Salted Caramel Turtle Thumbprint Cookies


If you’re going to add caramel you may as well salt it, right? I still haven’t gotten my brother and sister to like salted caramel but one of these days I know it’s going to happen. They must have strange taste buds :). I’ve been posting cookies like crazy, but tis the season! Besides you can never have too many cookie recipes. And this one, you just can’t do without.

Salted Caramel Turtle Thumbprint Cookies | Cooking Classy

I love that these have all the flavors of chocolate turtles but they’re in chewy cookie form. These fancy and decadent cookies are sure to be a holiday pleaser with young and old alike. That little hint of salt and finishing drizzle of melted chocolate adds the perfect gourmet touch. Because of how decadent and delicious these cookies taste, people will think a lot more work went into them than actually did (the store bought caramel makes for a nice shortcut). Happy Holidays and Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Turtle Thumbprint Cookies | Cooking Classy


Salted Caramel Turtle Thumbprint Cookies | Cooking Classy


Salted Caramel Turtle Thumbprint Cookies

4 from 3 votes

Yield: 2 dozen

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter , softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 large egg , yolk and white separated
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 15 caramels (such as Kraft)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • Flaky or coarse sea salt
  • 3 oz chopped milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips , or chopped chocolate
  • 2 tsp shortening


  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt, set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high spread until slightly pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg yolk (set egg white aside in a bowl in refrigerator) and vanilla extract. Blend in buttermilk. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Shape dough into a ball and drop onto a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten dough into a 6-inch disk then wrap with plastic wrap and chill 45 minutes, until slightly firm (or up to 1 day. If chilling longer than a few hours, I'd recommend letting the dough rest a room temperature a bit so the dough isn't too firm and cracking when making indentations).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove egg white from refrigerator and whisk vigorously until frothy. Place finely chopped pecans in a bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls (18 grams each) then working with one at a time, drop into egg white and roll to evenly coat the lift and allow excess egg white to run off and immediately place in bowl with chopped pecans and roll to evenly coat (if necessary, you can gently press into the nuts to help them stick). Transfer to Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheets and make a deep indentation with thumb in the center of each dough ball. Bake in preheated oven until set, about 10 - 12 minutes. Remove from oven then using the bottom of a rounded teaspoon, gently press down on existing indentation (to create more space for caramel). Cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  3. For the topping:
  4. Place caramels and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Heat mixture in microwave on HIGH power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Spoon caramel into indentation in cookies and sprinkle tops with a small pinch of sea salt.
  5. Place chocolate and shortening into a separate microwave safe mixing bowl. Heat mixture on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Pour into a piping bag or ziplog bag and cut tip of corner. Drizzle over cookies. Allow to set then store in an airtight container.
  6. Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated

Salted Caramel Turtle Thumbprint Cookies | Cooking Classy

Salted Caramel Turtle Thumbprint Cookies | Cooking Classy


  • Rebecca @ Dorm Room Baker: Wow, your siblings do have weird tastebuds! How can anyone dislike salted caramel?! These cookies look absolutely delicious, and I love the chocolate drizzle on top :). December 14, 2013 at 1:10am Reply

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar: These are dreamy!! They’re so pretty! December 14, 2013 at 4:58am Reply

  • Elisa @ Insalata di Sillabe: Oh my…these are probably the cutest thumbprint cookies I’ve ever seen. Not to mention how decadent and super delicious they must taste! I’ll make them for sure :)

    xo, Elisa December 14, 2013 at 6:41am Reply

  • Diane: Beautiful! There are so many salts out there. I have Maldon, but I think those crystals are too big for your cookie. What brand do you like for these? December 14, 2013 at 9:26am Reply

    • Jaclyn: If your crystals are too large you can just place them in a ziploc bag and crush them with a meat mallet. I just used morton for these. December 14, 2013 at 12:25pm Reply

  • ATasteOfMadness: Wow, these cookies look super tasty. And gorgeous too! December 14, 2013 at 10:00am Reply

