National Pralines Day: June 24

Do you say pea-can or puh-cun, pray-leen or praa-leen? National Praline Day is June 24 and it is time to celebrate the smooth, sweet candy!

National Pralines Day on June 24 celebrates a nut-based creamy confection that can be enjoyed in an assortment of ways. Pralines are a smooth and sweet treat made with nuts, sugar, and sometimes cream. They can be used in cookies, candy, and as a paste and they’re often made with pecans or almonds. The name is believed to have been inspired by French sugar industrialist and French diplomat César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin who used a powder called pralin made by grinding sugar-coated nuts.

Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

History of National Pralines Day

During the seventeenth century, France’s Marshal du Plessis-Praslin was responsible for the fame and name of the praline but many believe that it was his chef, Clement Lassagne who was the true creator. 

In one account, the idea for pralines came from Lassagne’s children who snacked on the leftover almonds and caramel from earlier culinary projects which inspired the idea. In another, the children had caramelized almonds over a candle and Lassagne followed the scent and discovered the magic of the mixture. And in yet another, Lassagne’s apprentice accidentally knocked a container of almonds into a vat of cooking caramel.

Pralines were brought from France to New Orleans by Ursuline nuns in 1727. They oversaw young women called casket girls who under the request of Bienville were meant to marry New Orleans’ colonists. The casket girls were taught the art of praline making along with academics and domestic work for the purpose of becoming good wives to the settlers. Pralines became part of the local tradition in New Orleans and now they’re an essential part of creole cuisine. 

Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

In the nineteenth century, the ingredients switched from almonds to pecans because of their availability in New Orleans and cream was used to thicken the texture. Women in the French Quarter who sold pralines were called Pralinieres and selling pralines gave free people of color job opportunities when work was limited. Instead of being indentured servants or kept-women, women of lesser means were given more autonomy thanks to this alternate avenue of income. The praline expanded into other parts of the country and they became popular in Texas and Georgia as a favored southern confection but it all began in The Big Easy.

Pralines haven’t changed much from their original form. The ingredients still consist of pecans, dairy, and sugar and some have added vanilla and maple for more flavor. People have experimented with pralines in many different ways but the original is still just as loved as it was back then. The creamy sweetness of this confection still holds its own amongst many other tasty treats.

Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

National Pralines Day timeline

  • 1600s: Marshal du Plessis-Praslin’s chef Clement Lassagne invented the praline by mixing cooked caramel and almonds
  • 1727: Pralines are brought over from France by Ursuline nuns who used young women to create them as they were molded for marriage
  • 1800s: Free women of color were permitted to sell pralines as Pralinieres offering them more economic security and better opportunity
  • 2000s: Pralines have remained very similar to their origins and are considered an essential part of southern culinary tradition
Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

How to celebrate National Pralines Day

Make pralines: The best way to celebrate National Pralines Day is to make them yourself! Making pralines is not as hard as it seems. Get some butter, sugar, corn syrup, and pecans, and you are all set. Follow a recipe online or in a cookbook to get the perfect mixture of ingredients.

Visit a praline shop: Search for a local praline shop and sample all the treats they have to offer. From traditional flavors like pecan and chocolate to more unique combinations like peanut butter and bacon, you are sure to find something that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Make a praline trail mix: Mix together some chopped nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips with some crushed pralines for a delicious snack that you can take on the go.

Go to a walking tour: A trip might be in order to truly appreciate the pralines American origins. Learn about the history of pralines on a walking tour in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the birthplace of pralines in the United States. The best part of it is that afterward, you can treat yourself to more pralines!

Pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

5 fun facts about National Pralines Day

1. After the praline: Chef Lassagne opened a sweet shop in France called the Maison du Praslin that’s still around today.

2. Three pralines: The three main types of pralines are Belgian Pralines, French Pralines, and American Pralines.

3. The Belgian praline: Belgian pralines have a hard chocolate shell with a softer or liquid filling.

4. Belgian names: Belgian pralines are also called Belgian chocolates, Belgeian Choclate fondants, and chocolate bonbons.

