What Are Caramel Turtles?

Angie Bates

Made with chocolate, caramel, and nuts, caramel turtles are candies which roughly resemble turtles. Easily found commercially, these turtles can also be homemade. Both salty and sweet, caramel turtles are often a favorite for sweet lovers and nut lovers alike.

A live turtle, after which caramel turtles are named.
A live turtle, after which caramel turtles are named.

Although nearly any type of nut can be included, pecans are the usual choice for caramel turtles. Chopped pecans can be used, but normally either whole or half nuts are chosen. Whatever type is selected, the nuts are often toasted before being included in the candy.

Caramel turtles are typically made with a base of chocolate.
Caramel turtles are typically made with a base of chocolate.

The caramel may either be homemade or store bought. Often, store bought soft caramel candies are melted for use, rather than a dessert syrup. Homemade caramel is made by first caramelizing sugar, then adding butter and cream to a desired consistency. Making homemade caramel is trickier and more time consuming than simply melting candies, but, when done correctly, may yield a more satisfying result.

Semi-sweet chocolate or a combination of semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate is normally the final ingredient in caramel turtles. The chocolate can be melted on the stove top or in a microwave. If melted on a stove, baking chocolate, rather than chocolate chips, is normally easier to work with since chips are designed to better hold their shape and, therefore, are harder to melt into a smooth mixture without scorching.

Caramel turtles can be made in several ways. First, the melted caramel can be poured onto a lined cookie sheet and allowed to cool enough to work with safely. Then, the nuts can be mixed into the caramel. The resulting mixture is shaped into balls and flattened. The caramel-nut mixture is then chilled to set. Afterward, each candy can be dipped into the melted chocolate.

Alternatively, the pecans can be placed in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and the caramel can be spooned on top of the nuts. Like the previous version, the candy is then chilled and dipped into the melted chocolate. In both versions, the nuts poke out around the edges of the roughly circular shape, creating the faint impression of the head and legs of a turtle.

To create a more recognizable turtle shape, the nuts can be arranged in groups of four to simulate turtle legs. The caramel is poured over the center of each nut cluster. Then, the caramel-nut candy is topped with the melted chocolate. In any version, the chocolate must set before the candies can be handled.

Microwaves are handy for melting chocolate.
Microwaves are handy for melting chocolate.

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Discussion Comments


@Rotergirl -- I've made the turtle caramels and the secret to making sure the caramel isn't too chewy is not to cook it too long. Or, use packaged caramels and melt them. That will work, too.

Caramel turtles shouldn't be too chewy, in my opinion. That makes them too much work to eat.

I also like putting a little salt in the caramel, or on top of the chocolate for the salted caramel taste. That's awesome. There's something about that sweet-salty taste that's irresistible. It’s worth the effort to get them right, believe me. They make great Christmas presents, too.


Caramel turtles are delicious. I prefer the kind that have the soft caramel, rather than the very chewy kind. They're easier to eat. Pecans just seem to have a better flavor that blends well with the chocolate and the caramel than almonds or peanuts.

I've never tried to make them myself, but I have had the homemade variety. I like them. I've seen recipes that use chocolate covered caramel candy as a base, and this is good if you want to guarantee how soft or chewy the caramel is. Using the candies is a good project for kids in the kitchen.

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