Noelie’s Pecan Pralines

I’m sharing my family’s favorite holiday candy, Noelie’s Pecan Pralines, hoping it’ll become yours, too! This creamy melt-in-your-mouth homemade candy is made from my Maw-maw Noelie’s recipe. It’s a classic southern Louisiana favorite that’s easy to prepare, especially in cold, dry weather.

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“Uh-huh, tell me what the weather is like,” is what Mama asked over the phone when I told her I was making pralines for a Christmas party that night.

At first, I thought she was changing the subject rather quickly, but when I told her it was cold and humid, I remembered how the weather conditions can determine the success of the candy.

Since the humidity was high that day, she told me that I needed to let the candy cook past the soft-ball stage a little longer. The first batch of pralines was a little dry and set up rather quickly. The second batch was better, but the third was melt in your mouth good! I guess I was out of practice.

The Sweet Tradition of Pecan Pralines

Noelie Trahan was my mama’s mama. She made the best pecan pralines. They became a tradition in our southern Louisiana home at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year. She taught my momma how to make pralines, and my momma taught me.

Maw-maw had a large pecan orchard where we helped her pick pecans every fall. I recall large flour sacks filled with pecans covering the wash house floor for drying. The bags would be turned several times until the nuts were dry enough to separate from the shell when peeled.

There was always a plentiful harvest of pecans for baking and making pralines. I can’t remember a holiday without those sweet treats. Pecan praline making isn’t complicated, but there is a tricky part. It’s in knowing when to take the candy off of the heat before adding the pecans.

Reaching The Soft-Ball Stage

I have never gotten along well with a candy thermometer, so I use a cup of cold water and spoon a little of the candy into the cup to test and see what stage the pralines have cooked.

A pot of foamy cooking pralines with a spoonful pouring over the pot.

I use my fingers to gather the candy together while in the cold water. It’s ready to take off the heat when it forms into a ball. You can skip this process and use a candy thermometer to see when the pralines reach the soft-ball stage.

After the candy gets to the right temperature, it’s time to take it off of the heat and start stirring. Then add the pecans and stir some more until it begins to thicken.

A spoon stirring pecans in pralines.

The last step is spooning the pralines onto a sheet of wax paper on your countertop to allow them to set until they harden and cool completely.

Here are some other Cajun dishes you may enjoy, like Chicken Gumbo, Simply Classic Cajun, Couche Couche, A Cajun Delicacy, and Croquesignoles or French Donuts. You can check them out here on LouisianaWoman Blog.

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Pecan pralines on parchment paper.

Noelie’s Pecan Pralines

My Maw-maw’s recipe for this classic Cajun candy of nutty creaminess is easy to make and so delicious, especially for the holidays.

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda 
  • pinch of salt 
  • 1 cup canned evaporated milk 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 2 cups pecans halves

Instructions

  1. Put sugar, baking soda, salt, and milk in a heavy saucepan.
  2. Stir ingredients together and cook over medium to medium-low heat with a constant stir.
  3. Cook until the candy darkens, and it reaches a little past the soft-ball stage, just before 250 degrees on the thermometer.
  4. Take the pot off of the heat and add the butter and vanilla to the pralines.
  5. Beat by hand with a spoon for a few minutes, then add pecans continuing to beat until it feels a bit firmer.
  6. Drop pralines onto waxed paper using a tablespoon and let sit until they harden and cool completely.  

Notes

  • Instead of using a candy thermometer, you can test to see if the pralines have reached the soft-ball stage by placing a few drops of the mixture into an ice-cold cup of water. Use your fingers to form the praline mixture into a ball. If it has reached the appropriate stage, it will develop into a ball but will turn flat after it is taken out of the cold water.
  • Cold, dry weather will help yield the best results for pralines. If the weather is humid, you may need to cook the pralines a little longer.
  • Author: Louisiana Woman
  • Category: Sweets, desserts
  • Method: Boil
  • Cuisine: Cajun

Keywords: Pecan Pralines

Pecan pralines on parchment paper.

I treasure my Maw-maw Noelie’s Pecan Praline recipe. It’s a gift from her to our family that I continue to use, making happy memories with friends and family in the kitchen.

I hope you make gifts of time spent in the kitchen with your loved ones this Christmas, even if it’s just sharing together a cup of hot cocoa and conversation.

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens

5 Comments

  1. I bet they do melt in your mouth…I have never ever tried to make pralines….but I think I want to try these, thanks for explaining the soft ball stage, lol…I use to see Mom drop a test in cold water…but never asked…lol, Merry Christmas to you and your family! Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next year! and Happy New Year!

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