Cocoa, pecans and cinnamon: These Creole praline cookies are packed with dessert-worthy flavors

"These cookies have been with me through so much of my life, and I have never tired of them"

By Bibi Hutchings


Published September 25, 2022 4:30PM (EDT)

Cookies in a jar (Getty Images/Claudia Totir)
Cookies in a jar (Getty Images/Claudia Totir)

In "Bibi's Gulf Coast Kitchen," columnist Bibi Hutchings takes you on a culinary journey across the coastal south. Come for the great food writing, stay for the delicious recipes.

These cookies date back to when I was an undergrad in college working part-time as a runner in a large law firm. If you're unfamiliar, a runner does some office tasks like copying and filing, but acts primarily as a courier, hand-delivering documents to other law offices, to the courthouse or to clients. I had only been at the job for a short time when the senior partners of the firm decided to hire a chef. They believed it would behoove them to have an in-house option for lunch meetings with clients and guests rather than motor out to the generally loud, often crowded, downtown local restaurants.

The woman they hired was a self-described Cajun named Brenda, who had just moved to town from Chalmette, Louisiana, about twenty miles east of New Orleans. She had a very pronounced New Orleans accent that she said was called "Yat," explaining that the name came from the phrase, "Where are you at?" which got abbreviated to "Where y'at?" Her th sounds were more like d sounds, pronouncing the word "those" like "doze," and if a word ended in -er, like "number," she said, "num-bah." Plump, red-haired and sassy, she and I immediately hit it off and at her request, I became her sous-chef of sorts. 

While prepping food, tasting and talking, she taught me how to make many of her dishes and I learned many of her Yat-isms in the process

As a very busy, very poor college student, I loved being with her in her slower-paced yet very efficient kitchen. While prepping food, tasting and talking, she taught me how to make many of her dishes and I learned many of her Yat-isms in the process. For example, when she sent me for groceries, she'd say I needed to make groceries. When I returned with the groceries, I was to save them, meaning to put them away. When she couldn't think of the name of something, she'd say, "Give me dat quelque chose," (pronounced kek-shawz, French for "something"). It was an education in more ways than one.

We talked about the history of New Orleans — about how different it was from other southern cities, about its French and Spanish heritage, and how Creole and Cajun are very distinct and different, referring to completely different people coming into Louisiana/New Orleans at completely different times. Because of her stories, I became even more interested in Louisiana history, understanding it to be closely aligned with the history of my own home town of Mobile, Alabama, since it too had once been part of Nouvelle France once upon a time. 

The first French settlement in America was in 1682 with New Orleans itself being established soon after in 1718. The capital of this vast, new French Colony, called Nouvelle France, was in Quebec and included the land from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains and from the Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. 

"Creole" was the name given to those born in the French colony rather than in Europe. While people of any race can and have identified as Louisiana Creoles, many were multiracial thanks to the confluence of Native Americans, Africans and European immigrants concentrated in the state. The resulting Creole cuisine came from these immigrants bringing their own styles of cooking while incorporating the ingredients of the colony. 

"Cajuns" and Cajun food came well after Britain won the French and Indian War in 1763. In fact, it wasn't until the 1850s that they came as Acadian refugees from the west. Their cuisine was uniquely their own as well, a mix of Acadian "country food" with that of the existing people there, predominantly Native Americans (mostly Choctaw), Africans and Creoles. 

If you've never read about it, this time in American history is fascinating. New cultures and cuisines were born, particularly in busy port cities like New York City, Mobile and New Orleans where Spanish, French and other Europeans were making their way among those already there. New Orleans — like Mobile, Biloxi, Baton Rouge and other southern cities that began as part of Nouvelle France — developed very differently from the rest of the Anglo-Saxon cities and states comprising the American South.     

Brenda also fed me lunch most days because, you know, someone had to make sure everything tasted good before we served our afternoon guests, and I got to take home the day's leftovers. It would have been a real gift for anyone, but as a struggling student, I was extra grateful. She was a second mother to me and I absolutely adored her.

She made these Praline Cookies most every week because one of the senior partners, whose sweet tooth never seemed to be sated, could not get enough of them. He preferred them to all her other delicious cookies, pastries and confections with his afternoon cup of Earl Grey. I suppose there is something gained through repetition as I began to crank out batch after batch of these each week. I have been making them ever since, and that was almost 35 years ago!

I suppose there is something gained through repetition as I began to crank out batch after batch of these each week. I have been making them ever since, and that was almost 35 years ago!

The name, Praline Cookie, is a bit misleading as they taste nothing like a praline. They look like a praline because of their color, the visible chopped pecans, and the way they spread out when they bake, but that's pretty much where the similarity ends. And if you make them gluten-free, then there is no similarity at all. Not only will they not spread into a thin, praline-like shape, but they won't have a praline-like color either. They will, however, still taste amazing (but you might want to rename them if you go gluten-free). 

These cookies have also been mistaken for chocolate chip cookies at first glance, and although not my favorite, chocolate chip might be this country's most beloved cookie. I can tell you from experience that when a chocolate chip cookie lover thinks a fix is within arm's reach, disappointment abounds when the grab doesn't meet the expectation. That said, no one is ever disappointed with this cookie. I think that is quite the compliment as I was met with sheer rudeness once when someone mistook my oatmeal-raisin cookies for chocolate chip.

It is difficult to describe the flavor of these Praline Cookies. When you look at the ingredients, you might think you can imagine the taste of the final product, but you will be surprised. The cocoa adds depth but is undetectable as far as providing any real chocolate flavor. The cinnamon comes through, but is very mild. The raisins are a bit mysterious. They blend into the overall flavor and provide sweetness much like molasses in a gingersnap. I know plenty of folks who don't care for raisins and still love these cookies. 

While writing about these cookies, I am reminded of my hustle when I was in college. I was working part-time, going to school full-time, involved in community theater and/or teaching dance classes most evenings. I certainly wouldn't be able to keep up with my younger self today. I feel a bit like a proud parent when I look back on that time and of all I accomplished back then. 

These cookies have been with me through so much of my life, and I have never tired of them. I have shared them so often and with so many. I'm so happy to share them with you now.

Creole Praline Cookies 
36 cookies
Prep Time
20 minutes
Cook Time
12-15 minutes


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 2 cups pecans, chopped



  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, soda, cocoa, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer, then add eggs one at the time.
  4. Add flour mixture to butter, sugar, and egg mixture, combining well.
  5. Add raisins and pecans and stir in uniformly.
  6. Pinch off enough dough to form little balls about 1 1/2" in diameter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and lightly pat down the top of each, so they aren't rounded at the top or bottom. 
  7. Bake only until golden. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet onto a cooling rack. They will firm up as they cool.

By Bibi Hutchings

Bibi Hutchings, a lifelong Southerner, lives along a quiet coastal Alabama bay with her cat, Zulu, and husband, Tom. She writes about the magical way food evokes memories, instantly bringing you back to the people, places and experiences of your life. Her stories take you all around the South and are accompanied with tried-and-true recipes that are destined to become a part of your memory-making as you share them with your friends and family.         

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