This is an easy Southern pecan praline recipe made with a handful of basic ingredients. Pecan halves are coated in a delicious sugary mixture, then dropped onto a baking sheet. Careful, you won’t be able to stop at just one!
Here in the US, when people mention pralines they’re typically discussing the sugary, nutty candy that’s very popular in the South.
Pralines are essentially nut clusters made with toasted nuts (in this case, pecans) and a melt-in-your-mouth coating. Although you’ll need a candy thermometer to make this pecan praline recipe, it’s very easy to make and comes together quickly.
I especially love making pecan pralines around the holidays, as they keep well at room temperature and there’s no danger of them drying out like cookies and bars do. However, pralines are delicious year-round, so don’t write this recipe off once the weather warms up!
These pecan pralines are made with just eight ingredients, most of which I keep in my pantry no matter the season. The ingredients you’ll need are as follows:
- Sugar: I used a mixture of granulated and brown sugar to both sweeten the pralines and deepen the flavor of the candy coating. Don’t use all granulated sugar to make this recipe, as that would result in overly sweet pralines with minimal flavor.
- Butter: Real butter is a must in this recipe. It’s best to slice your butter into tablespoon-sized pieces so it melts evenly.
- Pecans halves: The most important ingredient in pecan pralines! I prefer to toast my pecans first to really enhance the pecan flavor, but feel free to skip this step if you prefer.
- Light corn syrup: A couple of tablespoons helps to prevent some sugar crystallization.
- Heavy cream: This gives the pralines a rich and creamy flavor! Look for a heavy cream that contains at least 36% fat.
- Vanilla extract: Pure vanilla extract is my preference when making candy.
- Salt: Curbs the sweetness of the praline candy coating and enhances the vanilla flavor.
How to Make Pralines
This is an incredibly easy praline recipe, so don’t be intimidated by the candy thermometer! You’ll first need to toast the pecans, then you can move onto the candy coating.
- Toast the pecans: This step is optional, but I love the texture and richer flavor of toasted pecans. Be sure to let the pecans cool completely before moving onto the next step.
- Make the coating: Add the sugars, butter, corn syrup, and heavy cream to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then continue cooking until it reaches 236ºF. It’s best to use a candy thermometer for this step.
- Add the pecans: Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the vanilla, salt, and toasted pecans.
- Stir the pecan mixture: You’ll need to stir the praline mixture for 3 to 4 minutes with a wooden spoon. Make sure to beat the mixture until it’s thickened and lightens some in color. If you start to scoop the pralines and the mixture seems too thin, simply beat the mixture longer.
- Form the pralines: I like to use a tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop the mixture from the saucepan. Then, I drop it onto a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
- Let the pralines cool: The pecan pralines will need to sit at room temperature for at least an hour to firm up.
- How to store at room temperature: You may store these pralines in an airtight container or zip lock bag on the counter for up to one week. If you need to store these longer, then I recommend freezing them.
- How to freeze them: I suggest storing them in a large freezer bag/container and placing pieces of parchment paper or wax paper between each layer. If stored correctly, they will keep for up to 3 months in the freezer. When you’re ready to enjoy them, place them on the counter and let them come to room temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Another Nut Be Used?
Although pecan halves are traditionally used, you can feel free to swap out the pecans with an equal amount of almonds, walnuts, or even cashews!
Is a Candy Thermometer Necessary?
I highly recommend using a candy thermometer for this recipe. Without it, you may cook the candy coating for too little or too long, which would result in imperfect pralines. However, you can test it by dropping a small amount of the mixture into a cup of ice water. The mixture should form a ball that flattens easily between your fingers.
Why Won’t My Pralines Set Up?
If you find that your pralines are not setting up, it may be that the mixture either did not reach the correct temperature or was not mixed long enough. You want your mixture to reach 236°F, also known as the soft ball stage. If you find that the mixture is just a little too runny when you’re scooping them, simply beat the mixture with a wooden spoon a little longer.
- Since this is such a simple recipe, you’ll need to use the exact ingredients listed in the recipe card below and not make any substitutions. Full-fat dairy, regular sugar, etc. are all needed.
- I like to toast the pecan halves as I find it makes for a more flavorful praline. However, this step is optional.
- You may be tempted to form larger pralines, but trust me when I say that 1 tablespoon is plenty! This is a very rich and sweet dessert, so creating smaller bites is best.
- I recommend using a wooden spoon to stir the mixture and beat it once you remove it from the heat. Unlike metal utensils, wooden spoons do not conduct heat and won’t affect the temperature of your candy.
More Easy Candy Recipes to Try!
- 2 ½ cups pecan halves (315 grams)
- 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar (300 grams)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter sliced (85 grams)
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (40 grams)
- 1 cup heavy cream (240 ml)
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside to cool completely.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, corn syrup, and heavy cream in a large saucepan. Place a candy thermometer on side of the saucepan, then place the saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Once the mixture is boiling, continue stirring gently until it registers 236°F (113°C; also known as the soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. I highly recommend using a candy thermometer for this step, but you can also test it by dropping a small amount of the mixture into a small cup of ice water. The mixture should form a ball that flattens easily when pressed between your fingers.
- Remove from the heat and mix in the vanilla extract, salt, and pecans. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for 3 to 4 minutes or until the mixture is thickened, but not too thick.
- Quickly scoop tablespoons of the mixture and place onto the prepared baking sheets. If the mixture is too thin, mix a little longer. Be sure to stir the mixture in the saucepan every so often, so it doesn't become too firm while you're scooping.
- Allow to cool completely at room temperature on the baking sheets, at least 1 to 2 hours.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.