Southern Praline Bars

 Southern Praline Bars - a super easy, super quick (but incredibly delicious) recipe that would make anyone (Southern or not!) smile and smack their lips!

“We’re getting to the short rows now.” …………. Huh? ……. I worked, what they called “the graveyard shift” (7p.m.-7a.m.), for what seems like a zillion years (actually 30). I was (am) a mother-baby nurse and chose to work the night shift in order to be at home as much as possible with my children. The children grew up, but I loved the people I worked with and the more relaxed pace of the night-time hours, so I stuck with it. I retired from my nursing job in September, though I currently still work a few days a month.

The first part of the 12-hour shift would always whiz by as we’d be assessing moms and babies, teaching parents how to take care of of their new little acquisitions (babies), helping mom’s learn to breastfeed, etc. But often, around three or four in the morning, fatigue would settle in as the hustle-bustle slowed down. Sometimes every minute seemed like an hour in those wee hours of the morning and I would struggle to just keep my eyes lids propped open.

A long time ago, in the midst of one of those early morning “sinking spells”, I first heard the expression “We’re getting to the short rows”. I’d grown up in the Midwest, but moved to the South shortly after Scott and I were married. This common southern phrase sounded quite foreign to me. “What are you talking about?” I asked and suddenly I was a bit more awake as I listened to the fascinating explanation.

My co-workers shared that “getting to the short rows” was an old southern tobacco expression. Some of these friends had spent summers working in nearby tobacco fields as a way to earn spending money. It wasn’t an easy job, as the summers here in North Carolina are usually long, hot and dry. These gals were no “southern belles” sitting on white-columned porches fanning away the heat and sipping on mint juleps. Oh no, they educated me about picking tobacco and it boils down to, in simple words, plain old-fashioned HARD WORK!


They explained that tobacco fields were usually planted on a diagonal. The work would start in the center of the field early in the morning. After working in the hot sweltering sun for a good part of the day, the workers were always quite elated when they’d begin to see “the shorter rows” toward the corner of the field. It meant their work would soon be completed.

After hearing this explanation, I understood my friends were encouraging me that morning would come and I would make it through the long night. And I did. After that, when 3 or 4 a.m. would arrive at the hospital, I’d tell my weary co-workers, “Don’t worry, we’re getting to the short rows now”. It always made me feel like a bonafide Southerner!

Southern Praline Bars - a super easy, super quick (but incredibly delicious) recipe that would make anyone (Southern or not!) smile and smack their lips!

We’re getting to the short rows now before Christmas, aren’t we? It’s time to pare down the “To Do” list, simplify and focus on what really matters at this time of the year; celebrating the birth of the Christ child and enjoying time with family and friends.

Southern Praline Bars - a super easy, super quick (but incredibly delicious) recipe that would make anyone (Southern or not!) smile and smack their lips!

That’s why I’ve got a super easy, super quick (but incredibly delicious) recipe for you today These Southern Praline Bars can be thrown together in less than 20 minutes and everyone goes crazy over them. They’re a perfect treat/gift if you’re feeling like you’re getting to the “short rows”.

 Southern Praline Bars - a super easy, super quick (but incredibly delicious) recipe that would make anyone (Southern or not!) smile and smack their lips!

Southern Praline Bars

  • Author:
  • Category: Sweet Treat
  • Cuisine: Southern


  • 18-20 whole graham crackers, about 2 sleeves
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 ½ cups butter, 3 sticks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups roughly chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a sheet pan (13×18) with foil allowing the foil to overhang pan by a few inches on the long sides.
  2. Place graham crackers in single layer on prepared pan. Cover the entire pan. You will have to cut a few of the crackers to fit.
  3. Melt butter in a medium-size saucepan. Add brown sugar and whisk mixture together over medium heat. Stir continuously until sugar is fully incorporated. At first the butter and sugar will seem to separate. Just keep whisking till smooth.
  4. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, add pecans and continue cooking, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Be careful as mixture will bubble furiously when you add the vanilla.
  5. Working quickly, pour mixture over graham crackers and spread to cover with a knife.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes. Entire surface should be bubbly. If not, bake a bit longer. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  7. Using foil, transfer bars to a large cutting board and cut into squares. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

