Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Pralines for Idiots

Candy making is not something I typically try my hand at. All that talk about thermometers and stages and testing methods.  Those recipes always look like the kind of thing I don’t have the patience for.  Plus, once you’ve been badly burned by hot sugar, it makes you candy-shy. But this is an exception.  I call it Pralines for Idiots, because it really does away with all that soft-ball/hard-crack thermometer testing nonsense.  If I can make these, anyone can.

Years ago, a friend brought some lovely homemade pralines as a hostess gift.  I was hugely impressed and absolutely made over her and her skill and patience.  She finally admitted to me that it was on old recipe from her mom that you made in the microwave.  The microwave!  I couldn’t believe it, so she finally wrote it down for me on a little scrap if note paper.  After all that fuss, I filed the recipe away and forgot about it.  But thinking about Mardi Gras coming up, I wistfully thought it would be nice if I knew how to make pralines.  Then I remembered that recipe and dug through all my files to find it. 

I have had to experiment with this recipe quite a bit to get consistent results.  The original recipe called for a much longer cooking time.  I assume this dates from early microwave days when the wattage was relatively low.  My microwave is 1300 watts, but I have tested this in a 1000 watt as well with the same results.  Watch the mixture bubble away, and you will see that it gets to a nice, rolling boil.  Be very careful when removing the bowl from the oven, as hot sugar burns like the dickens.  Use oven mitts and don’t get your fingers near it.  When you stir the sugar before scooping the pralines, it should begin to be opaque and slightly creamy-looking. Keep going until you get there. I use a big serving spoon to scoop up the mix, then scrape it onto the waxed paper with a smaller spoon. I like it when the pralines aren’t perfectly round and look a little rugged – I want everyone to know that I made these my own self!  This makes about eighteen 3 inch round pralines, but feel free to make smaller snack size versions.  You might want to have an extra waxed paper-lined tray ready if you do.

Pralines for Idiots

2 cups white sugar

1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk

¼ cup butter, cut in pieces

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1 ¾ cup chopped pecans

Pinch of salt

Cover 2 baking sheets with waxed paper and set aside.

Place all the ingredients in a large microwave safe glass bowl.  Glass is best so you can see the mixture bubbling.  Stir well.  Microwave on high for 5 minutes. The mixture will be bubbling vigorously.  Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave wearing oven mitts and stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula.

Return the bowl to the microwave and cook a further 5 minutes.  Remove with oven mitts and stir vigorously for 1 minute.  The mixture should begin to look creamy and slightly thickened, but still loose.  If the mixture has not started to become opaque, microwave in one minute intervals, stirring after each, until it is.

Using two spoons (one for scooping the mixture, the second for scraping it onto the pan), scoop mounds of praline mixture onto the prepared baking sheets.  Leave lots of room between them for the pralines to spread.  The hot sugar mixture is very hot and will burn, so don’t try to get your fingers involved. Work pretty quickly, but carefully.  Leave the pralines to firm up, then peel them from the waxed paper and store them in an airtight container between fresh sheets of waxed paper.

Makes about 18 large pralines


Perfect after a supper of Shrimp Creole!


9 comments to Pralines for Idiots

  • Yum! I made my first caramel in the microwave a week or two ago. So. Easy. And pralines are so tempting…

  • I’ve tried several recipes for pralines, none of which I’m pleased with the results.
    I can’t wait to try your microwave method. Thanks for sharing!

  • penandra

    I make several microwave candies for the winter holidays (almond brittle, toffee, peppermint bark, etc.) So, tomorrow being Fat Tuesday, I had to try your pralines. I knew I had everything at home (although the pecans turned out to be pecan halves rather than pieces). 15 minutes start to finish. About the best pralines ever (although better with pecan pieces, I’m sure).


    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • reliable

    My kids loved these – and really easy. Also good “Everything in moderation” lfe lesson.

    As a practicing idiot, I love how practical you design these for us. THANKS.

  • Kristen Durnin

    OMG!! I made these for Christmas and they turned out great. I changed a few things used 1 cup white and 1 cup brown sugar and left pecans whole. The weather can determine how good these come out especially if you live in Louisiana, it’s better to make on a day with less humidity. Thanks so much for sharing:)

  • Natalie J Vandenberghe

    Sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing the recipe 😉

  • These are the pralines my mother-in-law use to make. She was 97 and did not use the microwave (thank goodness) but rather a skillet My daughter asked me if I knew how to make Grandmother’s candy. I knew the ingredients but other than a 5 ounce can of evaporated milk, I had no idea ass to who much of any thing else. Thanks for the memory.

    Trudy Thompson
    Grand Saline, TX

  • So glad to help! Food memories are the best!

  • […] a little nervous about the candy thermometer and the exactitude. In fact, I first started making pralines when I learned how to do them in the microwave. But I have been experimenting and expanding for […]

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