Turtle Thumbprint Cookies
Filed Under: Chocolate | Christmas | Cookies | Dessert

Turtle Thumbprint Cookies

December 12th, 2022
5 from 14 votes
5 from 14 votes

This Turtle Thumbprint Cookie recipe features a cocoa cookie rolled in pecans, filled with a salted caramel thumbprint, and drizzled with chocolate. The perfect Christmas cookie recipe!

Yield: 24 cookies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: There’s a reason that turtle treats are so popular! The combination of pecans, caramel, and chocolate is heavenly.
Texture: The cookie is rich and soft, the pecans are crunchy, and the caramel is thick and gooey.
Ease: Definitely not as quick and simple as regular drop cookies, but these are well worth the extra effort!
Pros: Delicious and fun cookies.
Cons: A little messy and requires hands-on time.
Would I make this again? Yes, definitely!

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If you love the turtle flavor combination of chocolate, pecans, and caramel, this Turtle Thumbprint Cookies recipe was made for YOU!

straight-on top view of many Turtle Thumbprint Cookies on a parchment paper-lined baking tray, all drizzled with chocolate.

I’m so excited that the Christmas cookie baking season is in full swing.

There’s nothing I love more than baking cookies while listening to Christmas music!

side view of many Turtle Thumbprint Cookies on a parchment paper-lined baking tray, all drizzled with chocolate.

These cookies are the ultimate turtle treat and are crunchy, gooey, and rich without being cloyingly sweet.

Perfect for your Christmas parties and potlucks, and so cute and unusual for your Christmas cookie platters, these Turtle Thumbprint Cookies are a total crowd-pleaser. 

two Turtle Thumbprint cookies on a plate, with one broken in half, showing a gooey caramel pull between the two halves.

How to Make Turtle Thumbprint Cookies

What Type of Cocoa Powder is Best For Turtle Thumbprint Cookies?

Flaky Salt on Your Caramel

If you’re into the salty-sweet flavor combination, then sprinkle cookies with a little flaky sea salt right after filling with caramel. I love the way the salt elevates the turtle flavors, and it also helps cut the sweetness of the caramel! You can usually find Fleur de Sel at your grocery store, or you can grab it on Amazon here. If you don’t prefer the salty-sweet combo, feel free to skip this step.

What Baking Sheet is Best for Turtle Thumbprint Cookies?

A light-colored aluminum half-sheet pan is my favorite for baking cookies. Avoid dark nonstick pans altogether, they brown too much and may burn the bottoms of your cookies. This is particularly important for dark-colored cookies like these Turtle Thumbprint Cookies, as it can be harder to tell visually when these are done baking. 

Check out my Baking Pans 101 post for all the surprising details. Or, just click here to score my favorite baking pans for cookies (and everything else!)

Can I Make This Turtle Thumbprint Cookie Recipe With a Hand Mixer?

Yes! A hand mixer will work just as well as a stand mixer.

Can I Double This Recipe?

Sure! Double every ingredient to make about 48 cookies. 

How to Store Turtle Thumbprint Cookies

Store Turtle Thumbprint Cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Store cookies with a tortilla, apple wedge, or piece of bread to keep them soft a little longer.

a few plates with cookies on each, with a napkin beside, and a cup of coffee.

More Christmas Recipes:

Be sure to check out my Christmas Headquarters page for more holiday baking recipes!

5 from 14 votes

How to make
Turtle Thumbprint Cookies

Yield: 24 cookies
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Chill Time 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours
This Turtle Thumbprint Cookie recipe features a cocoa cookie rolled in pecans, filled with a salted caramel thumbprint, and drizzled with chocolate. The perfect Christmas cookie recipe!


For the Cookies:

  • 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (133 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (127 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (113 grams) pecans, finely chopped

For the Caramel Thumbprint:

  • 16 unwrapped caramel squares
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • Fleur de sel, or other flaked sea salt, for sprinkling, optional

For the Chocolate Drizzle:

  • 1/2 cup (85 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil or shortening


For the cookies:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until well combined and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract. Reserve the egg white in a separate container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake.

