An easy to follow Pecan Praline Recipe for perfect pecan pralines every time! These praline candies are flavorful and thick! I use toasted pecans for extra crunch and flavor.
Day 9 of the annual 12 Days of Christmas Cookies 2022!
This Pecan Praline recipe makes pecan pralines that are thick, full of toasted pecans, and have the unique caramelized brown sugar flavor. I’ll show you how to make them so they don’t crystallize and have a silky smooth exterior.
We can file this recipe with my other old-fashioned candy favorites, like last year’s Chocolate Fudge or Homemade Toffee. They are fantastic any time of year, but they are particularly fun to make and gift around the Holidays. Who doesn’t love a little tin of homemade pralines? It just feels like a warm, neighborly hug.
Table of Contents
How to stop pecan pralines from crystallizing?
A little crystallization in pralines is inevitable but adding a bit of corn syrup can help keep crystals from forming. In this recipe I also butter the sides of the pot and only stir before the sugar comes to a boil. After the candy reaches soft-ball stage, it is left to cool for 10 minutes without agitation. This helps prevent the sugar crystal structure from forming.
Can I make pecan pralines without a candy thermometer?
Yes, you can make pecan pralines without a candy thermometer, however, you will still need to test the sugar syrup throughout the cooking by using the ice bath method. Fill a bowl with ice water and every so often drop a small teaspoon of the sugar syrup into the ice water. If it dissolves immediately, it isn’t done. It has reached the soft-ball stage when the sugar forms a small, soft pliable ball in the ice water. You should be able to squish it with your fingers.
- Light Brown Sugar: Cooking the light brown sugar is what gives these pecan pralines their flavor and texture.
- Butter: I use unsalted butter for baking, because you want to control the amount of salt you are adding. In candy making, the butter adds a smooth, richness to caramels, pralines, toffee and brittles.
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is less salty than table salt and a teaspoon weighs less than other finer ground varieties. It will keep your pralines from tasting dull or flat.
- Vanilla Extract: Vanilla Extract adds a beautiful flavor itself but it also boosts the flavor of other the other ingredients in this pecan praline recipe.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar is the key to candies like caramel. I like to use extra-fine granulated sugar to ensure an even melting or dissolving. They are also less likely to crystallize. But any granulated sugar will do! So don't stress.
- Dark Corn Syrup: The dark corn syrup is here to stabilize the wet sugar mixture. You can substitute the dark corn syrup with glucose, light corn syrup, or omit it completely. If you omit the corn syrup, you run a greater risk of the pralines crystalizing.
- Milk: I use whole milk for candy making, such as this pecan praline recipe, because the extra fat helps keep the sugar from crystalizing. It also adds a richness to the final flavor and texture.
- Pecans: It's no secret that I love to use Southern pecans in baking (here's lookin' at you, the pecan pie in my shop!). Nothing beats fresh, plump pecans especially when it is the primary flavor of the pralines. But any pecan halves will do. If you keep them for longer than a month or your kitchen is consistently warm, store them in the freezer to preserve freshness.
Why won’t my pralines get hard?
Like other sugar-based candies, the hardness is determined by the combination of the ingredients and the temperature to which the sugar syrup is cooked. Pecan pralines need to reach 235°F or the soft-ball stage. Removing the pot from the heat at the lower part of the temperature rage will ensure the syrup doesn’t rise too high with carry-over cooking. If you used a candy thermometer, be sure to check the temperature by placing it in boiling water. It should read 212°F.
Possible Substitutions in this Pecan Praline Recipe
- Brown Sugar: This pecan praline recipe calls for light brown sugar but you can use dark brown sugar if that is what you have on hand or if you just want a deeper molasses flavor.
- Corn Syrup: The dark corn syrup is here to stabilize the wet sugar mixture and for a little more complex flavor than light corn syrup can provide. You can substitute the dark corn syrup with glucose, light corn syrup, or omit it completely. If you omit the corn syrup, you run a greater risk of the pralines crystalizing.
- Nuts: Experiment with different nuts like walnuts or a mixture of several. I do like the texture of the toasted pecans in this pecan praline recipe but you could always leave them untoasted.
- Milk: I would not suggest substituting non-dairy milk or low fat milk in this recipe. The whole milk helps create that ideal fudge-like texture with both the fat and the flavor. Non-dairy milk will overpower the flavor of the pralines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Store pecan pralines at room temperature in an airtight container between sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Even this will be no match for a humid day, so try to make this pecan praline recipe during the drier months and don’t store them by the stove or oven.
Pecan pralines will keep at room temperature for up to a month. In a humid environment it will lose its crunch well before that.
You can make a larger batch of these pecan pralines from this recipe, however, I will just caution that it will still cool at the same rate. Getting all the pralines onto the prepared sheets will be a challenge for one person. Honestly beating the mixture until it loses its gloss will also be a challenge for one person. If you want to make a larger batch, perhaps enlist the help of friends!
When you are beating the mixture for the final time until it loses its gloss, it is easy to overbeat just a bit too long and the mixture will begin to seize. Try adding a teaspoon of hot water to loosen it up enough to drop on the baking sheets. You can also do this if it stiffens up too fast to get all the candy portioned.
Pecan pralines made from this pecan praline recipe make great gifts and will ship well! Just be sure to pad them with tissue paper in the tin or box to keep them from getting too banged up.
Chef Lindsey's Recipe Tips
A candy thermometer is mission-critical here! I prefer one that clips on the side of the pot to for constant temperature regulation. Test your thermometer calibration before you begin by placing it in a pot of boiling water. The temperature should read 212°F. Happy candy-making!
- Line 2 baking sheets with waxed paper. You can also use aluminum foil that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.
- Butter the sides of a 3-quart sauce pot. A heavy bottomed pot will produce the best pralines.
- In the pot, combine sugars, corn syrup and milk. Stir to wet sugars. I like to stir carefully to keep as little sugar from getting on the sides of the pot as possible.
- Cook over medium heat and stir frequently until sugar dissolves. Ideally you want the sugar to dissolve before the mixture comes to a boil. This will help ensure the sugar doesn’t crystalize.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Affix a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and cook until softball stage is reached (235°F), stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes.
- Add vanilla extract and beat by hand with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Add the pecans and continue beating by hand with a wooden spoon until the mixture loses its gloss.
- Drop by the spoonful onto waxed paper lined baking sheets. Work quickly because the mixture stiffens as it cools. Do not scrape the sides of the pot. Like fudge, that outermost layer of candy will be crystalized.
- Pralines dropped while they are too warm will spread but those dropped when they are cooler will be more crystallized. The ideal moment is right after the candy mixture loses its gloss but before it starts to harden. I can tell you from experience it is difficult to get all 16 pralines from the pot onto the baking sheet in that window! I stopped to film the perfect consistency, but still, it’s a short window.
Before You Go!
Check out our other delicious, chef-developed recipes for Cookies!