Bourbon Pralines Recipe

The 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 ♥, the famous praline recipe from the New Orleans School of Cooking, given an extra southern touch with bourbon.

Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler!

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.

New Orleans School of Cooking Recipe? Yes!

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 positively stole the show at that December dessert party – the most wonderful – Mini Tiramisu Cups with Pralines! (Mini desserts? So smart! This one adds up to only 154 calories and 4 Weight Watchers points!)

But For Me, It's Charlie's Recipe

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”.

Bourbon Pralines ♥, the famous praline recipe from the New Orleans School of Cooking, given an extra southern touch with bourbon.

But Here's the Thing.

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!

And Bourbon Pralines are little sugar miracles! Imagine making five dozen "cookies" on the stovetop, no oven required and better yet? in just 35 minutes!

No Candy Thermometer? No Problem.


These days, who owns a glass candy thermometer with a clip? (My Disclosure Promise)

I do but it's dusty-years old. If you have one, dig it out. But if you don't, no thermometer is needed to make Bourbon Pralines.

Here's how to test for what's called candy's "soft ball" stage without a thermometer.

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? or sloooowly slides to the bottom? It's reached the soft ball stage. If it drops straight to the bottom, keep cooking and stirring ...


Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Time to table: 12 hours
Makes 60 small cookie-size candies
  • 1-1/2 cups (300g) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (150g) 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

PREP Before you start to cook, line two baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper or a silicone mat. If you're using a candy thermometer, clip it onto the pot. Or if you're testing for the soft-ball stage with a glass of cold water (instructions above), put it next to the stove.

COOK TO THE "SOFT BALL" STAGE Combine all the ingredients in a heavy four-quart pot. Place on medium to medium-high heat and cook. Stir often at first and then continuously as the mixture until the mixture reaches the “soft ball” candy stage, that’s 238F-240F – if you're gauging by sight and touch, watch for the mixture to form large, poofy bubbles and begin to thicken. Be careful stirring! This stuff is melted sugar, it'll burn you like crazy!

OFF HEAT, STIR TO COOL & BEGIN TO CRYSTALIZE Once the mixture has reached the proper temperature, immediately pull the pot off the heat. Let the mixture cool a bit but don't walk away, stay right there, stirring slowly until it begins to thicken just a tad and the pecan pieces start to 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. Usually, I just stir a bit, my pralines turn out fine.) And don't wait too long, otherwise the mixture gets so thick you can't spoon it out to form the pralines.

FORM THE PRALINES Working quickly, use one tablespoon to scoop out about a half-tablespoon’s worth of the hot mixture and a second tablespoon to scrape it (if needed) onto the baking sheet and to distribute the pecans and collect the pralines into neat rounds. Midway, stir the whole pot, re-distributing the pecans and syrup. Your first pralines will be easier to form, the later ones will become harder as the mixture crystallizes.

LET REST Let the pralines rest until very firm, several hours or some times overnight.

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

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

ALANNA’s TIPS There was an excellent praline video on YouTube from the New Orleans School of Cooking; unfortunately, it's no longer online. :-( Or take a cooking class there! Jerry's older son and family did, they came home raving about the fun of it! A large pot will seem “too big” when at first you put the ingredients in 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. Be sure your pecans are toasted, because, well, pecan flavor! I usually use Trader Joe's dry-toasted pecan pieces, they work really well. 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 a glass candy thermometer to watch the temperature. What? You don’t have one? Santa should bring you one, here’s one like mine. (My Disclosure Promise) Besides, making five dozen cookies/candies in 35 minutes? It’s gotta be a record. Hmmm ... although the most recent batch, I only got four dozen Bourbon Pralines.
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 Old Points 1 & PointsPlus 1 & SmartPoints 2 & Freestyle 2

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Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. 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. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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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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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna