Nobody Makes Pralines like My Momma

Praline candy is a favorite in the deep South, but no one makes them like my mother, who learned from her grandmother in rural South Louisiana. The ingredients are simple: sugar, pecans, butter, milk, vanilla, but the trick is the timing. That’s where I needed Momma.

Here’s Momma’s family recipe, divided in half to fit my 9 inch iron skillet. The smaller recipe also cooks in half the time and is easier to spoon out before the candy starts to harden in the pan. You can see Momma in action in the video at the end.

1 cup pecan halves
1 cup granulated sugar (white, brown or raw)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 oz butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a heavy 9 inch skillet, heat 1 cup pecans, 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup evaporated milk. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to medium high heat. Stir until syrup reaches a soft ball stage or “leaves the pot” as my mom says, about 5 minutes after it starts to boil.

Remove from heat, add 1 oz butter and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Stir until the mixture cools and “sets up” or stiffens somewhat, about 1 minute. The spoon will feel heavier as you stir.

Spoon onto wax paper layered over newspaper and let the pralines cool until hard, about 10 minutes. If they don’t harden, then you didn’t cook it long enough. Scoop back into the pan, cook it a couple of minutes more and then try spooning it out again. If it’s crumbly, then you cooked it too long. Consider using it as an ice cream topping.

If you have trouble with the timing, then you’re not alone. It took me three tries to get it right the first time and I still sometimes mess it up sometimes. Note that you don’t need to clean the pan between batches. The leftover praline crumbs will melt into the next batch.


Watch our video to learn the finer points, including what “leaving the pan” looks like.

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