  • Liz @ Virtually Homemade: These are beautiful! Love the chocolate design on top. Pinned! December 14, 2013 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Elizabeth @ Confessions of a Baking Queen: I have made cookies just like this before but not with salted caramel and just last week I was day dreaming about making them with salted caramel! Love the chocolate drizzles you put on each cookies, so cute! December 14, 2013 at 8:33pm Reply

  • Leah: These look FANTASTIC! I love turtle candies and thumbprint cookies, so I know I would love these. By the way, I have been saving every post of yours in my feedly lately- each one has great pictures and looks delicious! I will be doing some baking from your blog over Christmas break. December 15, 2013 at 5:38pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I hope you love what you try from my blog Leah :)! Merry Christmas! December 26, 2013 at 10:40pm Reply

  • Kayle (The Cooking Actress): your siblings are cuhrrraaazy because salted caramel is THE BEST!! These thumbprints look evil and sinful in the most perfectly delectable way! December 15, 2013 at 5:42pm Reply

  • Julia@Vikalinka: These are just too PRETTY to eat!! I made a batch of thumbprints and filled them with dulce de leche and sea salt. I was really not convinced my kids would touch them but no reservation whatsoever! Double win because I think sea salt makes them look so Christmassy! December 16, 2013 at 4:15am Reply

  • Lisa: I made these cookies and not only do they look good but they are delicious! Actually made 26 cookies so I had a couple of tastes. Yum yum! December 17, 2013 at 5:36pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so happy to hear you liked these Lisa! Thanks for leaving a comment! December 18, 2013 at 9:46am Reply

  • Dark Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints with Almonds | Carmel Moments: […] Inspiration from: Classy Cooking […] December 18, 2013 at 9:54am Reply

  • Nikki: If you do not have a stand mixer will a hand mixer work. December 23, 2013 at 7:32pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I think so, I’d mix until the batter starts to sound heavy when adding in the dry ingredients then I’d mix by hand so you don’t burn up the motor on your hand mixer. December 26, 2013 at 10:23pm Reply

  • Sinea Pies: Wow, when you say “classy” you certainly mean it. These cookies are a work of art. I have been running a Cookies Cookies COOKIES! series on Ducks ‘n a Row. I am featuring a link to this post in the upcoming installment. I’ll let you know when it goes live! December 28, 2013 at 3:20pm Reply

  • Leeanne: Am I missing where the heavy cream comes into play? July 6, 2014 at 3:16pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: It’s listed under the directions for the topping, it’s the first step :). July 22, 2014 at 11:04pm Reply

  • salma: thank you so much for the recipe!
    I made this today and it tasted so good! =D
    unfortunately I only had butterscotch chips and no caramel, I’ll have to get some soon.

    I think it would taste good as well with some chopped pistachio, dark chocolate drizzle, and maybe some dates on top! excuse my arabic tastebuds! =D July 9, 2014 at 12:19pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad you liked them Salma! And yes I think those additions would taste good too :)! July 22, 2014 at 11:11pm Reply

  • Carol: Do you think the cookie would freeze well without the caramel center? This is definitely going on the list for this years Christmas cookie tray either way. August 24, 2014 at 9:29pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Yes I think that would work fine to freeze it. August 24, 2014 at 11:01pm Reply

  • Emily: Made these yesterday for a party. Huge hit. They were all gone. And really simple to make. Thanks! September 14, 2014 at 2:10pm Reply

  • Carolyn: These look it okay to double the recipe? I know some recipes dont turn out as well when you double them. I love your many recipes and so lovely. November 4, 2014 at 9:04am Reply

    • Jaclyn: I these should be just fine to double the recipe (it’s a fairly small batch to begin with). I’m so happy to hear you love my blog, thanks for letting me know Carolyn :)! November 4, 2014 at 10:34am Reply

  • mindy: Does the caramel harden enough that these cookies could be stacked? Or does it remain soft? I would like to send them out for Christmas gifts. November 6, 2014 at 9:31am Reply

    • Jaclyn: The caramel will remain soft but if you use only a tiny bit of cream it should harden back up. November 6, 2014 at 9:55pm Reply

