What Is Praline?

You’ve probably heard the name and eaten it. But what exactly is praline?

November 15, 2022
Steps to candy pecans in a sugar glaze


Steps to candy pecans in a sugar glaze

Photo by: Photo by Cathy Scola/Getty Images

Photo by Cathy Scola/Getty Images

By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

Pralines are a type of candy, but depending on where they’re made, different ingredients can be used and even the pronunciation can change. Here, we explore different types of pralines, with an emphasis on American pralines.

What Are Pralines?

Pralines are a type of sugary, nutty candy, though their origin informs the ingredient composition and texture.

The term praline can refer to a few different confections:

  • French praline: almonds that are cooked in boiling sugar until caramelized and crunchy. The candied almonds can then be ground to create pralin, which is used to fill chocolates or create chocolates that are categorized as praliné.
  • Belgian praline: filled chocolates; sometimes the filling is comprised of ground caramelized almonds, as with French pralin, or hazelnuts.
  • American praline: a creamy, fudge-like confection featuring a cluster of pecans coated with a caramelized mixture of brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream (or milk or evaporated milk) and butter. Though pralines are popular across the Southern U.S., they’re most often recognized as a New Orleans specialty.

What Is the Taste of Praline?

Pralines are a sweet, creamy and nutty confection that tastes like caramelized nuts with a soft, fudgy texture.

What’s the History of Pralines?

While there isn’t a definitive account of how pralines came to be, the popular theory posited by several historians is that it started with French pralines. It’s believed that the recipe for caramelized almonds was brought over with French settlers in the 1700’s. As Jessica B. Harris writes in The Welcome Table: African-American Heritage Cooking, “The name harks back to France and to the Duc du Praslin, who is said to have had a particular fondness for the sugar-coated almonds that bear his name in France.”

But it was the ingenuity of enslaved African-American cooks—utilizing more plentiful pecans instead of almonds—that gave way to what we know as pralines in the Southern U.S. today. As scholar Chanda Nunez writes in her thesis about African-American praline vendors, “More than simply vending sweets, African-American women also were responsible for the creolization of the praline, which continue to be sold in France as sugared almonds. African-American cooks replaced the almonds with pecans, which were abundant in New Orleans. They also added large amounts of Louisiana sugar as well as milk to thicken the candy. Therefore, the culinary genius of African-American women created the New Orleans praline, as we know it.” (Nunez, Chanda, "Just like Ole' Mammy used to Make: Reinterpreting New Orleans African-American Praline Vendors as Entrepreneurs" (2011). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. 128.)

In The Welcome Table, Harris explains that after emancipation, making and selling these sugared confections became a way for freed slaves to earn a modest living. “The legacy of the slave saleswomen still lives on in Brazil’s baianas de tabuleiro, in the sweets sellers of the Caribbean, and in the pralinières of New Orleans,” she writes.

The History of White and Pink Pralines

There is another type of praline that vies for original status in the U.S.—a white or pink coconut version. As Harris writes in The Welcome Table, “A while back, I was speaking with Leah Chase, the doyenne of African-American Creole cooking of New Orleans, and was startled to hear her recall that the original praline was not the brown sugar pecan confection that is so familiar today, but rather a pink or white coconut patty that is much closer in taste and in form to its Caribbean and Brazilian cousins.” The recipe Harris shares for the coconut pralines call for freshly grated coconut along with sugar, evaporated milk, butter and vanilla extract. The pink variety adds red food coloring to the coconut. The pink pralines, Harris writes, “were a traditional Christmas treat for many a Creole child. They were formerly prepared with a red dye prepared from cochineal.”

How to Pronounce Praline

In American English, two ways of pronouncing praline include “pray-lean” and “praa-lean.” Pronunciation varies across the Southern U.S. In Louisiana, Texas and the Gulf Coast, the favored pronunciation is “praa-lean,” whereas in Georgia and Alabama, it’s pronounced “pray-lean.”

Praline Recipes

A slice of cake with a pecan top beside a scoop of vanilla ice on a plate


A slice of cake with a pecan top beside a scoop of vanilla ice on a plate

©Marcus Nilsson

Marcus Nilsson

A layer of homemade pecan praline lines a springform pan, then gets topped with pecans and a bourbon-laced cake batter. Once turned out, the caramelized pecans transform into a toasty-sweet topping, offering a crunchy contrast to the tender cake crumb.


Photo by: Ryan Dausch

Ryan Dausch

Consider this easy recipe your next party mix go-to. A trio of cereals, pretzel sticks and popcorn teams up with a sweet praline-inspired sauce, striking an irresistible sweet-savory balance.

This riff on a classic dessert is spiked with amaretto and topped with a complementary homemade almond praline. Almonds are caramelized in a sugar-water mixture, spread thinly on a baking sheet to cool, then coarsely chopped and sprinkled on top of the pie just before serving.

Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom


Food Stylist: Stephana Bottom

Photo by: Johnny Miller

Johnny Miller

This no-bake dessert is a real crowd-pleaser. Toasted chopped pecans and crispy cornflakes are enrobed in a homemade chocolate-caramel sauce, then drizzled with melted white chocolate.

Related Links:

Next Up

What Is King Cake?

And why is there a plastic baby inside?

What Is Nougat?

There's no question you've eaten it before. But what exactly is it?

What Is Fudge?

And how exactly is it different than chocolate?

How to Make a Roux

Roux is used to thicken sauces and impart rich, toasted flavor to some stews. Here’s how to make it.

What Is Toffee?

Everything you need to know about this sweet, crunchy, buttery confection, including how to make it.

What Are Pork Rinds?

And how exactly are they made?

How to Cook Black Eyed Peas

There's a lot to love about the good-luck bean.

What Is Goulash?

And what’s the difference between Hungarian and American goulash?

What Is Roti?

And how is it different from naan?

What Is Pho? Its History, Ingredients and How to Eat It

According to the owner of a popular New York City-based pho restaurant.

More from:

Cooking School

What's New