Turtle cookies are delicious chocolate cookies, rolled in pecans, filled with melted caramel and drizzled with melted chocolate.
 Many Turtle Thumbprint cookies on a baking sheet, each one has a caramel filling and chocolate drizzled on top.
Turtle cookies
I know I’m a nerd when it comes to anything food related, but I look forward to Christmas Cookie Exchanges as much as I look forward to Christmas morning!
My mom has attended one with her friends for years, and it’s a tradition I want to carry on each year with my friends! My mom would always come home with a huge tub of different cookies. She’d put them in the freezer so that we could take some out each night throughout the holidays and enjoy them for longer.
I usually make mint brownies for my cookie exchanges, but I’ve made these turtle cookies several times and they’re always a huge hit. They’re basically like a brownie bite with a caramel center, coated in pecans! YUM.
They look beautiful and impressive but they’re really easy to make!
How to make Turtle Cookies:
To make easy turtle cookies, start by make the cookie dough and letting it chill in the refrigerator. Chilling the dough is mandatory because it will yield a chewier cookie, and help the cookies hold together better as your roll them.
After chilling the dough, dip the cookie dough balls into whisked egg white, and then roll them in chopped pecans. 
Side by side photos of chocolate cookie dough rolled in crushed pecans, and then pressed down with a green measuring spoon.
 Use the back of a measuring spoon (I used a ½ tablespoon measurer) to press an indentation into each cookie dough ball.
Side by side photos of a chocolate thumbprint cookie empty, and then filled with melted caramel.
Bake the cookies. When they come out of the oven, re-press the indentation with the back of the measuring spoon, and fill it with melted caramel.
Side by side photos of a cookie sheet with turtle thumbprint cookies.
Allow the caramel to set, and then drizzle the cookies with melted chocolate. You could also skip the melted chocoalte and sprinkle them with sea salt.
Turtle Thumbprint Cookies | tastesbetterfromscratch.com

To make this recipe even easier, you could make the cookie dough one day in advance. Wrap it really well and refrigerate it.

Can I freeze turtle cookies?

You have two options for freezing these turtle cookies.  The first option is to make the cookie dough, freeze it, and use it to make the cookies.  The second option for freezing thumbprint cookies is to follow the recipe completely and make all cookies, allow them to cool completely, and then place them in a gallon freezer bag.  When you are ready to eat them, allow them to come to room temperature on your counter top.




Turtle Thumbprint cookies on a baking sheet. | tastesbetterfromscratch.com
Prep 1 hr 15 mins
Cook 10 mins
Total 1 hr 25 mins
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For the cookies:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter 1 stick
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg , separated
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans , finely chopped

For the Caramel:


  • Combine flour, cocoa and salt. In a separate bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolk, milk and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture, just until combined. Chill dough in the refrigerator for one hour.
  • Whisk egg whites in a bowl until frothy.  Place chopped pecans in another shallow bowl. Remove dough from fridge and roll into small balls (however many cookies you want--I made 20 small ones).
  • Roll each dough ball in the frothy egg whites, and then roll and press in the chopped pecans. Place on a greased baking sheet.  
  • Use the back of a small measuring spoon to make an indentation in the center of each dough ball.
  • Bake at 350 Degrees F for about 10-12 minutes, or just until set. Don't over-bake as cookies will harden as they cool. 
  • As the cookies come out of the oven, gently re-press the indentations with a small spoon.
  • In a microwavable bowl mix the caramel bits and water. Microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until caramel is melted (1-2 minutes). Pour small spoonfuls of caramel into the indented cookies.  *Optional: Drizzle with melted chocolate (or sprinkle with sea salt)!


Adapted from The Kitchen is My Playground


Calories: 140kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 1gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 79mgPotassium: 58mgFiber: 1gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 155IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 14mgIron: 0.6mg

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I originally shared this recipe December 2013. I updated in November 2017 with new photos and clearer instructions.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Made this for Christmas dinner with my u cle and everyone absolutely loved it! Very easy to make and super tasty!

  2. 5 stars
    Fun to make and so good! My neighbor said “don’t ever make these again!” “They’re way way too good!”

  3. 5 stars
    Get ready for a novel. These things are amazing! I followed instructions and took special note about Carmel getting too hard. I doubled this and I thought they were a chore to make! I really recommend 2 people. While one batch is coming out of the oven and getting the Carmel in the cookies and trying to get the next pan set, I was overwhelmed. Once chilled and balled I pressed the middle with the teaspoon, I ran the edge through the egg whites and then again through the pecans. As I made them I said “never again” but they are so darn good, I know I’ll make it again! Thanks for the great recipe. I did drizzle with chocolate and crushed sea salt.

  4. 5 stars
    I have made these several times with gluten free flour. They are easier than they seem and really good! They are like little gooey brownie bites. I am about tomake another batch tomorrow for quarantine comfort food. Thanks!

  5. I didn’t use exact Kraft carmel bits listed but Kraft caramel cubes and they hardened after I put in center. Like hard, couldn’t bite hard. What did I do wrong? I microwaved with tad water and stirred as directions stated.

    1. 4 stars
      I’ve been making a version of these for the last 20 years – I melt my caramel squares on the stove top 10 squares + 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream till melted over medium heat- stirring till melted and combined. Stays smooth melty creaminess – favorite cookie in my repertoire. I roll my in Hazelnuts – may try almons next time or coconut

    1. These are so tasty, great flavor!! However, my dough was really sticky when trying to roll balls and even though I tried to chill the dough in the fridge, they still flattened. The dough was so sticky I bypassed rolling them in the meringue. Is that what caused them to go flat??

