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Traditional Pecan Logs are an old fashioned candy recipe perfect for the holidays! This recipe makes a lot of candy so it’s great for gifting, plus they’re sweet and crunchy and so, so delicious.
This recipe is sponsored by Challenge Butter. I always use their butter in all my holiday recipes and they always turn out perfectly.
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Holiday Pecan Logs Recipe
What is a pecan log? This delightful candy is one I absolutely loved growing up. It has a marshmallow/divinity like center and is coated in caramel and pecans – there is nothing about this candy recipe I don’t love. Sure you can buy them but making pecan logs from scratch isn’t hard – and they taste so much better!
I’m going to teach you all the steps for how to make this classic Christmas candy – I love that you don’t even need a candy thermometer! This recipe makes 8 whole logs so it’s great for gifting, but be sure to keep some for yourself. They’re that good!
- Challenge Butter: Butter is a main ingredient in the filling and I also sometimes add it to the caramel mixture to help smooth it out.
- Corn Syrup: This adds sweetness to the filling and allows the mixture to have the chewy texture that you expect from the center of a pecan log.
- Nonfat Powdered Milk: Why use powdered milk? It’s a key ingredient in pecan logs that cannot be substituted. You want that creamy sweet milk flavor without the added water that regular milk would add. You can find powdered milk in the breakfast or baking aisle. It’s also cheaper than regular milk!
- Caramels: See the notes in the recipe for different types and brands of caramel to use. You can use square caramels or any brand, as well as soft or hard caramels, but the amount of cream you’ll use will differ depending on which you use.
- Pecans: If you want, you can toast your pecans before rolling the logs in them. And if you prefer, you can also make this recipe with walnuts.
The Best Ingredients = The Best Results!
You want to be sure to use good quality ingredients when making candy and Challenge Unsalted Butter is the best! I have been using Challenge Butter my entire life – my parents always talk about how good it is and convert everyone they know to using Challenge. It was the only one that ever graced our dinner table.
Challenge has been made from happy cows at over 300 family owned farms for over 100 years and it’s the largest selling brand in the West. It’s available nationwide – look for the package with the Elk on it!
How to make Pecan Logs
- Melt Challenge unsalted butter with corn syrup and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then stir in vanilla extract.
- Whisk together the powdered sugar and powdered milk with salt, then stir in the hot mixture.
- The mixture will be thick and completely combined.
- Press the mixture into a 9×9-inch pan that’s been lined with parchment paper. Allow to sit until it cools to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
- Slice the center into 8 rectangles.
- Roll each rectangle into a log and cover with wax paper or parchment paper. Freeze until solid before dipping in caramel.
Best Caramel for Dipping
There are lots of different types of caramel out there and I’ve tested this recipe with a few of them.
- Caramel Squares or Chewy Caramels: be sure to unwrap them. These are usually hard caramels so you’ll want to use heavy cream and butter when melting.
- Caramel Bits: these are the easiest to use – no unwrapping – but they can be hard to find. Because they’re also harder, you’ll want to use heavy cream and butter.
- Soft Caramels: be sure to unwrap them. You don’t need to use butter when dipping, and you may need less cream than when using harder caramels.
How to dip Pecan Logs in Caramel
- Place caramels in a large bowl set over a double boiler (or bring about 1-inch of water to a boil in a sauce pan and use a bowl that fits tight on top). Add heavy cream and butter, if using.
- Once caramels are totally melted, turn the heat on the stove to simmer so the caramel stays hot while dipping.
- Working in batches, place one frozen pecan log center into the caramel and coat.
- Use a fork to allow excess to drip off.
- Place a cup of chopped pecans on a rimmed plate and roll the caramel logs in the pecans, adding more as needed.
- Allow the logs to cool before wrapping in wax paper.
Storing and Serving
Store pecan logs in the refrigerator, wrapped in wax paper and placed in an airtight container.
You can freeze this candy too – just make sure to wrap them well and seal in an airtight container.
Make these logs ahead of time and freeze, or you can freeze the centers for up to 1 month before dipping in caramel.
Give these as gifts by wrapping in parchment or wax paper and tying bows on the ends, like old fashioned candy!
Tip From Dorothy
- If you only have Salted Challenge Butter, that works too, just omit the salt from the filling.
- While making this candy from scratch is actually easy, it is time consuming and can be a bit messy, so read through the instructions and have everything planned out and ready to go before you start.
- I call for a lot more pecans and caramel than other recipes you’ll find on the internet, and that’s because I hate running out in the middle. It’s always good to have more ready to go just in case.
- If you have caramel and pecans left over, it’s really easy to make turtles! Just mix them together and drop on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with melted chocolate and you have another perfect Christmas candy!
- I place my bowl of caramels over a pot of boiling water to act as a double boiler. You can also use my griddle method for keeping the caramel warm (it’s what I do to melt chocolate without crying).
The center of a pecan log is a chewy creamy candy that’s almost like divinity. This is from sugar and milk mixed with butter, but you powdered milk makes it possible because it’s dried out, not full of water.
Use any nuts you like for the coating of these logs!
Pecan Logs Recipe
- ½ cup (113g) Challenge unsalted butter
- ½ cup (167g or 118ml) light corn syrup
- ⅓ cup (67g) granulated sugar
- 4 cups (452g) powdered sugar
- ½ cup (64g) nonfat powdered milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Approximately 25 ounces caramel candies see note
- 2-4 tablespoons (45-60ml) heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons (28g) Challenge Unsalted Butter see note
- 4 cups (372g) chopped pecans
- Line a 9×9-inch pan with parchment paper.
- Whisk powdered sugar, powdered milk, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Combine butter, corn syrup, and granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture just begins to boil, about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
- Pour mixture into dry ingredients and stir until mixture clumps, then comes together in a solid ball. If needed, you can use a stand mixer for this.
- Spread mixture in prepared pan. Let sit 15 minutes.
- Cut candy into 4 equal strips then cut crosswise in middle, creating 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a 4 1/2- to 5-inch-long log and wrap in wax or parchment paper. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour (or up to 1 month).
- Melt caramel, cream, and butter in top of a double boiler over medium. Place chopped pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Unwrap frozen candy logs. Carefully dip each log into hot caramel, letting excess drip off. Roll in chopped pecans until evenly coated. Wrap in parchment paper or wax paper, and store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
- Kraft Caramel Squares or Bits: These come in approximately 11 ounce bags; buy two bags. Add butter and 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (start with 2 and add more as needed; you don’t want the caramel runny but it needs to be thin enough when melted to coat the center).
- Werther’s Chewy Caramels: These come in approximately 10.8 ounce or 25 ounce bags. Buy 2 small or one large bag. Add butter and 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (start with 2 and add more as needed; you don’t want the caramel runny but it needs to be thin enough when melted to coat the center).
- Werther’s SOFT Caramels: These come in approximately 10.8 ounce or 25 ounce bags. Buy 2 small or one large bag. You’ll want to use about 3-4 tablespoons heavy cream and omit the butter (start with 3 and add more as needed; you don’t want the caramel runny but it needs to be thin enough when melted to coat the center).
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. You can keep the centers frozen for up to a month before dipping in caramel.
- Any nuts may be used for the outside. Toast the nuts for even deeper flavor.
- Do not substitute for the nonfat powdered milk or the corn syrup.
Last Updated on October 23, 2023