New Orleans Loses Beloved Loretta Harrison, Founder of Loretta’s Authentic Pralines

Owner of Loretta's Authentic Pralines outside her shop
Loretta Harrison, owner of Loretta’s Authentic Pralines Photo source

On Wednesday, February 16, New Orleans lost a little bit of its sweetness when Loretta Harrison, founder of the famed Loretta’s Authentic Pralines, died of cancer at age 66. 

Dubbed “The Praline Queen,” Harrison got her start in her mother’s kitchen in St. Bernard Parish. She made pralines throughout her life using a recipe passed down to her from her great-grandmother. 

Making and selling pralines started as a side job. Harrison earned a degree in political science from Southern University and sold her pralines to the students at the LSU Medical Library.

From there, she sold her pralines at Wise Cafeteria to much popularity and her business expanded in 1978 when she began selling her treats at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. What started as a means to save money for law school became a full-time business. 

Harrison opened her first brick-and-mortar location at Jax Brewery in 1984 and later set up shop at the French Market, making her the first African-American person to own a praline shop in New Orleans. She opened a second Loretta’s Authentic Pralines store in the Marigny on North Rampart. 

Throughout the years, Loretta’s became a place where people could stop in and not only grab a sweet treat but other food such as hot plates, poboys, burgers, and gumbo. Other sweet goodies include apple turnovers, cinnamon rolls, muffins, and king cake.

By far, Harrison’s most significant success came from her time at Jazz Fest, where she would happily greet festival-goers with a smile. During the festival, Harrison was said to have sold nearly 10,000 pralines a day,

More than just a praline maker, Harrison was a mentor who taught generations of employees the secret to making the perfect praline. During the 2018 Jazz Fest, she was a featured chef at the Cultural Exchange Pavilion, where she taught aspiring cooks how to make Calas, a fritter made with rice, eggs, milk, and sugar.

A devout Christian, the statement from Harrison’s family, included the following, “Ms. Loretta was a faithful steward of God with the belief that if you “put God first, He will grant the wishes of your heart.” She shared her unwavering love and dedication for God and the city of New Orleans with everyone she encountered.”

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