chocolate turtle cookies

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

I hope you’ve saved room for one last cookie recipe, because these were my favorites of the season! When Steph, the social media manager from America’s Test Kitchen, sent me a copy of America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies 2010 Special IssueΒ I had a hard time deciding which cookies to make. I asked Joseph if he could help me narrow down the options and when I opened the cover he saw these chocolate turtle cookies and said, “Those. Make those.” I told him he couldn’t take the easy way out; he had to look at all 64 recipes and tell me which one he wanted. But even after going through the entire special issue, he stuck with his original answer: the chocolate turtle cookies.

Indenting Chocolate Turtle Cookies

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

And frankly, it’s just further proof that I picked out the perfect guy because he was so right. These cookies are ridiculously good. How can you go wrong withΒ gooey caramel nestled in a delicate chocolate cookie coated in toasted pecans? The answer? You just can’t.

Filling Chocolate Turtle Cookies with caramel

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

I know, it’s a new year, and eating healthier is on nearly everyone’s list of resolutions. But if your new year’s resolutions included making good food, this is the recipe for you. BecauseΒ even if you’re trying to cut down on sweets, you want to make sure that the sweets you do eat are well worth it. And these cookies are definitely worth it.

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

2 1/2 dozen cookies


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped fine
  • 14 soft caramel candies
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream


  1. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.
  2. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk egg whites in bowl until frothy. Place pecans in another bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites, then roll in pecans. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using 1/2-teaspoon measure, make indentation in center of each ball. Bake until set, about 12 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.
  3. Microwave caramels and cream in bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Once cookies are removed from oven, gently re-press existing indentations. Fill each with 1/2 teaspoon caramel mixture. Cool 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Try not to devour them all at once.


107 Responses to “chocolate turtle cookies”

  • Jess Wakasugi {Life's Simple Measures} Says:

    These cookies are adorable and I LOVE the pecan pieces on the outside. That creamy caramel doesn’t hurt either πŸ™‚ I pinned this recipe, can’t wait to make these!

  • Liz Says:

    Do you think these cookies would travel well (i.e. through the mail)? I have a friend’s birthday coming up and I wanted to send her some cookies. These look amazing, but maybe they would be too messy after they got all the way to her. What do you think?

    • Kristen Says:

      Well, it might be a little messy, but you could make it work if you really want to send these. I would put wax or parchment paper between each layer and wrap them up so that they’re not going to shake around too much in the box. When she takes off the paper between the layers there will be some caramel stuck to it, but other than that, it should be fine.

  • Rachel Says:

    Oh I want these! They turned out perfect.

  • Candace Says:

    these look wonderful. i can’t wait to make them. by the way, i have found myself baking more and more cookies with my OXO spatula i won on your blog. it really is the best cookie spatula i have ever come across. thanks again πŸ™‚

    • Kristen Says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the spatula! I can tell you for a fact that the OXO spatula works really well on these cookies, but you may want to check it out for yourself πŸ™‚

  • Barbara @ Barbara Bakes Says:

    Saw this on Foodgawker and had to come checkout the recipe. They look amazing!

  • Katie {Epicurean Mom Blog} Says:

    OMG! These sound HEAVENLY! I found your blog through foodgawker! Love this cookie, I WILL be making this soon! πŸ™‚

  • Morgan Says:

    I bought that issue of cook’s illustrated for this recipe and made them over the holidays. Totally my new favorite cookie. Yours are lovely!

  • Andrea (questfordelish) Says:

    these look so yummy. I just love turtles so I think I will love these. thanks for sharing.

  • Megan Says:

    I seriously considered making these over the holidays, but I took on so many other baking projects. I definitely need to make them at some point. Yours look gorgeous.

    • Kristen Says:

      It is incredibly hard to narrow down the choices for the holidays. Fortunately these aren’t super Christmasy or anything, so they’re perfect for any time of year!

  • Mercedes Says:

    These look amazingly beautiful and decadent! The texture look just perfect too!

  • beti Says:

    the caramel on top is simply perfect, I’m afraid that these cookies will become my favorite ones

  • Jessica Says:

    I made these this weekend!! But I cannot tell you how much trouble I had trying to find plain caramels!! Philadelphia (or at least my neighborhood) seems entirely opposed to selling them. So I ended up having to buy caramels with cream centers, and then cutting the centers out (wasn’t hard to do). I’m not sure my caramel was quite as good as it would have been with plain caramels, but I assure you there were no complaints from the folks who ate the cookies!! Thanks for posting. I love the pecans on this cookie – they make all the difference.

  • Jenn L @ Peas and Crayons Says:

    ahhh could these be any cuter!!?!? They look awesome girl! and sound deeeellish! Just found your blog today!

