History of the Praline (2024)

It’s hard to find one definitive history of the pecan praline in the southern United States. Although the stories surrounding the creation differ, it is widely agreed that pralines are named after a French diplomat from the early 17th century whose name and title was César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin. The actual creator of the praline is believed to be his personal chef, Clement Lassagne, but there are many versions of the story.

Some versions have Lassagne getting the idea from children who were scavenging for scraps in the kitchens, nibbling on almonds and caramel leftover from one of his pastry creations. In another tale, the children were discovered stealing almonds from the kitchens when Lassagne followed the delicious smell to find them caramelizing the almonds in sugar over a candle. Yet one more version has Lassagne getting the idea from a clumsy young apprentice who knocked over a container of almonds into a vat of cooking caramel. A more playful account paints du Plessis-Praslin as a notorious ladies man, who asked his chef to come up with an irresistible treat he could present to the women he would court. He would put the sweet sugary nuts into little parcels marked with his name, so people began to call the sweets after him.

Whatever the real story, we know that the original praline was roughly a sweet confection made of almonds and some sort of creamy sugary caramelized coating. The candy was named praslin, after the owner of the kitchen instead of the chef, but Lassagne did well enough for himself, eventually opening a sweet shop in France called the Maison du Praslin, which still exists in some form to this day.

In Europe, the praline has evolved to an entirely different candy altogether. In Belgium and France, praline is a smooth paste of cocoa blended with finely ground nuts and used to fill chocolate bon-bons, but when it came to New Orleans it took another road.

It is believed that pralines were brought over from France by the Ursuline nuns, who came to New Orleans in 1727. They were in charge of the casket girls¹, young women sent over from France at the request of Bienville to marry New Orleans’ colonists. The nuns instructed the casket girls to be upstanding women in society as well as good wives to the settlers, and in the course of their scholastic and domestic educations, the girls were taught the art of praline making. Eventually the casket girls were married off and began to settle throughout New Orleans and around southern Louisiana, and their culinary education combined with local traditions become the foundations of the famous creole cuisine we know today.

Pralines were one of the more popular recipes adapted from the old French tradition. Almonds being in short supply, cooks began substituting the nuts of the native Louisiana pecan trees, and the forefathers of our modern pecan pralines were born. The praline became a sugary, creamy, pecan-laden candy. Praline pecans were known as individual pecans covered in the sugary coating. These new pecan pralines quickly spread throughout the New Orleans culture and became a common confection in the area. Soon, praline sales were a small but historically significant industry for the city.

Pralinières were the women who used to sell pralines on the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans during the mid-to-late 19th century, providing a unique entrepreneurial opportunity to les gens de couleur libres (free people of color). Not only was being a pralinière a source of income, it was more importantly a means of providing for oneself without any strings attached. This was a rare situation for economically less-fortunate, but resourceful women of that time period, who were often employed as indentured servants or forced by need and without choice into plaçage, as kept-women of wealthy businessmen.

Being a thriving port city, people from all over the world came through New Orleans to the rest of the country, and the praline spread with them. Nowadays most people are unaware of the candy’s historical origin, and the praline is thought of as a southern confection not necessarily specific to New Orleans. Some believe the pecan praline is a Texan candy, whereas others assume it came from Savannah. The pronunciation of the candy is a bit of a point of contention as well. In New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, where there are many communities settled by the French, the pronunciation is prah-leen, with the long aaah sound, which is closer to that of the candy’s namesake du Plessis-Praslin. Other regions of the country, including parts of Texas, Georgia, and New England have anglicized the term and pronounce it pray-leen (we’ve even been asked in the store if a praline was a fish!). Other terms for pralines include pecan pralines, pecan candy, plarines and pecan patties, to name a few.

Modern day New Orleans pecan pralines are not very different than the ones made one hundred years ago. The common factors are dairy, sugar, and pecans. Some people use water or evaporated milk; others use vanilla, maple, and sometimes broken bits of pecans. Since 1992, Southern Candymakers pralines are made simply of fresh milk, cream, butter, sugar, and jumbo pecans halves the traditional way, each one scooped by hand to cool on a marble slab. And although many shops, ours included, make an array of flavors -from coconut to sweet potato- the original flavor is just creamy and sweet, and the one you should try first. The best way to do it is to come into one of our French Quarter shops where we’re making pralines fresh every day, all day long, and try a piece hot off the slab. Close your eyes and you can easily imagine yourself in Lassagne’s kitchen, savoring the delicious aroma of his sweet invention nearly 400 years ago!

¹They were called Casket Girls (les Filles a la Casette) because each came to the city furnished with a casket-box filled with all their worldly possessions. They were distinguished from other women coming to New Orleans because they were hand-picked from orphanages and convent schools and charged to the Church to be molded into women of high morals, despite their less-fortunate circ*mstances of origin.

History of the Praline (2024)


History of the Praline? ›

Legend has it that the praline was introduced to the south by French settlers in the seventeenth century. Back then, the original treat featured almonds coated in sugar, however, pecans quickly replaced almonds due to their abundant availability in the south.

What is the origin of praline? ›

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. The first pralines were made with a combination of caramel and almonds.

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 the history of chocolate praline? ›

understanding chocolate praline history

The story goes that in 1857, Brussels pharmacist Jean Neuhaus used a layer of chocolate to cover medicine to make it more palatable. Later in 1912, Neuhaus Jr. placed a more tasty filling inside the chocolate shell instead of medicine and called the confection a “praline.”

What is the history of the sweet praline? ›

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.

What is a fact about pralines? ›

Pralines were invented in France in the 1600s. It is widely accepted that the creator of the praline was the French pastry chef Clement Lassagne, who at the time was personal chef to the comte du Plessis-Praslin (you can see the praline's namesake there).

Which country invented 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.

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.

What candy is Louisiana known for? ›

Since 1996, New Orleans Famous Praline (Praw-leen) Company has been selling the Traditional Creole Candy known as pralines. New Orleans locals and visitors from around the globe buy this tasty treat because of its sweet flavor and unique texture.

What is the history of the praline in New Orleans? ›

The French settlers in Louisiana brought the praline tradition with them. African-American cooks working in the French colonists' kitchens transformed the sugared-almond praline. Because of their abundance, pecans replaced almonds and milk was added. The final product was a sweet, creamy patty filled with pecans.

What does praline stand for? ›

pra·​line ˈprä-ˌlēn ˈprā- ˈprȯ- : a confection of nuts and sugar: such as. a. : almonds cooked in boiling sugar until brown and crisp.

What the heck is a praline? ›

praline, in French confectionery, a cooked mixture of sugar, nuts, and vanilla, often ground to a paste for use as a pastry or candy filling, analogous to marzipan; also, a sugar-coated almond or other nutmeat.

Are pralines cajun? ›

Cajun Pralines. COMMENT: Desserts and candies tended to be a little understated in Louisiana, prior to the arrival of the Ursuline nuns in the 1700s. With them came the knowledge of great pastry making and other confectionery, but most important was their gift of praline candy to the city of 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.

What is world's largest praline? ›

110 kg of flour, 2,000 eggs, 80 kg of butter, and 75 kg of praline are the ingredients that Jean-Paul Pignol has used to produce, in collaboration with Les Toques Blanches Lyonnaises, the world's longest praline brioche, measuring 35 meters long, at the opening of BIG Lyon, the Biennale Internationale du Goût, at the ...

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

What is the difference between a pecan and a praline? 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.

Are pralines a southern food? ›

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.

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