These insanely delicious turtle cookies start with a chocolate batter and are loaded with caramel pieces, pecans, and chocolate chips.
Chocolate caramel cookies are soft & chewy plus look at those puddles of caramel! Ready to eat in 30 minutes, you don’t have to chill the cookie dough!
Why You’ll Love Turtle Cookies
- loaded with caramel pieces, pecans and chocolate chips
- easy and quick to make because you don’t refrigerate the dough before baking
- chewy on the inside
- a fantastic Christmas cookie
If you like cookies that are slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, these will hit the spot.
Plus the combination of chocolate, pecans and caramel is on point.
And the best part is that you can modify the amount of add-ins you want. Want more pecans? Add them! More chocolate? Oh yes! Bigger puddles of caramel? Do it.
I’m thinking these turtle cookies will look pretty good on a Christmas cookie platter!
What You’ll Need
- all purpose flour – flour is necessary to build structure in cookies
- cocoa powder: adds deep chocolate flavor
- baking soda – helps to leaven and lift the dough
- unsalted butter – adds flavor and and tender texture
- brown sugar – adds sweetness & flavor, keeps the cookies moist and adds chewiness
- granulated sugar – adds sweetness, flavor and encourages browning
- egg – binds the cookies together by providing structure
- vanilla extract – adds flavor
- caramel squares – cut into small pieces, I recommend Kraft caramel squares
- chopped pecans – or walnuts, your choice!
- semi-sweet chocolate chips – I used a mix of regular and mini size
How to Make Turtle Cookies
- Combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking together together. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar.
- Add in the egg and vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture and the mix-ins. Mix just until combined. The dough will be very thick!
- Use a cookie scoop to form dough balls, pressing addition add-ins to the outside of each cookie.
- Bake on a silicone lined baking sheet for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Cool for 10 minute before transferring to a cooling rack.
Baking Time Suggestions
For the turtle cookies in the photos, the dough balls were about 3 tbsp, so that’s a large cookie! I baked those for 12-14 minutes – just until the edge of the cookie would begin to look puffy. The result is a soft & chewy chocolate caramel pecan cookie!
If you make smaller dough balls, you should reduce the baking time otherwise the cookies will be over done.
- 15 minutes to prep the dough
- 10-14 minutes to bake the cookies
- 10 minutes to cool
How to Freeze Turtle Cookie Dough
Portion the dough into cookie dough balls. Press extra caramel pieces, pecans and chocolate chips into the outside of the dough.
Place them on baking sheet lined with a silicone mat. You can place the dough balls close together since you won’t be baking them.
Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the cookies are frozen solid, about 1 hour.
Remove the baking sheet from the freezer and transfer the frozen cookie dough balls to a ziplock freezer bag. Label the bag with baking directions.
Freeze the cookie dough for up to 3 months.
To bake: remove the dough from the freezer. Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF. Bake for 14-17 minutes. Frozen cookies may need to bake for 1-2 minutes longer.
How to Make Gluten Free Turtle Cookies
I have made these cookies multiple times with King Arthur’s Gluten Free Measure for Measure Flour with great success.
Properly measure the all purpose flour using the spoon and sweep method.
Use room temperature butter for easier creaming of the butter and sugar.
I learned that I prefer using caramel squares for this recipe over caramel bits. Chop the caramel squares into smaller pieces. The caramel squares melt more naturally in the oven creating beautiful puddles of caramel throughout the cookie.
Use a cookie scoop to form uniform balls.
Press extra caramel pieces, pecans, and chocolate chips on the outside of the dough balls before baking for a loaded cookie presentation like the photos!
Want to make this cookie dough a day in advance? Follow the directions to make the dough, then wrap it well in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
More Turtle Inspired Desserts
- 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- ¼ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, 1/2 cup
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, regular or mini size
- ½ cup chopped caramel squares, use a knife to cut into small pieces
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- Cut the caramel squares into small pieces with a knife.
- Combine the chocolate chips, chopped pecans, and caramel pieces in a bowl, mix. Reserve 1/2 cup for the outside of the cookie dough balls.
- Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
- In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.
- In a mixing bowl cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until fluffy, 1 minute. Add in the egg and vanilla, beat again. Add the flour mixture and the add ins (minus the 1/2 cup you’re reserving) to the wet mixture, mix with a spatula (or on low with a mixer) just until everything is combined
- Use a cookie scoop to form dough balls. Press the 1/2 cup of add-ins on the outside of the dough balls. This is optional but I like the way the cookies look when you can see the chocolate chips, caramel puddles and pecans on top.
- Place the cookies 3 inches apart on a silicone lined baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for 10 minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
Hi, I was just reading your turtle cookie recipe & your caramel apple snickerdooles, I live in Canada & we don’t have Kraft caramel bits or any other manufacturers! Is there something I could substitute??? Also what’s the trick to pinning a single recipe, when I click on pin at bottom by your name/pic it gives me your entire site??
Hi Kathy! You could use chopped up caramels in place of the caramel bits!
Kathy, I too live in Canada. (PEI) We can buy SKOR bits here. They work great!
My cookies didn’t flatten as the baked. What did I do wrong. I added the vanilla too late, because I didn’t see when you add it
Thank you! Not only is this recipe delicious and straightforward, you did not spend an eternity discussing an enormous amount of unnecessary information or postulating on how this could be the most superior recipe ever. You are direct, and your additional information is relative to any potential modifications that could be made. Thank you, from the deepest place of gratitude!
Mine didn’t flatten? Not sure what I did! ( or didn’t do)
Mine usually look puffy when I pull them out of the oven, but they flatten some as they cool.
Hello – was wondering if the Caramel in the cookie stays soft or if, when stored, becomes hard. Thanks.
In our opinion it stays soft enough to eat later!
Have you frozen the gluten free ones, either before or after baking?? I would like to make the cookie dough for my two granddaughters that can’t have gluten.
Hi Pat! I have frozen the gluten free ones after baking them, and they are awesome (frozen or thawed 🤩). I stash baked cookies in my freezer all the time!
Had to comment again as I was begged to make the gluten free ones again and take to my grandkids!! We loved them! I froze the balls of dough and then we could bake the amount we wanted and had delicious warm cookies!!
What is your reason for suggesting the candy over the bits?? You did not elaborate. Have you tried it with the bits??
I like that the caramel squares create more of a caramel puddle look as opposed to the caramel bits. Either would work great! The caramel bits don’t spread as much.
Do you use sweetened or unsweetened cocoa powder?
unsweetened cocoa powder – like hershey’s natural unsweetened cocoa powder!
I made these today and I am so happy! These cookies are flavor-packed, soft and chewy. I love them!! I will make a double batch next time, for sure!
Has anyone tried doubling or even tripling these? I’d love to make them for a cookie exchange but at 16-20 cookies a batch id be here forever making 12 dozen lol
I made a triple batch today and they turned out great! Chopping up the caramel squares was time consuming but it was well worth it!
I haven’t made these yet. It I always bake double or triple and it doesn’t take that much longer.
I made these with several changes because of my diet restrictions and I was prepared to have a different texture since I was changing the chemistry of baking by using different ingredients and I was ok with that . I used gluten free flour KA brand 1-1 ratio. I didn’t use caramel. I used one ripped mashed banana instead of 1/2 cup refined sugar. I used coconut sugar instead of brown sugar. I used 1/2 cup coconut oil instead of butter . The end result was unflattened Cookies that tasted amazing . Maybe more like brownies but they are so soft in the inside and a bit crunchy on the outside, perfect for desert with tea/coffee. I’ve kept them on the counter for 3 days now since it’s cool temperature here. They’ve kept well and the same texture . Thank you for sharing this recipe , will definitely make this again .
I made these the other day using Hershey’s special dark unsweetened cocoa powder and Nestle Caramel Truffles, because I couldn’t find caramels. I got 24 good sized cookies out of it. They are delicious! Crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside. The truffles still left a little gooey caramel showing, even though they were chocolate covered. I am going to try these with mini Peanut butter cups next time. Great recipe!
Omg the truffles will be amazing. Can’t wait to try with those.
Can you freeze this recipe to bake later?
Definitely! I listed instructions for freezing the cookie dough in the post!
Any substitutions if I don’t have a silicone mat?
How well do they stand up if you freeze them after baking?
GREAT! I always put baked cookies in the freezer! I like to wrap a few cookies as a time in plastic wrap and them place them inside a ziplock bag.
I made these. They taste great but look so awful! They spread on the parchment paper in odd directions. They look like a 2-year old made them. Won’t be making these again. :(
Mine spread way out too😥
Refrigerate your dough at least 30 minutes before using.
I just added another cookie to my list of Christmas cookies to make this year!! These look delicious !! ❤️💚
I have made the cookies twice. Once large size and once medium. Made 23 cookies that way. Everyone loved them!
I’m with Karen Vaughn. My cookies were flat. I used new soda too. Is it supposed to be powder instead? The idea is great, but not if you wind up with 5” frisbees.
Hi GM! It’s hard to know what you mean by flat – did they spread to be 5 inches? Did you use room temperature butter? How big were your dough balls?
My cookies turned out perfect and they were so delicious! I am baking more today. Thank you for sharing your recipe!
You can buy Kraft caramels at Dollarrama stores.
Can I make these without cocoa powder?
I would not recommend omitting the cocoa powder.
Do the caramels stay soft after being stored a day?