  • archcook Says:


    Sooo delicious!! I’m on diet πŸ™

  • Anna Says:

    This look fantastic! However, I might have to go the completely lazy route and try them with Toffifee stuck in the center rather than dealing with caramel. I have no idea if you can get them in the US (we’re in Germany) but they seem perfect for these…

  • Nichole Says:

    Awesome recipe! Just tried them and they turned out perfectly! The chocolate cookie nice and fudgey, the pecans lightly toasted and the caramel deliciously smooth! Would definitely make them again and they’ll probably become a must have on my holiday baking list from now on!

    • Kristen Says:

      I’m so glad you liked them! They are absolutely going to be on my holiday baking list from now on, not to mention whenever I need a chocolate-caramel fix! They’re just too good!

  • Courtney Says:

    I plan on making these this week! They look so delicious!!! I was wondering if the caramel stays soft after cooling? I’ve made turtles before & the caramel got really hard after cooling for a while.

  • Karen Says:

    Kristen, thanks for the recipe, these were awesome! My grandmother loves turtle sundaes, turtle cake, etc. so I made these and sent them as a care package for her 97th birthday. She always jokes that she wishes her doctor would prescribe chocolate for her health – I figured at 97 she should eat as many of these as she wants πŸ™‚

  • claudia Says:

    These look heavinly! I was wondering, can they be made ahead and frozen? Or how long would they last in a container?

    • Kristen Says:

      They’ll last around a week in a sealed container. I haven’t tried freezing them, but they should keep for up to a month if you wrapped them well. Not a bad idea – that way you could always have some on hand!

  • Heather Hughes Says:

    I made these as part of a Mother’s Day gift. They turned out soooo good & yummy! Perfect! πŸ™‚

  • Erin Says:

    …they literally fell apart on the cooling rack. 12 minutes is nowhere near enough? I followed the recipe exactly. Heaps disappointing πŸ™

    • Kristen Says:

      Oh no! Maybe your oven runs a little cool? Or maybe the batter didn’t cool enough before you put it in the oven. It’s important to cool it thoroughly so that the butter doesn’t melt the second you put them in the oven.

  • Sharon Says:

    If I am not going to use the pecans (nut allergies) would I still dip the balls in the egg white?

  • Martha Says:

    Hi, I have a gas oven. Max temp is 230 degrees. will be I able to bake in lower temp. this cookies?

  • Martha Says:

    Thanx, my oven – Celsius. Will do them this weekend.

  • cindy Says:

    i want to make these tomorrow but i dont have pecans…do you think i could use crushed walnuts instead of the pecans?? they look so yummy πŸ™‚

  • Lynne Says:

    I love turtles and want to give this a try, but you don’t specify which rack to bake them on. You said to adjust the oven racks up and down from middle, but then you don’t specify which rack to use when it’s time to bake? That’ll make a huge difference. Which one should I use, middle top or middle bottom? thank you

    • Kristen Says:

      IF you’ve got two cookie sheets, you’ll want to put one in the upper-middle and one in the lower-middle position so that one is in the upper third of your oven and the other is about 2/3 of the way down. Then you’ll want to rotate the cookie sheets halfway through baking. If you only want to bake one sheet at a time, bake it on the middle rack in your oven.

  • Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground Says:

    Made. LOVED!!!!!! Posted about. Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful recipe … just may be my new favorite cookie. I added a chocolate drizzle on top … come check ’em out if you’d like.
    Tracey @ The Kitchen is My Playground

  • Melodie Says:

    How do you know when the cookies are done? Mine have been in over 12 minutes but they are super soft. How are they supposed to be?

  • Ashley Says:

    These came out great! I hope there are some left for my husband when he gets home from work tonight!

  • Angelia Says:

    can I use milk instead of heavy cream? and instead of putting the caramel on the top could i use rolos?

    • Kristen Says:

      If you want to use rolos, I would skip the heavy cream altogether. Instead, I would press the rolos into the cookie dough just before baking. If you decide to go the caramel route, I would not replace the heavy cream with milk because it will make the caramel too thin.

  • Sylvie Says:

    Hi, i made the cookies and froze them without the caramel, took them out a week later and put the caramel on frozen cookies… they are so good, i am going to server them tomorrow night with a maple syrup mousse verrines and apple cake… thank you so much for this recipe… Sylvie

  • daphnie Says:

    I made it and it was pure sin ! I used cashew nuts instead of pecan and added some grated cooking chocolate to the mixture as well. I used a caramel sauce ( home made by boiling a tin of condensed milk ) for the centre πŸ™‚

  • lacey Says:

    How do I not make them to come out flat even thow I used everything by order

    • Kristen Says:

      Maybe you didn’t chill the dough enough? Also make sure that your butter is not melted, just soft enough that it leaves an impression if you press with your fingers, but it should still provide some resistance.

