Bourbon Pralines Recipe

The famous praline recipe from the New Orleans School of Cooking, begged-and-borrowed from our friend Charlie but made "forever mine" by switching from vanilla to bourbon flavoring. The bourbon is a southern touch that just seems right. Another thing that seems "just right" during this busy holiday season? Making five dozen cookies (not cookies, really, candy, but still) in 35 minutes with just six pantry ingredients and no baking.

Bourbon Pralines

Our friend Charlie brought a plate of pralines to a Mardi Gras party awhile back. When he headed out the door, people asked in dismay, “Oh no! Did the praline guy take his pralines with him?”

Months later, friends were still talking about those pralines of Charlie’s so I begged bugged him for the recipe. He’s usually most forthcoming but this time, not!

Desperate people resort to desperate measures.

So I imported a secret weapon from Canada, my cousin Lynda who came down from Toronto when we put on a big party in the country in November. Charlie and his wife Jan brought along another plate of pralines. When I saw it on the buffet table, I clutched it to my chest (not literally, go with the story here …) and enlisted Lynda to pry the promise of a recipe from Charlie. She was successful. Persuasive, those Canadians.

Turns out, Charlie’s Pralines have good provenance! His sister gave him her recipe but she got it from what’s perhaps the most famous praline recipe there is, the one from the New Orleans School of Cooking. I couldn’t wait to make them!

So when we put together a small holiday dessert tasting this month (anyone noticing a party theme here?), I pulled out the butter and sugar and made my first-ever batch of pralines.

But oops, I accidentally skipped the cooling step and spooned the mixture into rounds onto a silicone mat without waiting for the mixture to cloud up a little. Because of that, I did sweat it there for awhile, because it took about 12 hours for my pralines to firm up properly. Oh me of little faith, after only an hour I balled up about a dozen pralines I was sure would never firm up. All I needed was patience they would have, in fact, they did.

But happy accident? I ground up those few pralines and they are the basis for the one dessert that stole the show at that December dessert party. I’ll share that recipe before New Years! It’s a show-stopper but get this, adds up to only 154 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points!

So yes, I know, the recipe originated with the New Orleans School of Cooking but in my mind, I'll always think of these pralines as “Charlie’s Pralines”.

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Time to table: 12 hours
Makes 60 small cookie-size candies
  • 1-1/2 cups (315g) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (130g) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (110g) whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) salted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups (155g) pecan pieces, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon (my very very favorite) or vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a heavy four-quart pot. Place on medium to medium-high heat and cook, stirring often at first and continuously as it begins to thicken and smooth out or until the mixture reaches the “soft ball” candy stage, that’s 238F-240F.

Pull the pot off the heat and let the mixture cool, stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken just a tad and the pecan pieces rise to the top. (Note: The New Orleans School of Cooking says to "stir, stir, stir" during this step, until the sugar begins to feel thick and grainy against the spoon and the pot. Two times, I just stirred a bit and the pralines turned out fine.)

Using a tablespoon, spoon about a half-tablespoon’s worth onto wax paper or a silicone mat, using the spoon to distribute the pecans and collect the pralines into neat rounds. Let rest until very firm, several hours or overnight.

Gently remove and store in an airtight container in single layers separated by waxed paper.

Pralines may be made a day or so ahead or made a week or so ahead and frozen.

ALANNA’s TIPS The praline video from the New Orleans School of Cooking is excellent, I recommend watching it. A large pot will seem “too big” when you put the ingredients in at first but is needed to allow for the swelling of the candy as it cooks. For the same reason, you don’t’ want to double the recipe. Now Charlie and the New Orleans School of Cooking Pralines both call for traditional vanilla to flavor their pralines. Call me a "reb" if you want, but I’m much attached to a touch of bourbon, subtly sweet, very much discernible. For me, the bourbon takes a good praline and turns it into a g-r-e-a-t praline. Don’t be nervous about making pralines, especially if you have an instant read thermometer to watch the temperature. What? You don’t have one? Santa should bring you one, here’s my favorite. Besides, making five dozen cookies/candies in 35 minutes? It’s gotta be a record.
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Praline: 46 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 3mg Cholesterol; 9mg Sodium; 5g Carb; 0g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 0g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 1, WW PointsPlus 1

Bourbon Pralines

Bourbon Pralines

Bourbon Pralines may "look" like cookies but they're really candy, cooked on the stovetop with just a few pantry ingredients. They're as easy as can be to make!

Checking for the "Soft-Ball Stage" Without a Thermometer

Checking for the Soft Ball Stage in a Glass of Cold Water

Once you think the hot syrup has maybe reached the "soft ball" stage, smear a bit of it against the side of a glass measuring cup filled with cold water. If it sticks? It's reached the soft ball stage.

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© Copyright 2012 Kitchen Parade

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. yum - will have to try these. have been making my MIL's recipe, which uses canned milk and brown sugar for over 20 years and they are always a huge hit.

  2. one more note - these are not considered cookies in N'awlins. They are candy/confection. Here is my MIL's recipe. Hubby calls them Pauline's Pralines and has bugged me for years to sell them.

    Mother Long’s Pralines
    Have foiled lined pans ready before starting

    1 box light brown sugar
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    ¾ cup canned (evaporated not condensed) milk
    1 tablespoon butter
    2 cups shelled walnuts or pecans
    ¼ teaspoon vanilla

    Mix sugar, salt, milk and butter in 2-quaart saucepan. Cook and stir (don’t stop stirring) over low heat until sugar is dissolved.

    Add nuts and continue cooking over medium heat until at soft ball stage.

    Remove from heat, add vanilla and let stand 5 minutes. Stir rapidly a short time until glossy. Then drop quickly by teaspoons on foil. If it gets hard too quickly, add a little hot water, stir.

  3. Nancy, thanks for the reminder that pralines are "candy" not cookies. I DO know that, I even WROTE that but then I called them "cookies" throughout the column! (Fixed, thanks to you.) And I love your mother-in-law's recipe, thank you for sharing it, I have all the ingredients in the pantry, just might make another batch right now today! And a though, while Bourbon Pralines might be excellent but some times, sticking with tradition is even better. Merry Christmas!

  4. Thank you ... for your story about the pralines. I remembered two friends who we’ve lost touch with because I read your recipe. The one was a young neighbor in our old condo, a law librarian, single, somehow loved to cook. She made "Real Chocolate Truffles" and "Real Pecan Pralines". I haven’t thought about her for a long time. When my husband gets back, we’ll have to ‘jaw’ her. Her pralines were a good size, as I recall.

  5. Charlie9/26/2016

    My son just told me that he made pecan pralines for a housewarming party. He says, " What a useful recipe this has been!” I've made it so many times, with consistently good effects. We are thinking about giving pralines to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

  6. Charlie - Thank you, dear friend! You’re the one who turned me onto the recipe. Me, I just boozed it up a little. :-)


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