41 thoughts on “Southern Praline Bars”

  • Chris,
    I have thoroughly enjoyed your recipes over the years. When I read this post, I had to comment. Ours lives seem to be very similar as I have worked 3p-7a, weekends for 15 years and 10 years 7p-7a in Mother/Baby units. The early morning “sinking spells” are very familiar. Now I work as an orientation/education in Mother/Baby, still on 3p-7a. When the down time comes around now, I leave my computer screen and head upstairs to check in on the new nurses and techs to break up the long shift. As far as the Southern expression, I grew up on a farm in Georgia and looked forward to getting to the “short rows”. I can remember the “long rows” too; some so long you couldn’t see the other end as they wound around the hillside. I too chose the night shifts so I could spend as much time as possible with my daughter. She is grown now… an attorney in Florida and recently married to the love of her life. She also appreciates hard work and the joy of family. I guess all that hard work paid off!! Thank you for our wonderful recipes and reigniting an old memory.

  • How long will these last stored in airtight container? I would like to make these for a party ahead of time and was wondering how far ahead I could do them. Thanks!

  • I grew up on one of those southeastern NC tobacco farms and the short rows were surely something to look forward to! Also we called taking the leaves, cropping, not pulling. Interesting how many names were used for the same job. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • I know all about the short rows. We picked tobacco. We didn’t pull.
    Hard work. I remember picking up pecans after they climbed and shook the tree

  • Thank you for sharing this recipe and the explanation of the “short rows”. My parents were born and raised in Kentucky but moved north for many years. They raised five of us children, and being the youngest, I was still living with them when they returned to Kentucky after retirement. My vocabulary has always been an eclectic mix of northern speech and southern expressions and witticism. I still recall being teased as a small child when the southern twang I picked up at home crept into my voice in the school playground. Now despite my northern upbringing, I call Kentucky home and consider myself a bona fide southerner! After all, I have spent more years down here than I did up there, although I do miss always having a white Christmas. Thanks again for posting, can’t wait to try the recipe!

  • I worked nights for three years when I first started nursing….I remember those short rows! In L&D, the best thing that could possibly happen was a delivery at 0500. Still work L&D 24 years later, PRN days. I’m sure my coworkers will love it when I bring these in delicious looking treats!

  • I needed this post right now (three thirty in the a.m.) after a failed candy recipe and all the Christmas to-dos keeping me awake. Meaningful and encouraging words, thanks!

  • hi chris, me living in this part of the world of course never heard of that phrase and am sure know what it means when you are going to say that again in future. This bar sounds divine!

  • Gorgeous bars, Chris! I just adore pecans, pecan pie, bars, etc. and yours look divine, my dear. And, yes…we’re definitely “getting to the short rows now” before Christmas! (Thanks for explaining the expression to this Midwestern girl.) Best wishes to you and your family for a meaningful and joyous Christmas holiday! xo

  • I love that graphic and the quote – wonderfully true. I’ve made these bars but with saltine crackers – they’re so much prettier the way you made them! And don’t remind me we’re getting into the short rows. While that’s good news when your shift is almost over or for kiddos who can’t wait to open presents, it’s not so good news for a new mama who doesn’t have time to do her shopping! But then again, the shopping isn’t what’s important, now is it? 🙂

  • I am having Christmas Dinner here in Aspen with friends. We all are bringing food that is traditional from our pasts. I am the Dessert Lady. These Southern Praline Bars are perfect — a reminder of my years as an undergrad at Florida State. My sorority sisters would take me home for Thanksgiving since I couldn’t get back to Iowa and their Moms always had some bars of this kind on the table. I love southern cooking. So, I will be making these for my Christmas Cookie Platter (and, thanking you).

  • I’ve heard that term before, but totally forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder. And thanks for these super looking praline bars. What a yummy treat! These looks terrific – thanks.

  • I haven’t heard of that term before, but now I’ll be sure to use it. The one thing I do know about tobacco farming is that the term is pulling the leaves, not picking. I love your praline bars, Chris. I may just need to make them this weekend.

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