The caramel will harden as the cookies cool. The caramel becomes chewy, but our family loves these cookies regardless! I like to pop a cookie in the microwave for 5-7 seconds to warm it back up.
Wasn’t real pleased with the carmels on the top but, they were tasty cookies
I also made changes to the cookie. I felt the batter was too sweet when I made them and the baking time to long, so I made a few changes. I cut out half of the sugar and put in 1/2 cup coconut sugar and since the texture had changed, I added 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. I added more nuts and just under a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. I added the Carmel since I had about 1/2 a cup left. These cookies were fabulous. I loved the brownie texture. I baked them 12 minutes.
These cookies turned out great. Will count on this batter for many more varieties
I just made a double batch using caramel bits since I had a bag in the pantry. I made them a bit smaller and baked them for 11 minutes. It’s a good thing I made a double batch cause these are not going to last long. Everyone should make a double or triple batch. Soooooo goooooood!
Made these tonight, they turned out great, the dough was a little sticky so popped it in the fridge for about 30 minutes and it seem to help.My husband and kids loved them. I will definitely make these again
I made these cookies today with a few adjustment and they turned out great!
Thank you so much for this recipe!
Hi, would Skor bits work in place of the caramel?
Yes, you can replace the caramel with toffee bits if you’d like!
There are Kraft Caramel squares in Canada! I found some at Dollarama!! So random!
Chocolate , pecans & caramel…how can that NOT be a thing? These are wicked delicious. They will be gone in no time in this home and will also become a Christmas tradition in our home.
Oh my goodness! These are gooey and messy and delicious! I happened to have Hearshys “special dark” cocoa powder so I used that. I’ll make them a little smaller next time (and yes, there will be many next times for these!) and let them cool a little longer on the cookie sheet before moving to the cooling rack, but wouldn’t mess with the recipe one bit!
The caramel leaked out of mine – not sure what I did wrong? I was so looking forward to these, too! They look like melted chocolate cookies. I’m sure I will still eat them, but will not be posting pics! 🤣
We LOVED those! Mine didn’t look as pretty as yours but these are absolutely addictive
Can’t wait to try this recipe! Can it be shaped into one large cookie, or will it spread too much? How would I go about doing that?
Turtle cookies are amazing. So easy and always a BIG hit. I use Heath bar pieces and Kraft small round caramels that go perfecty.
I made these but the dough was so stiff. The cookies didn’t flatten. I was tempted to add a little milk but wasn’t sure the end results. What did I do wrong?
Hey Diania! The dough will be super thick, I just made these yesterday and my arms were getting a work out! Did you measure the flour and cocoa powder using the spoon and sweep method? Make any substitutions? Give me as much info as possible so I can help troubleshoot!
Any suggestions / changes on making as a sheet cookie? Or would that not work (I’m a newbie + lazy baker…)
Hi Carol! Without trying it myself as a sheet cookie, I’m hesitant to give instructions. We do have a recipe for chocolate chip cookie pie – https://thefirstyearblog.com/peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-cookie-pie/
The picture caught my eye, but after making them, they are my new favorite cookie! So yummy at any size.
Epic fail!! The gooey caramels oozed out all over, and made the cookies ooze and stick together. It is nearly impossible to put them on a cooling rack, and when you do get them on there, they stick to the spatula, stick to the pan, stick to EVERYTHING!! Sooo frustrating. Perhaps I will try this again, but, as a cookie bar? The upside is that they taste good, but it starts and ends there.
What kind of caramel did you use?
Just made these for a family gathering. They turned out great. I used the Kraft caramel bits. They were good, but I expect the cut up caramel squares would be even better. Just didn’t have time to do it this time. Thanks for the recipe. I will definitely use it again.
This recipe is delicious – followed it exactly and they came out perfect! Even at altitude. Love that’s no-chill dough. Will definitely make again!
These cookies are delicious! I added a 1/4 cup of coconut in addition to the pecans and caramel.
Wow !! These cookies are fabulous. Finished my first batch .. I baked some to do the taste test and froze the rest for a upcoming party. Crispy on the outside chewy on the inside.
Next time I will use the caramel squares instead of the bits. The author is correct in that the bits do not melt as well.
Also with batch two I will use a smaller scoop , otherwise the cookies are a two fisted adventure.
At any rate this is a keeper recipe .
I used Kraft Caramel Bits and they worked perfectly. These cookies are Amazing!!
I have werther’s caramel soft chews.
Could these work?
I believe so! I haven’t tried that kind myself. Report back if you use them!
I have used these and I still chop them up into small bits. Works just fine. Love this recipe, love these cookies!
I made these using Werthers soft caramels and man or man are they yummy! I baked one to try and then froze the dough balls for baking right before Christmas but can’t wait to eat another!
