Pecan Pralines

Dropping pralines by the spoonful onto parchment paper.

A Taste of Wild - Gulf Coast

Jon and Aubrey head south to the Gulf Coast to discover the hot, humid bayou country, explore the deep and diverse flavors of Cajun and Creole cooking and share their favorite eats along the way.

Pecan Pralines

It’s the middle of a calm and relaxing Mississippi afternoon. Jon’s somewhere down at the riverfront––he’s dead set on seeing an alligator. I’ve opted for some quiet time to read instead. Except when I take a sip of coffee, I suddenly have a hankering for something sweet. In the pantry, I find a bag of pecans and know just what to do.

“Holy moly...” Jon shouts as he walks into the RV.  “What is that incredible smell?”

“Pralines, baby,” I say with a smile.

Pralines go all the way back to old-world Europe, where chefs in France and beyond would take plentiful local nuts like almonds and hazelnuts and individually coat them in caramelized sugar. But all great cooking evolves to use what’s on hand. So when European cooks settled in Louisiana and found a lot of sugar cane, but no almonds or hazelnuts, they realized they’d been blessed instead with an abundance of pecans that would suit nicely.

American-style pralines grew into a variation all their own. Now, they’re made with the addition of a little cream, which makes the whole mixture soft and fudge-like rather than hard and crunchy. Pralines have a lot in common with nut brittle, with the difference being mostly in the addition of cream and the cooking temperature––the sugary syrup used to coat pralines is heated to a soft-ball consistency, a lower temperature than the hard-crack stage of peanut brittle. (Still, if you’re comfortable making these, we’d encourage you to give peanut brittle a try!) 

Our recipe requires no baking. Most praline recipes don’t, but it’s worth calling out, in the same spirit as “no-bake cookies;” there are days when you just want something sweet and you want it fast. These easy candies do the trick nicely, and only leave one pot to clean as you wait for the pralines to cool. 

One thing to note: using a candy thermometer is a must. While experienced candy makers may be able to eyeball the temperature, as we mentioned above, the difference between the perfect consistency for pralines and for peanut brittle is a matter of degrees. Luckily, candy thermometers are available in any big-box store or grocer with a decent kitchen tool selection. They’re inexpensive, easy to clean, and take up minimal space in an RV drawer. Plus, with a candy thermometer on hand, you may come to realize you prefer your own pralines to anything you can find on the road. (Outside of New Orleans, that is.) 

Pecan Pralines

Pecan Pralines

Yield: About 24 pieces
Cooking: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream 
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Salt 

Cooking Tools

Method

  1. In a small pot, combine sugar, cream, water and salt. Let simmer without stirring; stirring creates a brittle, crystallized praline. If the sugar heats unevenly and begins to burn, swirl the pot to distribute the mixture.  
  2. Bring the sugar mixture to 235 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, simmer for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture becomes a dark caramel color with a bit of a foamy texture. 
  3. Working quickly, add the butter, pecans, and vanilla. Stir and drop spoonfuls onto the parchment paper. Let cool completely, about 35 minutes, so you don’t burn your tongue.
  4. Enjoy on their own or crush and sprinkle over vanilla ice cream for a cool treat.

Jon and Aubrey used the cooking thermometer from Camp Chef, a brand THOR recommends for easy campground cooking.