Pecans are the only widespread native nut in the American South, so it’s no wonder that the pecan praline is the most iconic southern candy. While the confection is an agreed-upon favorite, there is no one specific recipe for praline pecans. Sugar and condensed milk are necessities, but water, butter, corn syrup, and baking soda occasionally sneak into the mix, as well. I like to keep things simple, so the recipe that follows is my favorite. Many recipes call for a candy thermometer to measure the exact temperature of the mixture, but this recipe gives times and advice on how to make praline pecans without a thermometer.
Ingredients/Equipment for Praline Pecans
- 1 cup, packed, of light brown sugar
- 1 cup of white, refined sugar
- 1 cup of unsweetened evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- 2 cups of pecan halves or chopped pecans (just don’t get the tiny pecan bits!)
- Wax paper or parchment paper and butter or cooking spray to coat the paper
Praline Pecan Recipe
1. Prepare your wax paper or parchment paper by laying it out on the counter and giving it a light coating of butter/cooking spray.
2. Combine the sugars, milk, and vanilla in a large saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir thoroughly to combine and continue stirring, nearly constantly, until the mixture reaches a boil.
3. Maintain a light boil, turning down the heat slightly if necessary, and stir constantly for about three minutes. At this point, the mixture should form a soft but cohesive ball when dropped in a glass of ice water. If the mixture starts to darken visibly, remove it from the heat immediately. Otherwise, remove it after three minutes have passed and/or it passes the ‘soft ball’ water drop test.
4. Off the heat, use a whisk or a wooden spoon to stir the mixture vigorously until it begins to thicken and turn glossy. Stir in the pecans.
5. Place large spoonfuls of the mixture on your prepared wax paper. It works best if you use a large serving spoon to dip the mixture from the pan and then use a smaller spoon to scrape the mixture from the serving spoon. Work as quickly as possible because the mixture stiffens as it cools. If you work slowly, the last few pralines will be difficult to form and won’t be as pretty!
6. Allow the pralines to cool until you can peel them from the wax paper. Remove the pralines from the paper and enjoy them now or save some for later! They will keep for up to a week, depending on the temperature and humidity in your house. If you have a vacuum sealer, they may keep even longer!
Making praline pecans isn’t exactly difficult, but it is a little tricky. If yours are too brittle or too soft the first time you make them, don’t dismay. They’ll probably still be very tasty, so find a creative way to use them! Add too-birttle praline crumbles to your bowl or ice cream, or mix too-soft pralines into ice cream or yogurt. My man and I love to cook, but we have both failed at making praline pecans in the past! Just make sure to cook the mixture at a gentle boil for three minutes and then stir it off the heat until it thickens. These are the two key steps in the process that determine success or failure.
As long as you don’t actually scortch the sugar mixture, your pralines will still be edible, even if they don’t hold together exactly as planned, so make sure to enjoy whatever delicious confection you make!
If you want to eliminate some of the guesswork, use a thermometer and cook the mixture until it is about 235 degrees Fahrenheit. I prefer digital instant read thermometers to candy thermometers. I’ve used my Taylor digital thermometer for years and love it!
Our of curiosity – how do you say “pecan?” Just like there isn’t one praline pecan recipe, there isn’t one way to say pecan (and it doesn’t seem to matter where you’re from, either. People from all over pronounce it both ways!). Do you say “PEE-con” or “pe-CAN?”