Veganizing Pecan Pralines

I want to make it abundantly clear that this is not my recipe. I simply veganized this recipe:

I’ve been making my father this original praline recipe for years now. He grew up in South Carolina and these are a popular Southern treat. He said they remind him of his grandma’s and I honestly don’t think they could receive higher praise. This past Father’s Day was the first time I would normally be making them since I went vegan. I didn’t want to purchase the ingredients containing animal products (butter and sweetened condensed milk), but obviously I still wanted to make him the treat he knows and loves. I was nervous that he’d be able to taste the difference and I’d feel bad about not being able to replicate the original recipe close enough. My first try was a bust, not so much because of the flavor, but the texture. I was trying to create my own dairy-free condensed milk, but quickly found out that what I needed was a thinner liquid. I made a few more changes and the results were perfect. So even though the changes from the original recipe are minimal, I thought it was worth sharing because they truly turned out the same, which was a big relief for me. 

Let me warn you:

If you’ve never made candy before, please be aware it gets very hot. Please be careful not to burn yourself, or any little ones or pets you may have running around.

Pralines are very sweet, very rich, and very indulgent. It’s probably a good idea to make them on the small side for this reason.

Vegan Pecan Pralines


  • 1 14 oz can of Coconut Milk (full fat)
  • 1/3 cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 cup White Sugar
  • 6 Tbsp Non-Dairy Butter (I used Earth Balance)
  • 2 cups Pecans (chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • You will also need a candy thermometer

1.) Heat your coconut milk and maple syrup over medium heat until it starts to boil. Turn down the heat to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. You want the mixture to thicken slightly, but not reduced even by half. I found trying to replicate the texture of condensed milk left the final product too thick and grainy. The mixture will continue to thicken a bit as it cools, so allow it to return to room temperature before proceeding.

At first the coconut milk will look clumpy
But don’t worry, it all melts down to look smooth as it heats up and you’re stirring it

2.) Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

3.) I like to chop the pecans into smaller pieces than how they come in the bag. It seems to help them disperse more evenly in the mixture, but this is a matter of personal preference.

On the left is how the chopped pecans come in the bag. On the right is how I personally prefer them.

4.) Combine the pecans, both sugars, salt, and butter in a pot over medium heat. Start by adding 1/2 c. of the coconut milk mixture. Stir the mixture until the butter melts. Drizzle in more of the coconut milk mixture (about 1/8 cup) to thin it out. The consistency of the mixture should coat your spoon and slowly trickle off. (If your considering skipping the thinning step so that it’s thicker and you don’t have to stir later on, I must discourage you. Your final product will still taste good, but it’ll have a gritty texture, which is not what we’re going for.) Attach your candy thermometer and stir the mixture very regularly until you hit 238 degrees aka soft ball stage.

5.) Turn off the heat and remove the thermometer. Add the vanilla and stir like your life depends on it. The mixture is thickening as you stir and it won’t turn out right if you don’t stir until your arm feels like it’s going to fall off. It usually takes me about five minutes of intensive stirring with only brief moments of heavy breathing and questioning of my life choices to break up the monotony.  

6.) If your not sure if the mixture is ready, take a cookie scoop or small measuring cup and pour a little bit of the mixture onto the parchment paper. If the pecans are grouped in the center and the liquid spreads out then it’s not ready. You do want to scoop the mix out before it gets too thick otherwise you’ll have a hard time getting it out. You want to scoop it out easily, but not have it run everywhere once it’s on the paper.

At first the nuts will fall off the spoon fairly quickly, but when it’s ready they’ll cling much longer, but still eventually fall off. Once you do it yourself, you’ll have a better feel for how thick the mixture should be.

7.) Allow the pralines to cool. I have to say, they do begin to set surprisingly quickly, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to package them up prematurely.

At first they’ll look kind of shiny and wet
When they’re set they’ll be lighter in color and no longer shiny

8.) The texture should be slightly creamy and crunchy from the pecans. In addition to the yummy pralines, I hope you can also take something else away from this. If you try to veganize a recipe and it doesn’t turn out, don’t give up! Sometimes it’s not enough to replace dairy products with non-dairy products and keep everything else the same. You may have to tweak the amounts of these ingredients or the way you make it to get the end result you want. If there’s a non-vegan recipe you love, you can likely experience it again if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. In my opinion, it’s very much worth it.


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