5. Sweet like candy: In New Orleans, pralines are sometimes called pecan candy.

Worth Pondering…

It was always easier for me to show love than to say it. The word reminded me of pralines: small, precious, almost unbearable sweet.

—Jodi Picoult

The Sweetest Place in La Grange

There’s a real Katy behind KatySweet

KatySweet started—like so many food companies—in the founder’s home kitchen. Company founder Kay Carlton started KatySweet Confectioners in 1996 with a recipe passed down from her grandmother to her mother to her. Kay spent several years developing the recipe for the commercial market without sacrificing the homemade taste.

KatySweet pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

KatySweet Confectioners started in their founder’s home kitchen, like so many other food companies. Kay Carlton, the “Katy” behind KatySweet (and the little girl in their logo, created by her son), started the company with a candy recipe for Texas-style pecan pralines that was passed down from the grandmother.

KatySweet pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In her family, it was always called ‘Aunt Billie’s Brown Candy.” She came from a family of seven children so they didn’t buy anything that they could make themselves which is something that a lot of local families had in common back then. Kay suspects that this need to be self-supporting is part of the reason why so many local families had their versions of the pecan praline. On each special occasion and on holidays, Kay found herself making several batches of her family’s version of creamy pecan pralines for her friends and family members.

Related article: Pecan Pralines a Sweet Tradition

KatySweet pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mrs. Carlton and her husband already owned a successful printing and manufacturing business and finally, in 1995, Kay decided to combine her love of business with her love of candy and founded KatySweet.

In 2001, Kay built a new commercial kitchen at their current location at 4321 West State Highway 71 in La Grange designed from the ground up to produce the original family recipes using Kay’s time-tested methods. In 2016, they added a 24,000-square-foot facility to meet current and future production demands.

KatySweet pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The KatySweet distribution network includes retail and wholesale customers nationwide. The company’s national distribution is what they have been able to grow on. They deliver to nearly 5,000 locations throughout the United States.

KatySweet has big supporters in all the Southern states, Michigan, Wisconsin, Chicago, and even Hawaii and Alaska. Their maple walnut flavor is a hit in the New England areas like Vermont and New Hampshire. In 2018 alone, KatySweet sold over 300,000 pounds of candy, two ounces at a time. They’ve been fortunate to distribute their candy through Walgreens and CVS, which gives them a big footprint. They also distribute through regional grocery stores.

KatySweet pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kate and her team spent several years perfecting their recipes. Their proprietary manufacturing methods allow them to make their candy without losing the homemade taste and quality that got them started.

Related article: Czech Out La Grange

To master a large-scale version of the recipe, Kay attended numerous candy stores when she first started. It’s not simply ‘I need ten times a much so I’ll multiply everything by ten. It doesn’t work like that. KatySweet uses a two-part process which is quite common. The tricky part is the caramelization.

KatySweet pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They continue to use the best ingredients to make Kay’s recipes without losing the homemade taste and quality that got them started. And they do it all without using chemicals and preservatives. When customers bite into one of their Creamy Original Pralines or Chewy Pralines they taste the finest ingredients and the care that goes into making every piece.

Their candy is even gluten-free and “kosher.” A rabbi comes from Houston every three months to inspect the premises and process. They also have a “no sugar added” variety. KatySweet is always trying to create fresh, new products to appeal to a larger crowd.

KatySweet pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kay has learned after achieving so much success and having to expand and move into bigger facilities a few times, that it’s important to plan where she can.

Related article: Best Getaway to Czech Out

Her pralines are some of the few natural products on the candy market today. Using a two-kettle method to achieve a creamy praline, you’ll never get a dry, gritty taste when you bite into a KatySweet Praline. And, KatySweet candy is made to order, so it’s always fresh.

KatySweet pralines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What a great ready-to-give treat! Choose your favorite flavor from the 2 oz. Original Creamy, Texas Style Chewy, or No Sugar Added Chewy Praline. Six candies in a see-through gift box.

