From Scratch: Bourbon Pralines

Photo by Maggie Brooks

Last weekend, my sister got married in Charleston, S.C., and gave pralines as her wedding favor. Pralines (soft caramel with pecans) are the quinesstenial Charleston candy. The smell of bubbling sugar wafting out of the candy stores on Market Street will cause unsuspecting tourists to be run over by the locals itching to get their praline fix.

To jazz up a traditional praline, I swapped the vanilla for a hit of bourbon, which gives a nice aromatic kick and just a tad deeper flavor. During the sugar dissolving phase its key to keep the sides of the pot clean from excess sugar. Simply dip a pastry brush into lukewarm water and wash away anything sticking to the sides. You will need a candy thermometer for this, and it’s very important not to stir the sugar while it’s boiling.


1 c light brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c half and half
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2 tbs butter, cut into chunks
1 tsp bourbon (I use Southern Comfort)
1 c pecan halves

Line two cookie sheets with parchment and spray with cooking spray.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat, stir together the sugars, half and half, salt and cream of tartar until the sugar dissolves. Keep the sides of the pot clean by brushing off any sugar with a basting brush dipped in luke warm water. Once dissolved, attach a candy thermometer to the pan, turn the heat to high and boil the mixture to 238 degrees. Gently remove from the heat and allow to cool to 220 degrees. Whisk in the butter and bourbon until creamy then stir in the pecans.

Working quickly, drop the pralines by the tablespoon onto prepared cookie sheets. Allow to cool completely. Store in an air tight container for up to two weeks.

*Adapted from a 1991 Gourmet recipe