  • Renee Says:

    These look really good. Can you freeze them? If so, for how long?

  • Ria Says:

    Will the caramel make the cookies stick together when I put them in a container?

  • Dawn Says:

    I am going to try these and give them as gifts. I have almost all the ingredients on hand but wondered if salted/unsalted butter mattered when making these cookies?

  • The Pastry Chef Says:

    Found this recipe and your blog via pinterest and I made these cookies for a dessert party last weekend – they were great! Might be my new holiday favorite. I just blogged about them – thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • Shannon Says:

    How many cookies does this recipe make? I have a cookie exchange on Saturday so I plan on making 7 dozen of these delicious little suckers tomorrow.

  • Shannon Says:

    Thank you! Of course I noticed that at the top right after I posted my comment. Silly me. Wish me luck! I hope mine turn out as beautiful as yours! Thank you for sharing the recipe, I’ll let you know if they win!

  • LoLo Says:

    Wow! I was looking for a turtle cookie recipe that contained caramel for my cookie exchange at work. I had found recipes, but not with caramel and then I googled and this came up… OMG! I am so glad I found this recipe, I made them and ate one and all I could keep saying was OMG! I’m sure they will be a hit, I will find out today! I will be making them again for my family for Christmas! Thank You!!!!

  • Kristen Says:

    I’ve never heard of turtle cookies but am trying these tonight for a party tomorrow!
    My husband could only find jersey caramels (is there a difference?!) hmmm, will post tomorrow if they work.

  • ashcat Says:

    Tried it and failed. not sure where i went worng… will give another go tomorrow πŸ™‚ thank you for sharing

  • Kristen Says:

    Jersey caramels work fine- yay!
    I had to cook them a few mins extra and used butter instead of shortening but they turned out really well! Also, I squished them back to the perfect shape when they came out the oven. Thanks!!

  • Nicole Says:

    Does anyone know if these freeze well?

  • Christine Says:

    I made these cookies, found the recipe off of Pinterest, and plan on making MANY batches for the holidays! They were perfect! I struggled with getting the caramel to harden up enough that they didn’t just ooze all over when I tried moving them, maybe less cream next time…. But, a new favorite! THANK YOU!!

  • Joanna Says:

    Did you use roasted nuts? I would like to but I don’t want them to have a burnt flavor when they finish cooking.

  • Amy P. Says:

    Just made these for the first time…and won the Christmas baking contest at the school where I work! Thanks for sharing a great recipe. They are not too hard to make, and really delicious.

  • Azhorsetrader62 Says:

    I made theses cookies today after finding them on Pinterest. My husband loves chocolate turtles so this was sure to be a winner. These are as amazing as they look. A couple of things I will do differently next year. The mixer makes the cookie mixture too soft. Next time I will either mix by hand or chill longer. Chilling and keeping the cookie dough relatively cold ensures they don’t melt in the oven. I also will make sure I chop the nuts more finely. I also will add less cream to the caramels or add more to the mixture so the caramel gets a little bit firmer like the chocolate candy turtles. Lastly my formed cookie balls were about 2″ this was was too big, not because I don’t love big cookies, but because they take forever to cook and the cookies are so rich they simply are too big to finish. Making the bigger cookie I ended up baking nearly 20 min. Thank you for this wonderful recipe it will be a family classic now for years to come.

  • Shelly Z Says:

    Just made these! Next time I’m using Trader Joe’s fleur de sel caramels! Yum!!

  • venessa Says:

    I’ll be trying these out tonight. I’ll be making them Mexican style though by using Dulce de Leche which is a type of caramel!! So excited to se how they come out. I have a squeze bottle for a mess free pour hahaha

  • Alexandra @ Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker Says:

    I can only imagine how good these cookies must taste, especially with that pool of caramel in the middle of them! I’m so glad there are others out there like me who still think cookie recipes are 100% acceptable after New Year’s (resolutions or not!). We can’t miss out on this kind of a deliciousnness!

  • ayen Says:

    Can i use homemade caramel? How can i make the caramel harden a little bit?

    Thank you in advance!!! These are the recipe ive been looking for!!! Thanks for sharong it!????

  • Allie Says:

    I made these for my grandfather and he LOVED them!!!!!

  • Lori Says:

    Another Winner! I just had to pre-test these as a contribution for a fund-raising bake sale this coming week. They are absolutely, hands down my favourite cookie. Surprisingly not sweet, just the right amount of caramel heaven with rich chocolate cookie goodness covered in pecans. I posted them on my blog. Thank you for sharing this cookie!

  • Carla Morin Says:

    Ok guys I made these a few months ago for a cookie exchange and OMG I had to make extras because we couldn’t keep our hands off them!

    Now I was thinking, what if I tried a chocolate shortbread cookie recipe with the nuts and caramel if it might work…any thaughts ladies?

