Homemade turtles feature the perfect combination of toasted pecans, chewy caramel, and chocolate. They are easy to make and are a great DIY candy for Christmas and beyond.
There is really something special about a perfect turtle candy. That mix of soft caramel and crunchy nuts is hard to beat.
This recipe helps to turn making homemade caramel from a daunting task to one that is approachable with the help of sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar. The texture and flavor are perfect and you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making it your whole life.
You know I love making recipes with condensed milk, but this one takes it to the next level. They taste like confections you would buy at the finest candy store, only better because they are fresher.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
You don’t have to unwrap a ton of caramel candies. While I do love a good shortcut, part of what makes these turtles special is knowing you made the caramel yourself.
And while this caramel is homemade enough to give you that pride of creation, it doesn’t go so far as having to caramelize granulated sugar to just the right point. We use condensed milk and brown sugar to help get the perfect texture without too much precision.
If you use melting chocolate, you get snap and shine without having to temper chocolate. It’s another way to take a slight shortcut without reducing quality.
There is just something about the little pecan turtle legs sticking out from the chocolate shell that draws you in. Of course the layer of caramel that holds it all together makes them even more enticing.
If you like salted caramel, just add a pinch of flaky salt to the tops before the chocolate sets. You make some both ways so everyone can have their preference.
What About Faux Turtles Without Pecans?
While I love pecans, my husband and Little Dude do not. So rather than make a whole batch of turtles that they won’t eat, I made some as faux turtles.
Instead of pecans, I put a small scoop of caramel on a pretzel. Then top that with some chocolate.
You still get the crunch from the pretzel and the added salt is great too. I was able to get quite a few turtles and then a couple of tray of pretzels out of one batch of caramel, so there was plenty for everyone.
I like using the waffle pretzels because they have great surface area and plenty of little holes for the caramel to hold on to. It only takes about 1 teaspoon of caramel per pretzel, or maybe even a little bit less.
If you are looking for a more cost effective way to make turtles, you could even put a pecan half on top of the pretzel turtle. The nuts can get expensive, so just using one per candy and using pretzels for the remaining crunch makes each candy cost less.
Tips and Tricks
Hot caramel can sometimes stick to wax paper. I have much better luck with getting the candy to release from parchment paper.
If you don’t feel like arranging the pecans and carefully scooping the caramel on top, you can stir chopped pecans into the caramel and scoop it out. Freeze the candy centers for 10-15 minutes and then dip them in chocolate.
They will still taste great, but will come together more quickly. You can also use cashews and turn them into chocolate bear claw candies.
I like using the Ghirardelli dark chocolate wafers for candy like this. They taste great and are easy to use.
If you prefer, you can melt 2 cups of chocolate chips with 2 teaspoons of coconut oil instead. It will give you a similar result to the melting chocolate.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Toast Pecans?
Toasting pecans is an easy way to add depth to their flavor. You can put them on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350F oven for 8-10 minutes, shaking them halfway through.
Or, you can toast them in a skillet over medium heat. Just stir them frequently and they should be done in 3-5 minutes.
Either way, you will know that they are done when they are a little bit darker in color and they have a nice nutty aroma.
Can You Dip Turtles in Chocolate?
Yes, if you prefer your turtles to be completely enrobed in chocolate, you can certainly do that. Freeze them for about 15 minutes before dipping them and plan on using about double the chocolate.
How Do You Store Homemade Turtles?
You can keep your turtles in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Just be sure to keep them in a cool area if possible.
If you are going to stack the turtles, you will want to put a layer of parchment or wax paper between them. The caramel can be a little bit sticky, so you will want to keep the separated.
More Great Candy Recipes
If you like caramel and nuts, you are going to love how easy caramel peanut balls are to make. They taste almost like a Snickers bar.
For an old-fashioned treat, try making date balls. They feature rice cereal and pecans and are held together with a date caramel sauce.
If chocolaty fudge is more your style, try classic fantasy fudge. It has marshmallow fluff inside and always gives that perfect fudgy texture.
For more inspiration, check out my collection of candy and fudge recipes. There is sure to be something there that will catch your eye.
Homemade Turtles Candy
- 5-6 cups pecan halves
- 1 cup salted butter
- 2 cups light brown sugar packed
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 20 ounces chocolate melting wafers
- flaky salt for topping optional
- Lightly toast pecans in oven or skillet.5-6 cups pecan halves
- Line sheet pans with parchment paper. Arrange sets of 3-4 pecans on the parchment paper and set aside.
- Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat.1 cup salted butter
- Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk. Stir to combine.2 cups light brown sugar, 1 cup light corn syrup, 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 235℉.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Spoon about 1 to 1½ teaspoons of warm caramel over each cluster of toasted pecans. The mixture will be loose at first, so you might have to take your time to keep it from running. If the caramel gets to thick, just warm it back up until it gets to drizzling consistency.
- Melt chocolate until smooth. Drop about ½ teaspoon of caramel on top of each turtle, use the back of the measuring spoon to smooth the chocolate out and form a circle.20 ounces chocolate melting wafers
- If desired, add a pinch of flaky salt to the top of the turtle.
- Let the turtles sit until firm.
- Place layers of parchment paper or wax paper between turtles if stacking to store. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.