With crunchy roasted pecans, a splash of bourbon, and homemade caramel, these pecan pralines are easy to make and even easier to eat! They are a wonderful addition to a holiday tray and make a delicious gift.
Not growing up in the south, it wasn’t until adulthood that I tried old fashioned pecan pralines. The French developed the original pralines using almonds coated in sugar, which were very popular as early as the 17th century.
These candies were eventually brought to Louisiana, where cream was added to the recipe, and pecans would be used instead of almonds. Of course, this leaves us with an incredibly soft, caramel-covered nut. Thanks to a bit of vanilla and bourbon, these pecan pralines have a warm sweetness that I just love.
What kitchen tools will I need for this recipe?
A basic candy thermometer is really important here. There are a lot of options on Amazon, and you don’t need anything fancy – as long as it works.
Two (2) baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats.
It will be no surprise that we need good pecans for this recipe! We want halves here, and they need to be roasted. You can purchase them that way, or roast them simply at home. Note that if you are buying them – try to avoid salted ones, so it doesn’t impact the flavor of the pecan pralines.
If you are roasting the pecans at home, this is how you do it:
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lay the pecans on the baking sheet, spreading them out evenly.
Bake for 7-10 minutes, shaking or stirring occasionally to avoid burning.
Take them out of the oven and cool them before using in this recipe.
How to make pecan pralines
This is the step-by-step instructions for how you’ll make your pralines:
Prep your baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper (or silicone mats).
Stir together the sugars and baking soda in a 3-quart saucepan.
Slowly pour in the half & half, and place over medium heat.
Whisk occasionally until the mixture reaches 235 degrees F on your candy thermometer.
At 235 degrees F, add the butter and whisk in for 1-2 minutes, or until fully melted.
Pull the saucepan off the stove and onto a safe surface. Then, stir in the pecans and bourbon until all the nuts are coated
Quickly, use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets. You want this to happen fast so the mixture doesn’t set into one giant praline!
Let the pralines sit at room temperature until completely dry, about 20 minutes.
Recipe tips & tricks
Are your pralines spreading? You may have added a bit too much butter! If this happens, you can try to slowly heat up the mixture to thicken it, but you may lose them. (I have been there!)
Are your pralines gritty? This means the sugars crystalized before you added your pecans to the saucepan. A great way to avoid this is to listen for the “pot to talk” – which means you should be stirring until you hear tiny sugar crystals on the side of the pot. That’s your sign it’s time to quickly add the pralines into the pan and get them ready to set.
Like any candy recipe, it’s crucial to have all of your ingredients out ahead of time. With temperatures so important, you don’t want to be searching for something while your caramel sets.
In general, pecan praline recipes should not be doubled. This is because the measurements impact the cooking process.
Make sure to thoroughly rinse out the saucepan if you make multiple batches. That will keep any leftover caramel from burning.
Some may not want to use bourbon or alcohol at all. In that case, you can easily swap the bourbon with your favorite liquor, or substitute 1 teaspoonvanilla extract.
Storage and gifting
Storage: These bourbon pecan pralines can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Freezing: If sealed in an airtight container, they can also store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Making a large batch of these for the holidays is a must!
Gifting Tip: When gifting these, it’s best to transfer them to the gift container on the day you plan to gift them. Tins and clear treat bags are the best options.
Are you on a candy kick? Well, I have some treats for you!
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick silicone baking mats; set aside.
Stir together the sugars and baking soda in a 3-quart saucepan. Stir in the half & half and place over medium heat. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture reaches 235 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
As soon as the mixture reaches 235 degrees, whisk in the butter until it is completely melted, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the pecans and bourbon until the nuts are evenly coated. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir vigorously until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Working quickly, drop tablespoons of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets. Let sit at room temperature until completely dry, about 20 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.