If you've ever wanted to learn how to make Pecan Pralines, then you'll love this easy recipe for chewy Southern Pecan Pralines! These are creamy and gooey, just like the one's you'll get at Lamme's Candies™ in Austin, Texas.
If you've never had one of these nutty, buttery, sugary concoctions, you're in for a real treat!
And if candy making seems intimidating to you, this is one candy recipe you'll be able to master...it's all about the time and temperature!
And there's no baking involved.
What is a praline?
In the South, a praline is typically a caramel-type pecan candy. Some are chewy and some are more brittle, but the essence of the praline is that it's a cluster of pecans candy coated in a sugary, buttery concoction which generally doesn't include chocolate.
Since the pecan tree is the State Tree of Texas, it only makes sense that there are many variations of this throughout the state.
Pecan pralines are usually served at state-wide Mexican restaurants at check-out, like El Fenix™ and El Chico™.
At these restaurants, you'll find individually wrapped pecan candies and they're usually a little brittle - not chewy.
Why this pecan candy recipe works
I've researched many praline recipes and generally, the ingredients and proportions are about the same; however, this recipe is timed EXACTLY, with detailed-instruction regarding the two key elements in making pecan pralines - time and temperature.
Note: these are ooey, gooey pralines. If you want a crisper praline, let the sugar mixture sit for an additional minute.
Pecan pralines are a wonderful "small dessert" - I usually make them around the Fall or at Christmas when Texas pecans are in season.
Minimal Sugar Crystallization
Excessive stirring and agitation increases sugar crystallization. Crystallization is what causes some pecan pralines are harder than others.
When the sugar mixture is minimally stirred, the sugar forms millions of tiny crystals, which ensures the caramel-like candy will be smooth and creamy.
Using a wooden spoon also helps minimize sugar crystallization, as well as using a low heat (low heat relative to candy-making.)
The inclusion of corn syrup (light or dark) into the pecan praline recipe ensures chewiness and body and helps prevent sugar crystallization. Corn syrup helps give the candy a "caramel" texture.
The texture of the pecan praline is determined by how the sugar molecules settle and cool. The more stirring and agitating results in larger sugar crystals which in turn, harden upon cooling.
With minimal stirring, this recipe results in a chewy pecan praline. If you want a firmer praline, let the mixture sit one additional minute.
It doesn't take long for this concoction to get to the boiling point of 212ºF, but it does take a little while to reach 246ºF. You should keep the heat on medium and allow the mixture to increase in temperature on its own.
If you turn the heat up, you run the risk of reaching the hard-boil stage (250ºF) and then, your pralines will be hard - not chewy.
The temperature is critical in the praline recipe. You want to keep the mixture in between the soft ball and firm ball stage for at least 3-minutes. The soft ball stage is 235ºF - 240ºF and the firm ball stage is 245ºF - 250ºF.
Do not let the mixture get to 250ºF at any point. I did and the pralines turned out hard as a rock - like a hard candy.
What you'll need
You will need a candy thermometer for sure; make sure it's an accurate one, too.
Other than that, you'll need light brown sugar, granulated sugar, light corn syrup, butter, a pinch of salt, vanilla extract and pecan halves.
This recipe makes 12 - 14 pecan pralines, depending upon how big you scoop them out. If you're making pralines for a big group, use 12 servings as a rough estimate per this recipe.
You'll probably have one or two before you serve them:)
How to make pecan pralines
Put all the ingredients except the vanilla and pecans in a large dutch oven. Make sure to use a heavy-bottomed pan because we're gonna heat the pecan candy mixture to 246ºF.
Attach the candy thermometer to the dutch oven (make sure it's not touching the bottom of the pan.)
Bring the mixture to 246ºF for 3-minutes. Stir only 1-2 times.
Remove from heat and let rest for 4-minutes. Do not stir during this time.
At the 4-minute mark, add vanilla and pecans; mix with wooden spoon; oil tablespoon and scoop out onto a lightly oiled baking pan, oiled parchment paper, wax paper or a silicone baking mat.
Where did praline candy originate?
Pralines originated from the French. The initial candy was more like an almond brittle, but when the French immigrants arrived in Louisiana, almonds were not as plentiful as pecans, so the recipe changed a bit.
In Louisiana, which claims home to the pecan praline, you'll find both soft and firm pecan candies. Same thing in Texas.
What's the difference between a praline and a brittle?
A praline is a dense, caramel-like candy where a brittle is lighter and crunchier. Brittle recipes do not include corn syrup (because that increases the moisture content) but they do include baking soda.
Baking soda is used in a peanut brittle to increase the alkalinity of the sugar mixture, resulting in a more porous and harder product.
Pralines, on the other hand, most always include corn syrup and no baking soda. The corn syrup creates a creamy and smooth texture versus a brittle texture.
What's the difference between Louisiana pralines and Texas pralines?
Depends on who you ask! First of all, folks in Louisiana call 'em "praw-leens" and folks in Texas call 'em "pray-leens." Second, you'll find a discrepancy among Southerner's in general on how to pronounce "pecan."
Some say "pee-can," some say "puh-kahn" but no matter how you pronounce either of these,you'll find both chewy and not-so-chewy pecan pralines in both states.
In Texas, most Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurants have a big bowl of individually wrapped pecan pralines at the checkout.
Use a candy thermometer
Read the instructions 3 times; read the recipe notes 3 times
Do not let the sugar mixture get to 250ºF; keep it steady at 246ºF
If you're cooking on an electric stove, you may have to lift the dutch oven up off the heat occasionally - be sure and have some heavy duty hot pad because that pot gets hot!
Store your pecan pralines in a dry container; place a piece of parchment or wax paper between layers
Do not serve chewy pralines on a paper doily - and don't ask me how I know this:)
Pecan pralines will last for up to 10-days is properly stored.
When stored in a freezer, air-tight container, pecan candies or pecan pralines will last up to 2 months in the freezer.
Use any nut you like: walnuts, macadamia, Texas pecans or a combination
If you thought candy-making was only for chefs and fancy folks, you're wrong! These chewy Southern pecan pralines come together in no time and make a lovely hostess gift, dessert or just a sugary surprise!
Once you learn how to make pecan pralines, you'll be making these often! They make a great hostess gift, too!
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If you make this recipe, please scroll down and leave a comment and rating! I love to hear from you!
- Large heavy bottom pan
- Candy thermometer
- Wooden spoon
- Baking Sheet
- Parchment or wax paper -or-
- Silicone mat
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- spray oil for pan
- spray oil for spoon
- Place large dutch oven on medium high heat; add butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup and salt; stir gently until sugars dissolve; USE A WOODEN SPOON AND DON'T STIR TOO MUCH4 tablespoons butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, 1 cup granulated sugar, ½ cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- Place candy thermometer in mixture (make sure it's not touching the bottom of the pot); bring the mixture to a boil; allow the mixture to continue to cook until it reaches 246ºF; DO NOT STIR THE MIXTURE WHILE IT'S COOKING
- Once the mixture reaches 246ºF; cook it for 3 minutes; DO NOT LET THE MIXTURE GO ABOVE 246ºF; See Recipe Notes
- After 3-minutes, remove the dutch oven from the heat and let praline mixture sit, undisturbed for exactly 4 minutes. (during this time, spray oil on a big tablespoon and spray pan with parchment if necessary)
- At the 4-minute mark, add the vanilla and pecans; stir gently once or twice with a big wooden spoon; DO NOT OVERMIX1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup pecan halves
- Working quickly, spray oil on large tablespoon; scoop a tablespoon of the pecan mixture onto oiled sheet; repeat until all the mixture is gone (you may have to spray the spoon more than a few times)spray oil for pan, spray oil for spoon