Do you mash the cookie after making a ball or scooping. ? I missed that part.
I’ve made cookies before that didn’t specify and ended up with a ball of a cookie.
Hi Jeannie! I roll the dough into a ball, press the extra add-ins into the ball and bake in ball shape. I don’t press the cookies down before baking.
Made these last night and they are amazing! I’m going to add marshmallows to see if I can get the rocky road ice cream feel. Thanks so much for the recipe!
I made these today and used Werther’s soft Carmel chews and they were delish! The only thing I would do next time is make smaller cookies. As well I cooked the first batch straight from the bowl for 13 minutes and the second batch with a chilled dough (15 minutes). I cooked the second batch for 14 minutes and really didn’t see a difference.
what is the secret to cutting up the caramel squares? mine jus
t keep sticking together and are making a mess
Wet scissors can help or just a sharp knife!
They are delicious. No notes! And to person who said that she wouldn’t make them again because they were ugly-huh????
Can you leave the cocoa out altogether, or would I need to add another 1/4 cup of flour by volume if I didn’t use the cocoa powder?
I haven’t tested this recipe without cocoa powder. If you’re wanting a chocolate chip cookie base (so no cocoa in the dough) use this recipe and then add the turtle toppings! https://thefirstyearblog.com/chocolate-chip-cookies/
Can’t wait to try these. I am not a baker but they look so amazing!! I love turtle anything!!
These cookies are delicious but what a nightmare to get off the cookie sheet. Most of them broke up. The cookie sheets are a complete mess and have to be washed between each batch because of all the hardened caramel on them. Not worth the trouble in my opinion, won’t make them again.
Did you line your baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat? That helps a ton!
The are freakin’ awesome!! The most requested cookie at Christmas. I always have to make a double batch. Every time I take them someplace everyone wants the recipe. I made 2 ingredient changes to the recipe. I used almond flavoring instead of vanilla and used Kraft Caramel bits rather than cutting up whole caramels……so much easier. I also used mini chips.
Hi Beth, I’ve made 3 batches of the cookies so far and they’ve turned out great every time! I decided that I prefer to keep the nuts on the inside and put bigger chunks of caramel on the outside! Thanks for sharing your amazing recipes!
Could I make them into thumbprint cookies? would I chill them and put thumbprint into them? They look delish!
Hi there – it says 1 stick unsalted butter, softened 1/2 cup
This doesn’t mean 1 stick plus a 1/2 cup but rather 1 stick which if softened would equate to 1/2 cup is that correct?
so 1 stick not 1 and a half correct?
Cant wait to make these
Correct! 1 stick is equal to 1/2 cup butter.
Hi !! Delicious cookies, I made them for your December Challenge!!
I made a lot for Christmas gifts!! They all love them !!
Thank you !!
These were super fun to make! They looked beautiful going into the oven and even more beautiful coming out!
These cookies have a nice flavour – I’m in Canada and bought caramels from bulk barn for those who are looking.
Like many others, my cookies did not flatten as they baked or cooled so I’m not sure what I did wrong? Too much baking soda perhaps?
These cookies are the right texture, amazing chocolatey and caramel flavor, decadent but not overboard…they are a new Christmas fave in my house! Something a little different but loved by all. Great recipe!
These cookies turned out perfectly! I made several batches and everyone that received them told me that they loved them! After the first couple of batches I toasted the pecans first and only put them in the dough as opposed to on the outside. I put less caramels inside the cookie put pressed a couple on top of the balls. 12 min at 350 was the perfect baking time in my oven.
I made these and they turned out great! Used Splenda and low sugar brown sugar and sugar free chocolate chips.
They were very puffy and next time I’m using more pecans. Delicious 😋
I would love to try these……I just want to make sure that I should be using 1 1/2 sticks of butter on this recipe. As it’s listed above it says 1 stick softened 1/2 cup. I just want to make sure that is 1 1/2 sticks of butter.
1 stick butter is equal to 1/2 cup.
Love this recipe! It is chewy, crunchy, caramely, chocolatey, fudgy & soft all at the same time! Definitely recommend 😊
I doubled the recipe and got 2.5 dozen cookies. I did use a cookie scoop with the first dozen and the cookies did not come out in uniform shape. The next batch I used the cookie scoop but rolled the cookie in my hands and they looked a lot nicer. I used kitchen shears to cut my caramel pieces to about the same size as the chocolate chips. The reserve mixture of pecans, chips and caramel I pressed into the cookies. My caramel ran over the cookies and almost burned. They are very good, very rich. I may experiment with chopped up Heath bars or butterscotch chips. Thank you for sharing this recipe.
Absolutely amazing! Everyone loves them, I’ve made these cookies so many times now. Super soft and chewy. You definitely can’t go wrong with these.