  3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix just until combined. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight, or until the dough is chilled and firm.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  5. Lightly beat the reserved egg white. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball in the egg white, then roll in the pecans, pressing lightly to coat well. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly press down the center of each ball with your thumb.

  6. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or until set. Set the baking sheet on a cooling rack and let cool until just warm. While the cookies are still warm, press down the center of each cookie again with your thumb or the opposite end of a wooden spoon.

For the caramel:

  1. While the cookies are baking, combine the caramel squares and cream in a small saucepan set over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth.
  2. Spoon about a 1/2 teaspoon of caramel into each thumbprint. Sprinkle the caramel with Fleur de sel to taste. Let cool completely.

For the chocolate drizzle:

  1. In a small heat-safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips and oil in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Remove the chocolate to a small zip-top baggie and cut a small hole in one corner. Pipe the chocolate over the cookies. Let the chocolate set before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from Favorite Brand Names: Gifts from the Christmas Kitchen via Dawn's Recipes
Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American
Keyword : christmas, christmas cookies, christmas party, holiday baking, pecan, salted caramel, turtle

This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated with new photos, weight measurements, and other recipe improvements. Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Elle M. — August 7, 2023 at 12:55 pm

    I used Werthers original chewy caramels and they worked beautifully!

  2. #
    Elle M. — August 6, 2023 at 9:49 am

    This recipe is spot-on perfect! I made these cookies for my friend’s daughter’s wedding and they were a big hit!
    Can’t wait to make them again for Christmas.

  3. #
    Terri — January 9, 2023 at 7:31 pm

    Amazing cookies! Delicious flavor. Will make them again.

  4. #
    Karla — December 8, 2022 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you very much for sharing your delicious (and perfect) recipes.

  5. #
    Ana Lucina — December 7, 2022 at 7:37 am

    Tus recetas son excelentes, gracias por todo lo que compartes.

  6. #
    Anita — January 4, 2022 at 6:46 pm

    Heavy cream vs. whipping cream?

    • #
      Emily — January 6, 2022 at 10:45 am

      Hi Anita! The main difference between heavy cream vs whipping cream is that heavy cream is going to be heavier, it’s going to have slightly more fat content than whipping cream. This means that whipping cream will whip up really nice and airy but it isn’t as sturdy. Heavy cream has no less than 36% fat content, whereas whipping cream is 35% or less. If you can’t find whipping cream, heavy cream will work just fine in this recipe 🙂 I hope that helps!

  7. #
    Debbie — December 17, 2021 at 6:52 pm

    This is a Fabulous recipe- I have to make several batches as they go quickly when people know I make them. It’s definitely a family favorite for Christmas and actually anytime. Mine aren’t as pretty but they are Delicious ♥️

    • #
      Emily — December 20, 2021 at 2:01 pm

      So happy to hear they’re a family favorite!

  8. #
    preethi — December 14, 2021 at 12:55 am

    can u use caramel sauce directly

    • #
      Emily — December 14, 2021 at 9:52 am

      Hi Preethi! Caramel sauce might be a little too liquidy for this recipe! You want a caramel that will firm up a bit in the cookies as it cools.

  9. #
    Sarah M — December 10, 2021 at 5:57 am

    Can I freeze these if made ahead of time?

    • #
      Emily — December 10, 2021 at 11:36 am

      Hi Sarah! Due to the caramel, we’ve found the best way to freeze these ahead of time is by freezing the cookie dough balls prior to baking/adding caramel. The dough balls are good in the freezer in an air-tight container for up to 6 weeks. Place the reserved egg white in a small freezer container and freeze as well 🙂 On the day you’re ready to bake, take the dough and egg white out 2 hours ahead of time to defrost at room temperature, line baking sheets with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper, and follow the remaining instructions to dip each ball in egg white, roll in pecans, then pressing the center of each ball down with your thumb. Follow the instruction to bake, make and place the caramel/chocolate drizzle, and you’ll be good to go 🙂 I hope that helps!

      • #
        STEPHANIE A SAIA — December 11, 2021 at 11:26 am

        Could the dough just be refrigerated for several days before baking (instead of freezing)?

