Inspired by the chocolate, caramel, and pecan candies, these Turtle Cookies combine some of my favorite ingredients for melt-in-your mouth cookies filled with gooey caramel and milk chocolate . Recipe includes a how-to video!
The Perfect Cookie (Anytime)
I’m not sure about you, but by the time November rolls around I’m already in full Christmas cookie swing.
I’ve been working on my Christmas cookies for months already (which you know if you’ve been following my Instagram stories) and while I’m going to try to wait until December for many of them, this Turtle cookie recipe just couldn’t wait. With its soft, nutty, caramel-y center, chocolate drizzle and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate base, these would also make a great addition to your Thanksgiving dessert table.
In fact, these are one of my new favorite cookies and you’ll see me making them year-round, even in the summer (there’s no wrong season for a cookie like this one).
What You Need
There are several different parts to making turtle cookies: The chocolate cookie bases, the caramel filling, and the topping.
For the cookie bases you need the following ingredients:
- Butter. I use unsalted butter, but if you only have salted on hand you can use that, just reduce the salt in the recipe to ¼ teaspoon.
- Sugar. I like to use a blend of regular granulated sugar and brown sugar (it’s what I use in the written recipe and in the video), but if I’m out I just use straight granulated sugar. I also forgot to include the brown sugar in this picture… whoops!
- Egg yolk. Just the yolk! Discard the white or save it to make meringues.
- Vanilla extract & Salt. For flavor.
- Flour. All-purpose flour, I don’t recommend (but haven’t tried) this recipe with any substitutes.
- Cocoa powder. I use unsweetened natural cocoa powder.
For the caramel you need just two ingredients:
- Caramel candies (yes, I recommend store-bought over homemade, more on that in my FAQ section!)
- Heavy cream. This is important to thin the caramel enough so that it’s the perfect consistency and pools perfectly in the cookies.
Finally, you need your toppings:
- Pecans. Chop them coarsely and sprinkle over the caramel while it’s still warm and particularly sticky. You can certainly substitute any other nut, but pecans are traditionally used in Turtle candies, so I wanted to use them in my Turtle cookies.
- Melted chocolate. A drizzle of melted milk chocolate is the perfect way to top off these cookies.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
Tips to Make the Perfect Thumbprint Cookie
I have a few tips so you get perfectly round thumbprints every time:
- Make sure you don’t over-measure your flour. Doing so will make a dough that’s too dry (and this is already a dry dough to begin with!) and prone to cracking. If you haven’t already read it, check out my guide on how to measure flour!
- Mix your dough until all of the flour is absorbed. Add the flour slowly and mix until combined after each addition so it has a chance to absorb the wet ingredients. Otherwise your dough will be too stiff.
- Don’t over-mix, either. Over-beating the dough will make the butter too warm, which can cause your dough to be sticky and tough to roll and can make your cookies spread in the oven.
- Roll the dough into a smooth ball between your palms and then immediately indent. If you wait, the surface of the dough begins to dry out and is prone to cracking when you press into it. If your dough still cracks, just re-roll and try again!
- If your measuring spoon is sticking to the dough when you’re imprinting it, dust the spoon with cocoa powder before making your impression.
With the exception of the last one, these tips apply to my classic thumbprint cookies as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can substitute my homemade caramel sauce, but keep in mind that it won’t set up as firmly, so the centers will remain very soft. You could also substitute a homemade caramel recipe, but this will be quite time consuming and caramel is so finicky to make I deemed it not worth the time… for this particular recipe.
I tested this recipe many times and many ways before coming to the conclusion that melted store-bought caramels were the best way to go, and that’s what I recommend here (somewhat surprisingly!).
Store these cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days. There is no need to refrigerate.
While I have only ever used natural cocoa powder with this recipe, I do not see any reason why Dutch-processed would be problematic to use. If you try it, please let me know how they taste!