  • Graziela Says:

    Danger! Danger! I would never stop eating these! These look amazing! Thank you for posting!

  • Sherry Says:

    Great recipe

  • Heather Says:

    I cheated when I made these and put a hershey’s caramel kiss on top (was trying to make too many things in a short amount of time) and it was great! I’m making them again this year because they were such a hit.

  • Nancy Harp Says:

    I made these tonight for our employee Christmas party tomorrow. They were a messy concoction but my son loved them. I also made some without the pecans and he said they were good too but better with the pecans. I wanted some without nuts for people with allergies. I had trouble melting the caramels in the microwave so I ended up getting out my melting pot.

  • Sweet Macaron Says:

    I made these a few days ago and they were delicious! My younger brother ate almost all of them alone. And he was like “they are sooo good!!”.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  • Jen Says:

    Did you use salted pecans or the baking pecans in the baking aisle?

  • Erin Says:

    Can you substitute gluten free chocolate cake mix for the flour, salt and cocoa powder?

    • Kristen Says:

      Hi Erin, I’m really not sure if it would work or not. I’m not familiar with gluten free cake mixes, but I imagine they have more in them than just the equivalent to flour, salt, and cocoa powder – there’s probably a leavening agent of some sort. I guess you could give it a try, but have a backup plan if it doesn’t work.

  • Kim Says:

    Hi so I just made these and they taste great but! When I was trying to roll the dough it was extremely sticky and very hard to roll into the egg and pecans. Any advice of what I maybe did wrong? I left the batter in the fridge for over 1:30…thanks!

  • Felicia Says:

    These look delicious! Do you have a recipe to make the caramel center without using store brought candy? Thanks!

    • Kristen Says:

      Hmm…. I’m not sure. Are you sure that you added all of the flour, or conversely, that you didn’t add too much of any of the wet ingredients? It’s normal to be a little sticky (especially when rolling), but it shouldn’t be so sticky that it’s difficult to roll in the pecans.

  • nick Says:

    do you know the macros per cookie? like calories/carbs/protein/fat?

  • Narda Says:

    Oh, so good. Just made these absolutely delectable cookies tonight. I substituted Dulce de Leche for the caramel, though. I can’t wait to see what the people at work think of them tomorrow. Thanks for sharing.

  • Ginger Says:

    I’m going to make these for the Super Bowl gather tomorrow!

  • Dee Says:

    Hi,i made this today and guess what? It was so yummy! But i have a question, am having difficulty to roll the dough as the dough was very sticky and also difficult to dip in egg whites and roll in pecans. Can you help me with this? Overall, my parents Loved them so much!

  • Mickey Says:

    Can I substitute carmel sauce or would it be too runny?

  • Kristen Says:

    I’m not sure as I haven’t tried it. Store bought caramel sauce might be a bit runny, but it’s worth trying. Another reader said that she made her own caramel sauce and that it worked out well. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

  • lekendra Says:

    Just made these cookies n they look n taste great. I need to work on making smaller cookie balls but still yum. Think I found my cookie to give as a gift for the holidays! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  • Val Says:

    Do you think these would be good if modified for a heart healthy version?

  • Emily Says:

    Dear i have questions.. I am these the other day they tasted so good … But expanded to much ? Why is that? And they would’t hold their shape well ?

    • Kristen Says:

      The cookies do expand a bit once baked. Just go back over the indentation in the cookies with your thumb or a teaspoon while they’re still hot out of the oven. If they spread out quite a bit, it may be that your dough warmed up too much before putting them in the oven. If you’re worried about this happening again, you could refrigerate the cookie sheets with the formed cookies before baking – that will help make sure that the butter in the dough hasn’t softened too much.

  • Teresa Says:

    So I’ve made these before but 2 years ago and can’t remember if I should be using unsweetened cocoa powder or dutch process- do you remember what the recipe works best with? I remember loving them and want to recreate success. Thanks!

  • Christine Says:

    Would it be ok to use Ghirardelli premium hot cocoa in place of cocoa powder? The ingredients are sweet ground chocolate & cocoa, natural & artificial flavor.

    Thanks! Can’t wait to get started on these!

  • Heather Says:

    My 12yr old daughter made these for a 4-H project and got special honors. Very delicious and easy to make. (Hint: you can dip your 1/2 tsp in powdered sugar so it don’t stick)

  • Wendi Says:

    Unsweetened cocoa right?

  • Amanda Says:

    I just made these and they are delicious! They’re not at all complicated, either, which I love. These will definitely become a yearly staple in our house.

  • George Says:

    Worst cookies ever! Sorry,way to much cocoa. I chef at one of the top yacht clubs in the north American continent and these cookies suck! Sorry but they do. Nice try don’t give up hope,better luck next time.

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