History of Pralines (2024)

By Jessica B. Harris

Pralines are a major part of culinary New Orleans. Where they came from, and how they got here is another fascinating tale of the city. Let’s begin with the no doubt apocryphal tale of the origin of the candy that became synonymous with the Crescent City. We are told that the cook of the French Duke of Plessis-Praslin (1589-1675) invented a method for coating whole almonds in grained caramelized sugar, and eventually began to produce the sweets that became increasingly popular commercially. By the 18th century, this form of the candy was well known in Europe and is even recorded in cookbooks as a “prawlin”. This meaning of the word praline is still used in chocolate making and refers to a candy that is prepared from crushed nuts and sugar. The nuts used are usually almonds, but they may also be hazelnuts or other nuts.

From Europe the term, if not the form, moves into the New World and the Caribbean sugar islands where confections prepared from sugar syrups or molasses with the addition of local nuts become commonly sold on streets by vendors who were often free people of color selling to make additional income, or enslaved folk working for their mistresses. The New World candies are found under varying different names like tablette de coco (coconut confections) in Martinique and Guadeloupe, pinda cakes (peanut patties) in Jamaica, and pe de moleque (young boy’s foot!) in Brazil. These candies commonly (but not exclusively) use local nuts: Brazil nuts, peanuts, and so forth.

According to John Mariani’s, 1999 Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, in North America, pralines and their culinary cousins are a specialty of several southern states. In Louisiana, especially New Orleans, the name praline applies to candies made with pecans in a coating of brown sugar sold by Creole women known as pralinières. Even before the Civil War and Emancipation, pralines were an early entrepreneurial vehicle for free women of color in New Orleans. The confection is first mentioned in print in 1715, and was recognized as part of Louisiana food culture as early as 1762.

In 1901 the Daily Picayune, an early city newspaper, reminded people that the pralinières or older black women who sold pralines about the streets of the French Quarter were often found on Canal Street near Bourbon and Royal streets and around Jackson Square in the areas flanking St. Louis Cathedral. In the 1930s, the Louisiana folklorist Lyle Saxon, writing in the book Gumbo Ya-Ya, documented praline sellers, "garbed in gingham and starched white aprons and tignons, or head wraps, fanning their candies with palmetto leaves against the heat and bellowing the sales pitch ‘belles pralines!’ to passersby.”

Street vendors selling pralines are difficult to find nowadays, but the popular candy that is a much-loved souvenir of the city is available in multiple versions in shops around the French Quarter. In addition to the classic crisp pralines, innovations have led to creamy and even chewy versions. The late doyenne of New Orleans Creole cooking, Leah Chase, recalled that in her youth pralines were also available in pink and white versions prepared from both coconut as well as pecans which would place them even more firmly in the arc of New World Caribbean confectionary.

Pralines are still used by many African American women and young girls as a way to gain additional income and they can often be found alongside vegetables and fruits that are available for sale from car trunks and trucks in local neighborhoods. They are sold not only under the name praline, but often simply as pecan candy. The candy's winning flavor has spawned multiple recipes each with its partisans. As for the pronunciation of the word praline and the pecan nut that goes into the classic ones, the local New Orleans pronunciation is "prah-lean," while the nut most commonly used in it is pronounced "pec-cahn" (mispronounce them to a local if you want to hear a rude joke about a pee-can). However you pronounce them and wherever you find them, they have become a symbol of the city and are an edible reminder of its vibrant culinary history.

History of Pralines (2024)


History of Pralines? ›

In the 19th century French settlers brought a recipe to Louisiana, where both sugar cane and pecan trees were plentiful. New Orleans, emancipated black women substituted pecans for almonds, added cream to thicken the confection, and thus created what became known throughout the American South as the praline.

Where did praline originate? ›

The original praline was invented in France in the 17th Century. The Praline is named after César duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin, a French diplomat. No one is really sure who the original inventor of the praline is, but many believe it was Plessis-Praslin's personal chef Clement Lassagne.

Are pralines cajun or creole? ›

In Louisiana, especially New Orleans, the name praline applies to candies made with pecans in a coating of brown sugar sold by Creole women known as pralinières. Even before the Civil War and Emancipation, pralines were an early entrepreneurial vehicle for free women of color in New Orleans.

Are pralines a Texas thing? ›

When the French arrived in Louisiana, they brought the recipe with them, but replaced almonds with the more widely available pecans. So as in Texas, Louisiana folk also have a fondness for pralines, though they pronounce it differently: where they say prah-leen, we say pray-leen.

Are pralines a New Orleans thing? ›

What are Pralines? A signature sweet of New Orleans, Pralines are unique candied treats adored by natives and visitors alike. Described as the nuttier cousin to fudge and known to melt in your mouth, pralines come in many shapes, sizes, colors and flavors.

What is an interesting fact about the praline? ›

Praline may have originally been inspired in France by the cook of Marshal du Plessis-Praslin (1602–1675), with the word praline deriving from the name Praslin. Early pralines were whole almonds individually coated in caramelized sugar, as opposed to dark nougat, where a sheet of caramelized sugar covers many nuts.

Who is the founder of praline? ›

The allleged unofficial creator of the praline was Chef Clement Lassagne, the official cook to the Duke.

Are pralines truffles? ›

So, to put it simply, praline is a combination of nuts and sugar that is used as an additive to chocolate. A truffle is a rolled bite-sized chocolate. Super easy to make at home with some fun add-ins, truffles are popular as a quick, easy, and elegant party dessert.

What are the white spots on pralines? ›

Why are there white spots on my pralines? The white spots are a natural process called crystallization.

What's the difference between a praline and a praline? ›

A praliné is a paste that is a mixture of nuts, chocolate and sugar. While in Belgium, a 'praline' is defined as a filled chocolate candy. Note that the term 'praline' is of Belgian origin.

Why are pralines pink? ›

In the 18th century, a Lyonnais pastry chef was apparently inspired by the rose gardens in the Rhône region and tinted his pralines in a similar pink in his copper-mixing machine. This proved to be a hit with customers and the rose-coloured praline tart was born.

How long do pralines stay fresh? ›

Care & Storage
ProductShelf Life
Pralines14 Days
Tortues8 weeks
Bayou Brownies / Parish Pound10 Days, 6 weeks if frozen
Marshmallow Rocky Road6 weeks
5 more rows

Why are my pralines grainy? ›

Don't Stop Stirring Until the Pot Talks – Here, she's referring to the step of cooling the syrup before dropping the candies to harden. It starts off very loose and liquidy. As you stir, sugar crystals start to form and the syrup will start to feel thick and grainy against your spoon.

What is the best brand of pralines? ›

Loretta's New Orleans Authentic Pralines

Loretta's are the best pralines. They are sweet, the pecans are huge, and they have the perfect texture that rides a line between lusciously creamy and pleasantly grainy.

Are pralines German? ›

Pralines originated in France, but the European version differs somewhat from the one in the United States.

What's the difference between a praline and a pecan? ›

A pecan is a type of nut while a praline is a type of candy that is made with sugar and nuts. While pecans are the most common type of nut used in pralines, almonds or hazelnuts will work too.

Is praline the French term for praline? ›

Praliné is a nut-based paste used widely in pastry-making. It's not to be confused with praline, which is a candy coated with caramelized sugar.

Is praline Belgian? ›

Made in Belgium since 1857

invented the Belgian praline in 1912, all Neuhaus chocolates have been made entirely in Belgium.

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