What Are Pralines?

Praline isn’t a word you hear every day. If you hear it at all, it’s probably being said by that one Southern relative and it’s probably prefaced by, “I do declare…” Odds are that the sentence ends with, “this praline is delicious!” Because pralines are one of the tastiest treats to come out of the Southern United States since me. These sweets can be desserts at fancy restaurants or even gas station snacks. The word “praline” can also mean different things depending on geography. So, what are pralines, what are pralines made of, and how the heck do you pronounce praline? Let’s get into it. 

What is a praline? 

A praline is a confection of nuts and sugar. In the U.S. a praline is a caramelized, candied, concoction of brown sugar, cream, and pecans. The original French pralines were made with almonds, which confectioners caramelized then ground up creating pralin. They used that mix as a filling for small chocolates, which were called pralinés. There’s also a Belgian version of the praline. Belgian pralines are closer to French pralines—they’re small chocolate candies with a hazelnut or sometimes ground almond filling. New Orleans legend has it that Ursuline nuns brought pralines from France to Louisiana in the 1720s. However they got here, French settlers adjusted the recipe over time, ditched the chocolate, and swapped out almonds for pecans, which are much more plentiful in the southern U.S. 

What are pralines made of? 

A basic American praline is made with brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, or milk or evaporated milk, and butter. The ratios and people throwing in their little family secrets account for the variety we see across states and cities. Some people go wild and throw stuff like coconut in there. Some pralines are soft and fudge-like and some are more like chewy toffee. One time, I had a praline that was hard as a rock, but it turned out to actually be a rock. Pralines are used in all sorts of other recipes as well. In New Orleans and throughout the South, you can find praline-topped cakes, praline on pies, and praline snack mixes.

How do you pronounce praline? 

If you have heard two people say “praline,” you have probably heard it said two different ways. The two major praline pronunciation camps break down into prah-lean and pray-lean. Prah-lean dominates in Louisiana, Texas, and most of the Gulf Coast. Pray-lean takes it in Georgia and Alabama. As a Texan from the Dirty Third, I say prah-lean. But if you’re not from one of those places and you’re just now learning about pralines, go ahead and pick however you want to say it. Folks will know what you’re talking about. They’ll know you ain’t from around there, but they’ll know the sweet, sugary confection that you’re asking for. 

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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