I transferred the contents to a metal mixing bowl and stirred, and within a minute, they reached the right stage and ended up being marvelous pralines!
    I just want to caution everyone to use a fairly high-sided pot to cook this in--it will bubble up quite high and you really don't want to clean that off your stovetop (or for you or your little ones to get severely burned).

  2. cyn says:

    5 stars
    I have a lot of hazelnuts left over from a failed recipe. Do you think this recipe would work with chopped hazelnuts rather than pecans? Has anybody tried any other kind of nuts for this? I don't think I've ever heard of pralines made with anything but pecans; maybe there's a reason.

    1. Amy says:

      I don't see why it wouldn't work.

  3. Michele says:

    I made this recipe after searching recipes and actually trying a different recipe first. This recipe was so much better than the first one I made. The ingredients were similar, but this recipes directions were very different than the other recipe, and these turned out great. Smoother texture and better tasting!

  4. Laura says:

    5 stars
    Best praline recipe I've ever made! And I've made many! Thanks so much. I think the evaporated milk and the brief cooling-off period make the difference between good and fantastic pralines!! Will never use another recipe for these.

  5. Hcross says:

    5 stars
    Perfect recipe. It was my first experience making pralines, but the directions were spot on! Candy making can be tricky, but the time directions and candy thermometer made it easy.
    The pralines are just delicious.
    As another poster said make sure you have a pot with high sides because mixture does bubble. Even so I did splash mixture on my apron. Having a big wooden spoon was helpful as it stayed cool and wouldn't melt like some of the plastic spoons.

  6. Mary Gates says:

    3 stars
    The "soft ball" temp of 237 degrees is too hot. Result was mealy and did not spread like New Orleans pralines do. Or maybe I heated the mixture for too long reaching the temp. All I know is that I followed the instructions and it came out balled and grimy.

    1. Ellen says:

      3 stars
      I had the same result as you did. I used to make this recipe over the years while living in the south and it always turned out perfect. But I have since moved out west and my recipes don't work the same, this one included. The only thing that I can think of is to adjust the times/temp slightly to make up for the humidity or lack thereof.

  7. Jen says:

    5 stars
    I made these for the holidays in California after a trip to Savannah, GA, and they are ah-maze-ing! I don’t even need to try another recipe because these delicacies just melt in your mouth. Easy, but require your attention. Best tip was adding the teaspoon of boiling water as the mixture crystalized to get the right consistency for perfect spoonfuls. Now I need a tip to make them pretty and smooth instead of looking like misshapen but delicious, sugary blobs. This is getting a permanent place in my recipe box.

  8. Penlope Gallaway says:

    5 stars
    These were amazing on my first try!! I haven't made pralines in almost 20 years but this recipe will have me making them again and again! I took the cooking a little slower as recommended for the brown sugar to dissolve and used the hot water tablespoon trick when it got too thick and started to stiffen up. It worked perfectly. The only trouble I had was waiting for them to set up....that was incredibly hard to do. Family loved them so this recipe is a keeper!! Thank you Amy!

  9. Cyndy says:

    4 stars
    Great flavor but they seized quickly and were more sugary than creamy. What did I do wrong? I used a candy thermometer and watched it carefully. I used half and half vs evaporated milk.

    1. Amy says:

      Try lowering your temperature next time so they don't cook quite as fast. That will give you more time to notice the changes.

  10. Marie says:

    How long can you store finished product?

    1. Amy says:

      About 1 week in an airtight container, or you could freeze them for up to 2 months.

  11. Rochelle Burnett says:

    Hello. This recipe doesn’t tell you how much of each ingredient to use. I need help with that.

    1. Amy says:

      All of the ingredients are listed in the recipe card. If you are having trouble finding it, there is a "jump to recipe" button at the top of the post that will take you straight to it!

  12. Theresa Harris says:

    The number and location of ads on this site makes it difficult to get the ingredients with the instructions. Is there any workaround?

    1. Amy says:

      Hi Theresa! Yes, if you look right at the top of every post just under the title there is a black button that says "jump to recipe". If you click on that it will take you straight to the ingredients and instructions.

  13. Beth says:

    5 stars
    These are rich and creamy just like what we purchase in New Orleans. I've made this recipe 3 times now and it's gotten super easy with practice! My go-to praline recipe now.

  14. Rhonda G says:

    5 stars
    Yum! I made these and they turned out wonderful. I didn’t have much light brown sugar, so I used dark brown sugar. Omg! I’ll never make with light brown sugar again. I think they were better than River Street Sweets.

  15. Carolyn Leigh Brown says:

    my aunt lenore always made some that were addicting because once you start you want more