        • #
          Emily — December 13, 2021 at 3:04 pm

          You can, but we don’t recommend refrigerating for more than 72 hours as the dough will dry out. Check out more details in this article here: https://handletheheat.com/the-1-reason-why-you-should-chill-your-cookie-dough/

          • #
            Stephanie — December 14, 2021 at 6:40 am

            Thank you! Any advice on shipping these cookies?

          • #
            Emily — December 14, 2021 at 9:55 am

            Unfortunately, I can’t help you there! Neither Tessa or I have experience shipping these cookies! Please let us know what you find if you give that a try 🙂

  10. #
    Esther Chow — July 28, 2021 at 11:36 pm

    These were delicious! I love that they were not too sweet. I had some caramel left over and tried to make an ice cream sundae with it but the caramel becomes very firm when it’s cold. It’s not like caramel sauce at all. Next time I would use 10-12 caramels with 1 tbsp of heavy cream when I make these cookies again.

    • #
      Emily — July 29, 2021 at 10:21 am

      Glad you enjoyed these cookies, Esther! If you’re looking for a caramel sauce recipe, we’ve actually got a great one that would be a delicious topping for your sundae, click here for the link 🙂

  11. #
    Sai — January 3, 2021 at 5:44 pm

    Can I use Werthers orginal chewy caramels?

  12. #
    Sarah — December 26, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    Rich and delicious!

  13. #
    Patty — December 18, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    Made these today to add to my Christmas cookie trays this year. They look just like the picture and taste as good as they look. Great recipe.

  14. #
    Christina — December 14, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    These cookies are delicious! I added these to my Christmas baking this year. Will definitely be making these again. I won’t be doing big batches next time as they are a bit time consuming for me.
    Thank you Tessa for another great recipe with easy to follow directions.

    • #
      Tessa — December 15, 2020 at 10:31 am

      So glad you enjoyed these cookies!

  15. #
    Tina Harper — December 13, 2020 at 8:40 am

    I made these last year. They were so delicious!!!

    • #
      Tessa — December 14, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      So happy to hear that, Tina!

  16. #
    sam — December 11, 2020 at 8:35 am

    I followed all the instructions for your free Christmas Cookie Download and when I didnt click to preorder your book I did NOT get the download.

    I accept that you are promoting your book BUT I RESENT the falseness

    • #
      Tessa — December 11, 2020 at 12:22 pm

      Please email [email protected] if you are having trouble getting your ebook!

  17. #
    Carmen — December 2, 2020 at 7:20 am

    Does the caramel stay soft or get hard and chewy?

    • #
      Tessa — December 2, 2020 at 4:55 pm

      The caramel thickens slightly but it’s still gooey and delicious!

  18. #
    Cassey — December 2, 2020 at 5:59 am

    I have made so many of your recipes and absolutely love them!!
    For this one, can we make our own caramel or is it better to use the squares?
    Thanks so much ☺

  19. #
    Kathy — December 1, 2020 at 6:56 am

    Can these be frozen?

    • #
      Tessa — December 1, 2020 at 3:56 pm


  20. #
    Dawne Craigie — April 15, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    Made these at Christmas, they were the first to go! Will make double next year.

  21. #
    Marne Conradie — January 28, 2020 at 1:11 am

    Absolutely tasty. And yes, you were right it’s quite messy but it’s worth it.

  22. #
    Maria — November 24, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    Can I freeze these if made ahead

  23. #
    Jennifer Montgomery — January 7, 2019 at 8:11 am

    I tried it was amazing but I didnt use eggs so was a little hard , I guess. Is there any other alternative if we dont want to use eggs

  24. #
    TFI — December 23, 2018 at 11:50 pm

    looks and sounds delicious !!!!!!

  25. #
    Lee — December 23, 2018 at 9:08 am

    Wowwie! These look AMAZE.

  26. #
    Tina Harper — December 19, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    This recipe is AMAZING!!!! Turtle Thumbprint cookies is now my favorite Christmas cookie recipe.

  27. #
    thefolia — December 14, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    Thank you for sharing…these look amazing. I can’t wait to get started! Happy feasting!