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Texas Spoken Friendly

Worth Pondering…

I make a mean pecan pie and I have a great recipe for pralines—also using pecans. Pralines take a lot of patience, and patience is a must in the duck blind as well as in the kitchen. Good things come to those who wait.

—Phil Robertson

Pecan Pralines a Sweet Tradition

Pralines, the sweet pecan candy with a buttery, brown-sugar smell

With COVID-19 (Coronavirus) everyone’s lives—yours and ours—were thrown into a scrambled state of flux. Someday, we’ll all be ready to pack the RV again and head out on our next adventure. In the meantime, here’s some inspiration for the future.

Cultural influences played a factor in the innovation of the candy in the American South. French settlers introduced their version in Louisiana where sugarcane plantations were a dominant industry and pecan trees were prevalent.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The original praline was a 17th-century French dessert described as “almonds coated in boiled sugar.” According to popular accounts, they were originally created by the cook to French diplomat of César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin, a 17th-century sugar industrialist and were called “praslin.”

KatySweet pralines, La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some believe the comte had his cook devise an almond-studded candy to woo his various love interests. Or perhaps it was his butler who created the treat to cure Praslin’s painful indigestion or a clumsy young apprentice who knocked over a container of almonds into a vat of cooking caramelized sugar.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The praline that emerged in the South was markedly different from its contemporary European counterpart. African-American cooks working for French colonists adapted the recipe by using native Louisiana pecans and adding cream. Voilà, the velvety, sugary pecan patty was born.

KatySweet pralines, La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 girls, young women sent over from France at the request of Bienville to marry New Orleans colonists. They 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.

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 southern Louisiana.

KatySweet pralines, La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In his 1919 book about pecans, the agricultural historian Rodney Howard True called the crop “America’s most important contribution to the world’s stock of edible nuts.” Native peoples consumed pecans before Europeans arrived in America but the pecan’s history as a harvested nut is linked to a formerly enslaved Louisianan named Antoine.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The University of Georgia professor Lenny Wells wrote in his book, Pecan: America’s Native Nut Tree, that the nut had been harvested and perhaps even sold for centuries but that it was not viewed as capable of being industrialized. That perception shifted in 1846, Wells wrote, “thanks to the skill of a slave.” Antoine’s ability to produce high-quality nuts came through mastering the perfect combination of grafting partners to consistently produce premium nuts.

KatySweet pralines, La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the mid-1800s, pralinieres were selling the candy in the French Quarter. Today, New Orleans tourists find it hard to leave the city without boxes of pralines.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Texas history of pralines is no less evocative. According to culinary historian MM Pack, the Texas praline’s ancestry came both from the east (New Orleans) and from the south (Mexico). Both France and Spain brought their sweet tooth to the New World “more or less at the same time,” Pack said. The pecan-candy traditions—pecans because they were plentiful and free—found a welcome home in Texas where industrious Mexican immigrants could make money from candy that was relatively cheap to produce.

KatySweet pralines, La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pack cited the Texas-Mexican history of the border town candyman (men selling sweets from carts and baskets) as a natural link for pecan candy at Tex-Mex restaurants.

KatySweet pralines, La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beginning in the early 1900s, pecans became a source of income for Mexican immigrants who gathered, shelled, and dried them. Pecan candy soon became a tradition. Mexican-American know-how for pecan pralines found its way into Tex-Mex restaurants where Mexican candies—dulces—were sold.

KatySweet pralines, La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

KatySweet pralines, La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The pronunciation of the candy is 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 and Georgia have anglicized the term and pronounce it pray-leen. However you say it, they taste the same. Other terms for pralines include pecan pralines, pecan candy, plarines, and pecan patties.

KatySweet pralines, La Grange, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I make a mean pecan pie and I have a great recipe for pralines—also using pecans. Pralines take a lot of patience, and patience is a must in the duck blind as well as in the kitchen. Good things come to those who wait.

—Phil Robertson