  • Sierra: These cookies look beautiful and delicious, so I’m trying to make them for thanksgiving, but I seem to have hit a snag. I followed the instructions exactly, but the dough isn’t firm enough to be formed into a ball or flattened into a disk (I’m trying to get to the point where I can chill it for 45 mins in the fridge). Any suggestions? November 25, 2014 at 6:02pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: You stir in more flour or try freezing the dough. Hopefully that helps! November 26, 2014 at 9:57am Reply

  • Erin: Wow! I made 8 dozen of these for my cookie exchange party tonight. I’ve been in the kitchen for hours, but these turned out AMAZING!!! I can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction :) Thanks for the great recipe and instructions! I’ll definitely be making these again soon! December 5, 2014 at 12:38pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so glad you liked them Erin! And WOW 8 dozen cookies is a LOT! Kudos to you :)! December 8, 2014 at 10:16pm Reply

  • Francine: I just made these – easy to make and delicious!!! I think next time I will double the recipe cause I want more of them to share! December 12, 2014 at 2:19pm Reply

  • Krystin: Oh wow. I just made these tonight and they are AH.Mazing! I doubled the recipe easily for a cookie exchange. Thank you for the inspiration! December 13, 2014 at 9:13pm Reply

  • Danielle: Could 2% milk be substituted for the buttermilk? I just know I won’t use it again and it seems wasteful to buy it just for 2Tbsp. Can’t wait to make these for a holiday party this Friday!! December 17, 2014 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: What I would do is just add 1/4 tsp of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk (minus 1/4 tsp of the milk) to make your own and you should get the same result. December 17, 2014 at 5:48pm Reply

  • On the final Days of Christmas… | Menu-licious: […] year I made Salted Caramel Turtle Thumbprint Cookies from Cooking Classy. They were a little more labor intensive then I had planned, but I think they […] December 20, 2014 at 3:18pm Reply

  • Tanya: Recently found your blog and the few recipes Ive made have been awesome! Thank you for your hard work. :) If I substitute butter for shortening to melt the chocolate, do you think it’ll have a similar effect? I dont have shortening on hand but ‘ll be making them anyways and will maybe have to leave off the drizzle even though it makes them look so beautiful. December 20, 2014 at 4:50pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: You should be okay to leave the shortening out if you don’t have it, the chocolate might just be a little bit thicker. December 21, 2014 at 7:10pm Reply

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  • Lisa Chapman: These cookies look delicious and I plan on making them around the holidays but am wondering if anyone has tried putting a pecan half on top of the caramel for a different variation…with the pecan, they may also stack better when storing in a container. September 27, 2015 at 12:49pm Reply

  • Andrea: I made these cookies and they were delicious! Everyone loved them. My only problem was that the caramel got so hard you could break your teeth eating it. Do you have any suggestions to keep it from hardening so much? I used Kraft caramel candies.

    Thanks! October 9, 2015 at 3:33pm Reply

  • Betsyfartblossom: Making these today. The only problem I think I will have is with the caramels. I went to the bulk food store to get the nuts, raisins and caramels for all of the different cookies I’m going to make and there was a new product. It is caramel balls! They are about the size of 2 or 3 bb’s and are not wrapped so you don’t have to go through all of that unwrapping! Boy, was I excited. But, is 15 caramels about 1/2 cup? Going to be a hit and miss on this, but I love the caramels and the convenience. November 11, 2015 at 8:06am Reply

    • Jaclyn: Sorry I don’t know for sure what the conversion would be on that. It may list it on their website or on the package somewhere. November 12, 2015 at 5:09pm Reply

  • Lydia Ziegler: Hi There! So… We made these and they turned out TERRIBLE… What did we do wrong? We followed the recipe to a T. and the dough turned out looking like dirt… we thought maybe that was right but after baking it it was still awful… What’s up?? November 22, 2015 at 9:17pm Reply

  • Twila Douglas: How long can they be stored? Or can they be frozen?
    Thanks November 25, 2015 at 9:15am Reply

  • Bethany: I am currently attempting this recipe but for 8 dozen and the dough looks more like brownie batter not cookie dough. Starting to wonder if i will have to buy cookies and throw some flour on my face :( December 7, 2015 at 2:42pm Reply