  28. #
    Cindy Walker — December 14, 2018 at 9:28 am

    I’m absolutely going to make these this year, they look delicious, and so interesting! Just wanted to share a tip I learned with a different recipe that uses those little wrapped caramels – they are much easier to peel if you toss them in the freezer for a bit first. Not as sticky 🙂

  29. #
    Bev — November 16, 2017 at 10:47 am

    For the caramel, can you use whole milk instead of whipping cream.

  30. #
    Rosie Diehl — June 3, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Can u make Carmel sauce instead of Carmel squares?
    Will it work as well?

  31. #
    Helen — December 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    I looovvve Turtles! Surely going to try these – don’t know if I can squeeze it in for Christmas – so much baking, crocheting, so little time. Going to try for sure though, some time soon. Tk u for sharing yr recipe. Can’t wait!

  32. #
    Kristy @ Chocolate Slopes — November 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I’ll be adding these to my Christmas baking list this yea. Especially since turtles are my husband’s favorite!

  33. #
    Mimosa — August 3, 2014 at 3:57 am

    I made these today, my parents and sister where surprised that these cookies didnt actually contain a turtle nor that they did not resemble a turtle. The cookie part is nice and dense like a rich chocolate brownie, taking the left overs to school tomorrow for my friends!

    • #
      Tessa — August 3, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Haha! I think I’d be more surprised if the cookies DID contain turtle! Glad you enjoyed, hope your friends do too 🙂

  34. #
    martha — February 12, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    pretzels Rollo’s and pecans are easier and quicker recipe is on the back of the Rollo’s

    • #
      Dee — December 13, 2019 at 8:35 pm

      I get that some folks prefer something quick and easy, but there are also those out there very willing to invest the time and attention to make things from scratch…omitting things they prefer not to be included in their foods as well as to make a spectacular cookie, cake, pie, dessert, or meal. I know this to be true, as I am one of those people. Please, keep the yummy delicious and beautiful recipes coming. There are people out there that want quick and there are people out there that wish to create it themselves.

      • #
        MerryChristmas Claus — December 11, 2020 at 12:56 am

        So true, Dee. Like you, I try to do as much scratch cooking as I can, when I can. Tessa, you keep doing what you are doing. It works because there lots of us who follow your recipes and love them.

        • #
          Tessa — December 11, 2020 at 12:19 pm

          Thank you so much for the kind words!

  35. #
    Sarah — December 29, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I just made these and they are to die for. I now have a new favorite cookie recipe!

  36. #
    Kristin — December 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    What kind of cocoa powder did you use? I have Hershey’s special dark, but will that be too bitter? Should I buy regular?

  37. #
    Lindsey — December 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    This recipe looks AMAZING and I cannot wait to make them! My only question is, could I use salted butter instead of unsalted?
    Thank you!

    • #
      Tessa — December 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm

      Sure, just omit the salt in the cookie part of the recipe.

  38. #
    Sandy — December 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    These were called Choco-Caramel Delights in a Hershey’s cookbook a loonnnnng time ago. I have been making them for years and everyone LOVES them.

    • #
      Dee — December 13, 2019 at 8:31 pm

      Hmm!?..I have most of the Hershey recipe books and I don’t see any recipe called Choco-Caramel Delights in them, or any that looks close to this pleaser. I enjoy trying several different recipes of a similar recipe to try and make specific recipes perfect for my family’s likes. This will be one I try this weekend for sure!

  39. #
    Laura — December 12, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Need to make these cookies yesterday!!

  40. #
    Gaby — December 3, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    I could eat at least 6 of these without blinking an eye. Delicious!

  41. #
    sally @ sallys baking addiction — December 2, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    I love everything about these adorable cookies Tessa! My mom loves chocolate turtles and she would be thrilled to have a cookie like this this Christmas. Sending her the recipe!

  42. #
    Diane @ Vintage Zest — December 2, 2013 at 10:48 am

    This looks wonderful! I have only made thumbprint cookies filled with jam/jelly, like the ones I just posted a week ago. I LOOOOVE salted caramel and the chocolate drizzle seems interesting with coconut oil. I have only used coconut oil in a few different recipes, so I’d love to try this!

    P.S. – Here is my thumbprint cookie recipe if you’re interested. 🙂

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