Vegan chocolate caramel Turtle cookies. I know. They don't look like turtles. It's fine, we don't really have Turtles in the UK full stop, so any British readers will hopefully be none the wiser, and anyone else, well...I hope you can forgive my lack of turtle shape.
I think I first heard of Turtles as a candy when I first visited the US, back in 2003. My then mother-in-law bought us bags and bags of Amish candy, and the turtles were always the first to go when I brought the confectionary back the England. However, the name "Turtles" and, I guess the shape, is copywritten by DeMet's Candy Company, who have been producing Turtles since 1918. They are still popular today, both to purchase and for the home cook to replicate.
I think that combination of chocolate, nuts, and caramel is alluring to many people with a sweet tooth, but I am more of a cookie/biscuit gal. So, when I was browsing one of my many vintage cookery pamphlets from the 50s and 60s, I bookmarked this particular recipe, a Pillsbury Bake-off Winner, no less, from 1961: Mrs Vernon Reese of Minneapolis' Candy Bar Cookies. Yes, it is a pretty generic name, but that turtle copyright infringement was probably looming large in the minds of the Pillsbury team back then.
In Mrs Reese's defence, her delicious recipe barely resembles Turtles visually; however, they do rely heavily on the three main turtle components: chocolate, pecans and caramel. The ace in Mrs Reese's sleeve is that she put these three elements onto a sweet cookie base. Genius!
Obviously, this is 1961, the recipe needed some modern updating, although it was more a case of swapping out certain ingredients for others.
These cookies are rich, chewy, not for the faint of heart or those on a diet. They are heavenly and delicious, the dark chocolate topping tempering the sweetness of the caramel perfectly.
How do you make Vegan Turtle Cookies?
This is a time consuming cookie, although not difficult. I like to make the cookie dough the night before. It is a very soft dough so needs at least a couple of hours to set up in the fridge, and I think overnight is better.
Your cookies need to be completely cool before you add your toppings. Despite this being a soft dough, they are very easy to handle once cooled.
I prefer to make the caramel sauce, top the cookies with that, and then make the chocolate sauce. There are two reasons why: 1. the caramel filling needs to cool slightly before you top it with the chocolate and 2. the chocolate topping will start to firm up and become more difficult to spread as soon as it starts to cool.
If you do decide to make both at the same time and you find the chocolate starts to set up, just microwave it for no more than 5 seconds at a time until it reaches a spreadable consistency again.
Try my other delicious vegan cookies:
Vegan Caramel Chocolate Pecan Turtle Cookies
- Baking Sheets, lined but not buttered
- Mixing Bowls
- ¾ cup Butter vegan, at room temperature
- ¾ cup Powdered Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Milk plant based, I used Soya
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 2 cups Plain Flour sifted
To make the cookie dough
- In a large mixing bowl, blend together the powdered sugar and butter until pale and fluffy
- Blend in the milk, salt and vanilla, then add the flour.
- Mix until you have a cohesive dough. It will be quite sticky, so turn the dough out onto clingfilm and chill for at least a couple of hours.
To make the cookies
- Preheat oven to 160c.
- Divide your chilled cookie dough into two. If you want to save half for later, you can freeze it in a ziplock bag. Just remember to half the mixture for the toppings (which can be done quite easily)
- On a very well floured surface, roll out your dough into a rectangle, until the dough is about ½cm thick.
- Trim the edges, and then cut into squares, about 2" by 2". You can use a cutter for this if you prefer.
- Place cookies onto baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, until pale golden, but not darkened.
- Leave to cool for a minute on the baking sheet, then remove to a cooling rack.
- Let cool completely.
To make the caramel filling
- Melt the caramel chips and milk in a bowl, over a pan of simmering water (or a double boiler), until smooth and creamy.
- Remove from heat and beat in the butter and sugar, then stir in the chopped pecans.
To make the chocolate topping
- In a microwaveable bowl, microwave the chocolate chips and milk in 20 second increments until you see that the chocolate is starting to melt.
- Beat in the sugar and butter.
- To make this job simple, I recommend making and applying the caramel filling to the cookies first, then letting this cool and set on the cookies whilst you prep the chocolate topping.
- Taking a teaspoon, spread about a teaspoonful of your caramel pecan mixture over the top of your cookie. Repeat until you have covered all your cookies.
- Now drizzle half a teaspoon of chocolate topping over each cookie, gently spreading with the back of a spoon.
- Top with half a pecan if you like.
- Leave to cool, and then they will have set up enough to store in a tin.