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Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter softened
- ⅓ cup (67 g) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (67 g) light brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup (25 g) natural cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 30 soft caramels unwrapped
- 6 Tablespoons heavy cream
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans
- ¼ cup milk chocolate chips melted
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer (or you may use a stand mixer) to beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, ⅓ cup (67 g) granulated sugar, ⅓ cup (67 g) light brown sugar
- Add egg yolk and vanilla extract and stir well.1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 large egg yolk
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, ¼ cup (25 g) natural cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon salt
- With mixer on low-speed, gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture until completely combined. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. The dough will be crumbly at first but as you stir it will cling together. This is a dry, stiff dough by design.
- Once dough is clinging together, scoop and roll into 1 ½ Tablespoon-sized balls. Place on a wax-paper lined plate or baing sheet and use your thumb or the rounded end of a teaspoon to indent each cookie. Transfer cookies to freezer for 10-15 minutes to help keep them from spreading too much when they bake. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350F (175C).
- Once oven is preheated, place cookies on parchment paper lined baking sheet spacing at least 2” apart. Bake on 350F (175C) for 10-11 minutes. Immediately after removing from the oven, gently re-indent each cookie with the rounded back of a teaspoon (don’t use your thumb here, the cookies are hot!).
- Allow cookies to cool completely on baking sheet before filling. While they cool, prepare your caramel.
- Combine caramel and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until caramel is melted and mixture is smooth (alternatively you may do this in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave, heating in 30-second intervals until melted).30 soft caramels, 6 Tablespoons heavy cream
- Spoon melted caramel into cookie indents, filling to the brim but taking care to not overfill. Immediately after filling, sprinkle pecan pieces over the caramel. Repeat until all cookies are filled.¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans
- Drizzle cookies with melted chocolate. Allow caramel to cool and chocolate to harden before enjoying.¼ cup milk chocolate chips
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
I’ve made these cookies probably about 5 different times now and they’re always a crowd favorite and I love including them on cookie tray presentations to people because they add pizazz. I will say to those using this recipe, use Kraft ‘wrapped caramels’. That’s what I’ve always used and I was 10 short so I went to the gas station and bought generic wrapped ‘vanilla caramels’. They did NOT melt well with the ones I usually use, but I normally have a good bit of caramel sauce left over anyways so it wasn’t a huge deal.
Amazing! I just filled them with chocolate and they tasted a lot like brownies! Next time I’ll add the caramel as well! Thank you so much!
PS The first cookie recipe of you that I tried was the Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. Speechless! And I have tried a lot of similar recipes I never made again. Yes, I am very hard to please!
Looking forward to try all your cookie recipes! So nice to have met you!
(Editing my own comment, LOL)
Looking forward to trying all your cookie recipes and more!
Greetings from Greece!
I am so glad you have enjoyed everything so much! I’m honored that both of those cookies were huge successes! 🙂
Yum!!! I made these with your Carmel sauce and it turned out amazing!!! Definitely a keeper!
I always make caramel candies at Christmas time anyway so may try using that. Another thought, could you use Dulce de Leche in the center or is that too soft?
Hi Mickey! That should work just fine. 🙂
Are they suppose to be cooked completely inside or a moist still?
Hi Melissa! They should be cooked all the way through, but they should be soft and tender. 🙂
Hi. These look delicious! Do you have a weight for the caramels used? I have a larger piece of caramel that I would like to use in place of the individual candies. Thanks!
Also, can the dough be made ahead and frozen? Thanks!
You shouldn’t have any issues freezing the dough. I might recommend scooping the dough and indenting it so you can just fill and bake. 🙂
Hi Rachel! The 30 candies weigh 250g. 🙂
Hello Sam. I can’t wait to bake these yummy cookies. They will be a great addition to my cookie platter giveaways for Christmas. I appreciate all your tips and your videos. Everything I make turns out superb. I hope you and your family have a safe holiday and give little Luke a big hug 🥰
I hope you love these cookies as much as I do, Kathleen! Thank you so much or your kind words, I appreciate it! 🙂
These sound absolutely scrumptious!! Do you think I could use Caramel Bits instead of the soft caramels?
It won’t be long before your sweet Luke will be ‘helping’ you cook 😉
Have a lovely Thanksgiving
Oh yes, caramel bits would work just fine! And you’re so right, he already likes being in the kitchen (which makes me so happy!). You have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well! 🙂