  6. 5 stars
    Just made these for the first time and they’re a hit! Based on the size of cookie and depth of the caramel well, I needed more caramel and nuts than the recipe called for but obviously this will vary depending on technique and size.

  7. I made this recipe today and was very disappointed. No flavor, not sweet, very bland. Looks good but not worth the work.

  8. Made according to instructions. The Carmel is hard! I had them from a bakery and the Carmel was soft and creamy. This was little to no difference than the Kraft Carmel’s I in wrapped. One cup of chopped pecans wasn’t near enough. I used double that.

  9. Hi. These cookies look so good! My daughter & I don’t care too much for chocolate, so I was wondering if I could omit the cocoa powder to have a non chocolate version? If not, do you have any other suggestions for a non chocolate cookie base?

  10. 5 stars
    I added these to my christmas cookie list last year and they were amazing! They did take me a while to make but totally worth it. They will be in my cookie tins this year as well. Thanks!

  11. This is a old Betty Crocker Holliday cookbook that my grandmother had! I have been making these for 20 + years . Everybody who has had them, LOVES them!!?

    1. Any chocolate that melts well. If using chocolate chips, just make sure it’s a high quality brand that will melt 🙂

  12. The caramel hardened a lot. Is it ok to microwave them before serving to get it a bit softer? I put them in the freezer as suggested for 15 mins and now they are really hard.

    1. This sounds like the caramel was heated too much and that’s why it was so hard. I would not heat them in the microwave!

  13. 5 stars
    I made these as my first cookie recipe ever, and they turned out great!!! I suggest buying caramel from Chick-Fil-A to use on the cookies! They come with the catering food trays but you can buy some for only $2 and it makes the cookie heavenly!

  14. 5 stars
    My husband is all about his cookies and he said these are Thē BEST cookies he has ever had. I had to make extra so he could had everyone at work try them. Thanks for sharing!!!!!

    1. 5 stars
      My 9 yr old daughter found this recipe, originally to make for 4-H baking project. It’s now a family favorite and have been making this for 4 years now!

  15. Would it work to just sprinkle the caramel bits in the indentation before baking or do you have to melt the caramel and pour it in?

    1. Hi Emily, the caramel bits wont melt properly if you do it that way, sorry! It only takes a few minutes to melt them. Just add them to a bowl with a little splash of water, and microwave them on half power, stirring every 30 seconds.

  16. Hi there these cookies look amazing. Just had a quick question! What kind of butter do you use ? Unsalted or salted ? Also could I use margarine ?

  17. Does the caramel in these cookies harden/thicken enough after they’ve been set for a little while to stack them on top of each other in a container?

    1. H Rebecca, I would let them cool completely, then stack them with parchment paper between each layer so they don’t stick. Hope you enjoy them!

  18. These were fun to make, beautiful and DELICIOUS! Would love a printable version of this recipe so I can keep it in with my holiday recipes… any chance of that??

  19. I just tried this recipe and my cookies are really soft. Are they suppose to be like that. I feel like they are going to fall apart when anyone picks them up to eat.

  20. Hi There,

    I found that my caramel firmed up just a bit too much and difficult to chew or bite into.
    Is there any tips and tricks so get it a bit more softer?

    Thanks so much 🙂

    1. Hi Sabrina, it sounds like you cooked it too long. Rather than using a thermometer, the “firm ball” method is the best way to test it and make sure you don’t overcook it

  21. Turtle thumbprint cookies, I just baked, are fantastic thanks for sharing recipe. I put them in a cookie tin . How long will they last? Other than the loved ones eating them all up. Will they last a week?, should they be in fridge? Can they be frozen. Just its my first time baking ahead for Christmas , I’m making these for our cousin cookie exchange. Testing them out before hand and they are outstanding!
    Thanking you in advance.
    North of Toronto .

    1. Hi Sandy, I would stick them in the freezer on a baking sheet for about 20 minutes (called flash freezing them). Then put them in a container and put wax paper between each layer. Stick them back in the freezer until the day you want to serve them. On the day you want to serve them, take them out of the fridge, unstack them, and let them come to room temperature

  22. I also LOVE cookie exchanges! My friends and I started doing it a few years ago and now fight over how gets to host 🙂 And my husband LOVES turtle-anything so I may just have to make these along with other cookies to give away. Thanks for the idea!

  23. I have made these before and they taste great. However, I had a hard time storing them gifting them because you cannot stack them. The caramel sticks to even wax paper. Any ideas or solution to this? Thanks!

    1. Hi Natalie, Have you tried flash freezing them before storing them? Stick them in the freezer (uncovered) for 15-20 minutes. Then put wax paper in between the layers, cover them and freeze. That should work! To defrost them, take them out of the layers while they’re frozen, and then let them come to room temperature.

    1. You roll the cookie dough in egg whites, and then roll them in the crushed pecans. Then you bake them. Then you add the caramel sauce at the end, after the cookies are baked!

    1. The caramel firms up a little to make it soft enough to eat easily. It’s only liquid when you poor it into the cookie hole and then it firms up perfectly!

      1. Hi Lauren…I made these cookies over the weekend for friends. They completely enjoyed them. However, I do have a question. Do you any tips on how to stop the cookie from spreading so much? I had to reshape them when they came out of the oven and indent them, as suggested, a little before putting the caramel in. GREAT recipe! Thanks…Jada