Chocolate Turtles Recipe

There are some sweet treats that you're used to whipping up at home, and there are some confections that are more associated with a visit to your local chocolatier or candy store. Sure, you've made cookies, baked brownies from a box, or even frosted your own layer cake, but chocolate turtles? Maybe not so much. Melting your own chocolate and making caramel from scratch can certainly feel more advanced than simply dumping a mix into a bowl with some eggs and giving it a good stir.

However, as Kate Shungu's recipe proves, making your own chocolate-y, caramel-coated, nutty sweets is actually quite simple. Once you master how to make your own chocolate turtles — a classic treat that has been around since the early 1900s and may have been one of the first candies to incorporate pecans — you'll be sure to impress at your next dinner party, workplace function, or holiday gathering. After all, everyone appreciates a nice homemade dessert.

Gather the ingredients for chocolate turtles

Whipping up a chocolate dessert can be a more precise practice than say, using whatever's in the fridge to make an improvised weeknight pasta. That's why it's important to make sure you have your ingredients ready and measured out before you get started. You'll need pecan halves (they can be either roasted or unroasted, but make sure they're not salted), sugar, salt, heavy cream, a stick of unsalted butter, light corn syrup, chocolate chips, and some water.

"I used milk chocolate chips, but you can use semisweet or even bittersweet chocolate chips," Shungu says.

Prep the pecans and melt the butter

It's time to get started! Roll out some parchment paper and get your pecans ready by separating them into small clusters that are substantial enough to hold the toppings but small enough to easily eat — Shungu suggests using 4-5 pecan pieces per turtle. And of course, feel free to arrange them in a way that most resembles an actual turtle.

Once you've done that, melt the butter in the microwave. Shungu suggests doing so with a cover on top to prevent any unnecessary splatter. "It took one minute in my microwave to melt the butter," she adds, but timing will vary depending on your microwave.

Make the caramel

It's now time to create some caramel. Take your melted butter and whisk the heavy cream into it. Then, put the corn syrup and water in a pan and turn the stove to medium. Give the mixture a stir, and then slowly add the sugar to the pan. You want to make sure the sugar is fully combined with the liquid, so be sure to scrape the sides of the pan if you see sugar there. Once everything is nice and incorporated, keep it on the heat, using a candy thermometer to make sure it reaches 320 F. 

Once you hit that temperature, add the butter and cream in small amounts, mixing each time, until all of it is in the pan. Sprinkle in your salt, and keep it on the heat until the whole thing reaches 245 F. Then, take it off the heat and let it cool for a couple minutes.

"You really do need a candy thermometer for this recipe," Shungu advises. "If the caramel isn't warm enough, it'll be too soft to set. If it gets too hot, the caramel will be too hard. If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can also use a meat thermometer — just tilt the pan so you can get an accurate reading."

Assemble the chocolate turtles

Once your caramel has had a bit of time to cool, it's time to start forming your turtles. Begin the process by putting a dollop of caramel — about a tablespoon — over each pecan cluster. Let them sit at room temperature for about half an hour.

When the caramel adorning your turtles has set, it's time for the chocolate. Melt the chocolate chips by microwaving them for 20-30 seconds at a time, which Shungu says is to "avoid burning" it. Stir the chocolate to make sure it's uniformly melted, then add about 1-2 teaspoons to each turtle. Now, the real waiting game begins: you need to wait 2-3 hours for the treats to fully set.

Set and serve

Once you've patiently waited for your chocolate turtles to set, you're free to enjoy them in all of their chewy, crunchy, sugary glory. Just make sure to keep them out of the cold — "The caramel will become very chewy in the refrigerator, so I recommend keeping these at room temperature," Shungu notes.

"I like handing these out to guests as party favors after a dinner party or get-together," Shungu says. "They would also be a nice addition to a dessert platter or dessert buffet." But of course, if you decide to eat them all yourself, we'll never judge.

Chocolate Turtles Recipe
5 from 35 ratings
Making homemade candy is easier than you might think, so the next time you're hosting a party, consider making these simple chocolate turtles to give as favors.
Prep Time
Cook Time
close up of chocolate turtles
Total time: 25 minutes
  • 1½ cups pecan halves
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Place the pecan halves in mounds on a piece of parchment paper, arranging 4-5 halves per mound to resemble a turtle's legs and head.
  2. Melt butter in a medium bowl in the microwave. Whisk in the heavy cream.
  3. Place the water and corn syrup in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir to combine. Carefully add the sugar and stir it into the corn syrup mixture, taking care not to get sugar on the sides of the pan.
  4. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Heat until the mixture reaches 320 F.
  5. Add ¼ of the butter mixture to the pan and stir until combined. Repeat with the remaining butter/cream mixture until all of it is incorporated. Stir in the salt.
  6. Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture reaches 245 F.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 2 minutes to cool slightly. Then, spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of the caramel over each mound of pecans. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, until partially set.
  8. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 20 second increments, just until not quite melted. Stir until it's melted completely. Spoon approximately 1-2 teaspoons melted chocolate over each mound of pecans and caramel.
  9. Allow the turtles to sit at room temperature for 2-3 hours, or until set. Serve at room temperature.
Calories per Serving 220
Total Fat 14.8 g
Saturated Fat 6.4 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 22.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 22.1 g
Dietary Fiber 1.0 g
Total Sugars 20.7 g
Sodium 71.5 mg
Protein 1.4 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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