  • Heather: Am I completely missing where the heavy cream comes in?? December 12, 2015 at 12:04pm Reply

  • Abbey: I noticed in the first paragraph it says to roll the dough into balls, place on plastic wrap, press into discs and then freeze/chill. But the second paragraph states to put the balls into the egg white and roll in the pecans. Is this a typo? Should my dough be in balls or discs when I drop in egg whites and pecans? December 14, 2015 at 5:16pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: The first paragraph is referring to shaping the whole batch of dough into a disk then the second paragraph you separate the disk and shape into balls. I like to shape into a disk when chilling because it chills faster and more evenly. December 14, 2015 at 9:19pm Reply

  • carol: Thanks so much for the recipe! My daughters and I won the best looking cookies at the cookie exchange! I have a friend that loves candy canes, so for a change we took out the nuts used white chocolate in the center and sprinkled crushed candy canes in it. It was REALLY good, but still couldn’t beat the originals! December 14, 2015 at 8:58pm Reply

  • kayla: Great Recipe-just made these and they tasted reeeeeally good. I put the pecans into a food processor to chop them which really helped. A good way to melt the chocolate is to put chocolate chips into a ziplock bag (without the cornstarch) and put water boiled from a kettle into a glass bowl & submerge the ziplock bag-then you can cut a hole in the corner of the bag to drizzle it on top. December 17, 2015 at 10:57pm Reply

  • Grace Rollins: Just made these adorable cookies and let’s just say they taste as great as they look! I will definitely make these again for the family! December 18, 2015 at 1:38pm Reply

  • Ellen: What am I missing? Tried to make these three times… 1st initial mix (before putting in fridge for 45 minutes) came out like ice cream… 2nd & 3rd mix came out so thin & sticky-couldn’t roll it into a ball to chill. Can’tfigure out what I’m doing wrong. Shouldn’t the recipe call for baking soda? December 20, 2015 at 4:52pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: It sounds like they need more flour, what method are you using to measure it? I always scoop from the container and level without mixing or whisking first and I don’t recommend spooning into a cup then leveling. And no this type of cookie doesn’t require baking soda/or powder, they’re almost like a softer version of a shortbread cookie. Sorry they haven’t been working out for you! December 20, 2015 at 8:15pm Reply

      • Ellen: Could “softening” (melting) the butter in the microwave account for this catastrophe? All else is good. I’ve baked many times before and never had an issue like this. December 21, 2015 at 6:39am Reply

        • Lin: Softening is different from melting. Butter should be room temp so you can mix it but not melted into liquid form. December 2, 2016 at 10:24am Reply

  • Nicole: What is the purpose of rolling the balls in the egg white? Is this necessary? Thanks! December 21, 2015 at 5:24pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Yes it makes the nuts stick. December 21, 2015 at 6:54pm Reply

  • martha Lundy: Hi Jaclyn~ Do you know if I can use Sanders Carmel Topping that’s in a jar instead of carmels? And would chopped walnuts be ok instead of pecans? Thanks~ December 22, 2015 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Lisa: I made these for a NYE party and they were great!

    I followed the directions exactly and had no problems with consistency. I did pulse the chopped pecans in my food processor a few times to make sure they’d stick. I also funneled my caramel and chocolate sauces into squeeze bottles to reduce mess/drips which worked really well.

    Thanks for the delicious and beautiful cookie recipe! January 2, 2016 at 12:05am Reply

  • Dori: Just a couple of comments on the above comments. I have had problems with some recipes if I soften the butter in the microwave. So caution is advised. I used milk in place of buttermilk because I have no need for more buttermilk. I despise the hard Kraft caramels. There are three options: make your own caramels and use some for this recipe, get caramels from a friend, or, I got mine at the cake/candy supply store which sells caramel by the pound. Next year I plan to make my own caramels. And I skip the salt because some of us don’t need more salt in our food. These were a big hit with friends and family. On my list for next year. February 16, 2016 at 5:28pm Reply

  • Dori: One more comment. While you are at the cake/candy supply store, buy some chocolate. Not the fine chocolate that you have to temper but a decent coating chocolate. It melts nicely in the microwave at 50% power, is great to work with, and firms up quickly. I haven’t used chocolate chips for decorating or coating in years. No more messing with shortening or paraffin wax. February 16, 2016 at 5:42pm Reply

  • Lindsay: Made a batch of these a few eels ago and they are fabulous!!! After reading a couple of mixed reviews I was a little nervous, but I bake A LOT and after looking at the recipe, saw nothing that looked like it would make these cookies turn out strange. And they were soooo good! The only change I made was homemade caramel. And now I am making them AGAIN.. only doubling the recipe this time! I love the cocoay-ness of the cookie and the texture is unexpected but wonderful! Not cakey.. not dense.. almost brownie like. Thanks for a great recipe! February 24, 2016 at 1:34pm Reply

  • Brittany: I made these for Thanksgiving and they were AMAZING! They were a hit and everyone loved them. I’m actually making another batch today. Great texture, great taste..thanks a billion for the recipe – definitely a keeper! October 11, 2016 at 12:55pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for the great review Brittany! October 18, 2016 at 11:15am Reply

  • Kristy: Do these freeze well? I want to make them ahead of time. October 20, 2016 at 10:53am Reply

  • Jan: Can you freeze them? October 20, 2016 at 11:04am Reply

  • Megan: I just made these and they were terrible. I was hoping they would be amazing. They were so chalky and tasted like flour and coco powder. I followed the recipe so I am not sure if this is how they are suppose to taste? December 11, 2016 at 9:50pm Reply

  • Jamie: Super yummy, made these for Christmas and at first I wasn’t sure I made the dough right because it was super sticky but once it set it was perfect, It is alot of steps and time but soo worth it December 13, 2016 at 3:52pm Reply

  • Jen: Not sure what happened but these did not keep their shape. I bake all the time and have never had this issue. I think 1 c of flour is too little? December 20, 2016 at 5:38pm Reply

  • Melissa: The ingredients call for heavy cream, but it isn’t mentioned in the directions. Do you add the heavy cream to the caramel when it is melting so it isn’t so think? We loved the recipe!!! February 5, 2017 at 7:59pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Sorry I just listed it as “cream” in the directions near the end. You add it to the bowl along with the caramel. February 6, 2017 at 11:30am Reply

      • Melissa: Fabulous!!! Thank you so much!!! February 6, 2017 at 12:32pm Reply

  • Lisa: Hello- does these cookies stay good if frozen?? December 6, 2017 at 9:01pm Reply

  • Sandy: I make these EVERY year for my cookie platters. They were originally called Choco-Caramel Delights in the Hershey’s Cookbook. I call them Turtle Thumbprints. Funny to see someone else actually making these as well. December 7, 2017 at 11:16am Reply

  • Lisa: Can you freeze these?? December 8, 2017 at 2:31pm Reply

  • Lisa: These looked lovely so I made some yesterday for a cookie exchange. They turned out great. I tripled the recipe since I needed 4 dozen for my exchange. I always plan for some bloopers and sample tasting. Don’t get fooled by the 25 minute prep time. It might apply for just making the dough and grinding the pecans. But you have to roll each cookie ball, dip and nut coat which I consider to be prep time too. Thumb print and the additional spoon press is also prep time for the cookie to receive its caramel. Notes: I used more nuts than indicated. I really coated my cookie balls. And you don’t need that much chocolate chips and shortening to decorate the tops. I threw away a bunch of chocolate I didn’t use. December 11, 2017 at 8:11pm Reply

  • Carol: Excellent cookie December 17, 2017 at 12:51pm Reply

  • Theresa: My family and I were not fans of these cookies. We followed the recipe exactly, apart from making the caramel ourselves. They didn’t hold their shape well while baking and came out very thin so that we could barely make an indent with the spoon after removing from oven. They tasted like plain cocoa powder, and for all the work that went into making these cookies, we were very disappointed. Although they are edible, we won’t be making again. December 22, 2017 at 10:46pm Reply

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