These homemade Chocolate Turtles are adorable bite-size treats made with pecans, homemade caramel, and melted chocolate – perfect as Christmas candies, party favors, party snacks, lunchbox treats, or whenever you feel nostalgic for a chocolate shop classic!
Homemade chocolate turtles are ideal for making ahead of time since they require chilling prior to serving but can also be made in large batches and stored in the freezer for up to 3 months if you’re planning for the holidays or any particular occasion. If you have leftover caramel sauce from making other treats like these Caramel Apples and Pumpkin Bread Pudding then you won’t even need to make the caramel from scratch in this chocolate turtles recipe!
While these Chocolate Turtles may be in the form of a small chocolate treat, the winning flavor combinations of the chocolate, caramel, and pecans make it incredibly easy to eat a whole bunch in one sitting with a total disregard for diet! If you love that irresistible combination of chocolate and caramel, don’t miss these Turtle Hand Pies, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Bombs, and Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars!
Why You’ll Love these Chocolate Turtles
- Homemade chocolate turtle candies are no-bake treats with the winning combination of crunchy pecans, salted caramel, and rich chocolate!
- Assembling these sweet treats is a breeze – you only need 5 minutes to prepare the ingredients and 30 minutes of stove time…the rest is the chilling time between the recipe steps.
- These chocolate turtles are loved by adults and kids alike – great for the holidays, parties, and gifts.
What Ingredients do I Need for Chocolate Turtles?
- Pecans – You’ll need about 1-2 cups of whole pecans, 4 whole pecans per chocolate turtle.
- Butter– I’ve used salted butter for making the salted caramel. If you only have unsalted butter, I recommend adding extra sea salt. The butter doesn’t have to be at room temperature since it is going to be melted anyway.
- Sugar – Use light brown sugar for the caramel sauce. It will provide the right depth of flavor and color to the caramel sauce.
- Corn syrup – Preferably light corn syrup.
- Sea salt
- Condensed milk – Sweetened. This helps to thicken the caramel sauce and adds extra sweetness.
- Vanilla extract – I always use a high-quality extract for sweet treats.
- Milk chocolate bar – Choose a chocolate bar that is good for melting. Chop it into small pieces for easy and fast melting. You could also use a semi-sweet chocolate bar.
- Shortening – This will help create a smooth, lump-free consistency in the melted chocolate. You could also use Canola, Vegetable, or coconut oil.
PRO TIP: Don’t rush making the caramel sauce for these chocolate turtles. It needs to be at the right temperature and consistency for it to set well and be spooned over the pecans without spilling off. It’s also why I always use a candy thermometer when making caramel sauce.
How to Make Chocolate Turtles
PREP: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and then mix in the sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt. Allow the mixture to boil, stirring regularly, and then add the condensed milk to the saucepan with a candy thermometer clipped to the slide. Continue to heat the mixture while stirring until the temperature reaches 245F. Remove the caramel from the stove and mix in the vanilla extract immediately.
ASSEMBLE: Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the caramel sauce over the pecans that have been grouped on a baking tray, lined with parchment paper (waxed paper, or silicon mat), and allow to chill. While the caramel sets, add the shortening to the bowl of chopped chocolate and melt in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave (in 30-second intervals) or in a double boiler, stirring regularly until smooth and silky. Spoon the melted chocolate over the set caramel and then chill for 5-10 minutes before serving or store in the refrigerator until ready to serve later.
- If you find that the caramel is spreading too much when spooned over the pecans then allow it to cool slightly before continuing. That’ll give your caramel a bit of time to thicken. I suggest testing out one or two turtles first with the caramel to assess its consistency.
- If you’ve already added the caramel to all your pecans and it has spread far, don’t worry – you can allow it to cool for a minute and then fold the caramel back on itself and on the pecans. The whole point is to have some of the pecans still sticking out to resemble the turtle but don’t get too hung up on perfecting it.
- While you don’t want your caramel too thin that it spreads too much, you also need to work fairly quickly with it since it will start to thicken. If you find that the caramel starts to thicken too much to work with then just reheat it a bit till it’s thinner.
- You’ll want to heat your caramel to the right temperature to ensure that you get a smooth, creamy caramel that’s chewable and also melts in your mouth. Using a candy thermometer will save you a ton of trouble and will help you not exceed the indicated temperature.
- Feel free to use any type of chocolate for this recipe, making sure to follow the same instructions above to coat the turtles. Chocolate chips work just as well!
- I made my own caramel from scratch but you could save some time by using store-bought caramels instead.
This sweet treat is named after the original caramel nut cluster candy developed by Johnson’s Candy Company in 1918. It was pointed out by one of the Company’s salesmen that the candy looked like a turtle and I can’t argue with that!
- Crushed pretzels can be placed between the caramel and chocolate coating for a delicious extra crunchy texture.
- Use a combination of milk (or dark) chocolate and white chocolate to create black and white turtle chocolates or drizzle white chocolate over the milk chocolate for a cute design.
- Dress up your turtle chocolates by adding some chopped nuts to the chocolate coating before it sets. Coconut flakes are also a great addition.
- Some recipes also include some espresso powder to the melted chocolate coating for a mocha version. If you do so, you may want to make a separate batch for young kids or those who don’t want the espresso flavor.
The first chocolate turtle date as far back as 1918 in specialty chocolate shops. Since then the recipe hasn’t changed much except for a few slight ingredient additions or adaptations, and for good reason…they’re simple to make yet incredibly delicious.
You can refrigerate these Homemade Turtle Chocolates in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze them for up to 3 months.
If you opt to freeze them, I suggest that you first freeze them on the lined baking sheet and then transfer them to a Ziploc bag or an airtight container. That way, you can stack them without them potentially sticking to each other.
- 1-2 cups whole pecans
- ¼ cup salted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- 7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4.4 oz. milk chocolate bar chopped into small pieces
- ½ teaspoon shortening
- Arrange pecans in clusters on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt. Continue heating, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.
- Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan and add sweetened condensed milk. Continue heating over medium, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 245°F on the candy thermometer (the hard ball stage).
- Immediately remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
- Spoon about 1 teaspoon of caramel over each pecan cluster. You may not use all of the caramel. As the caramel cools, it will become thicker.
- Heat chopped chocolate and ½ teaspoon of shortening in 30 second increments. Stir between heating until melted and smooth.
- Spoon melted chocolate over the cooled caramel/pecan clusters. Allow chocolate to set (about 5-10 minutes).
- Serve immediately or keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve!