Chocolate Caramel and Pecan Turtle Clusters

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I have always wanted to make Turtle Clusters.

Not because I have a fascination with real live turtles and think it would be fun to nibble on one. I’ve actually NEVER wanted to do that. Thank you so much for asking. You are always so considerate. :)

I’ve wanted to make Turtle Clusters because the flavors of chewy homemade caramel, crisp pecans and heavenly chocolate all combined into one blissful candy is just a bite of heaven right here on earth, that’s why. Heaven. On. Earth. Is what I am saying here, folks. Whoever came up with the combination should be kissed on both cheeks, high-fived with both hands and given 50 thumbs up.

You’ll have to help me out with the thumbs, guys. The last time I checked I only had two.

If you hate caramel, pecans and chocolate…please do not give 50 thumbs up, just disregard this post. No hard feelings. See you tomorrow for a chocolate free recipe. :)

As for you fellow turtle lovers, let me show you how easy they are to make!


Time: 40 min hands on + 20 min to cool and set
Yield: about 40 clusters

***NOTE: I used my homemade caramel recipe for these clusters. I only made half a batch of caramel, as the ingredients below indicate. I’ve got to think about my health you know. Consuming 80 Turtle Clusters could kill a person. Dead. Dead as a door nail! However, if are making Turtle Clusters for the masses please feel free to double this recipe. It will turn out very well.***

2 1/2 C pecans
1/2 C butter (I use salted)
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C light corn syrup
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk (1/2 of a 14 ounce can)
1/2 t vanilla
1 (12 ounce) package milk chocolate chips
1/2 t shortening (I use butter flavored Crisco)

1. Toss 2 1/2 cups of pecans into a large skillet. Toast them over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until they have darkened just a bit and smell fragrant and wonderful. Should only take a few minutes.

2. Find yourself 2 large cookie sheets. Line them with parchment paper and spray it with cooking spray. Arrange your pecans into clusters, three to a group works well. You want to leave some space (about an inch) between each cluster.
3. Make your caramel (full tutorial with pictures found here). Place 1/2 C butter into a medium-sized sauce pan. Melt it over medium high heat. Add  1 C brown sugar, 1/2 C light corn syrup and 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk to the pan. Increase the heat just a bit and stir it continually. Cook and stir until it reaches 235-240 degrees. I generally remove it from the heat when it reaches about 234 degrees. It will continue to rise in temperature just a bit even without the direct heat, making the caramel just the right texture.
4. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

5. Carefully drizzle about 1 1/2 teaspoons of caramel over each nut cluster. You’ll want to work quickly, as the caramel will begin to set up. Be sure there is caramel touching all of the nuts in your cluster. The caramel works like glue, sticking the nuts together.

6. In a microwave safe bowl pour 12 ounces of milk chocolate chips. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each cooking interval.
7. Add 1/2 teaspoon of shortening to the melted chocolate. Allow it to sit for a minute or two (so it can melt and make the chocolate chips more spreadable). Stir it all together.

8. Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons of melted chocolate over the top of the caramel and nuts. Swirl it around along the top making a pretty swoop with your spoon.
9. Allow the chocolate to set up. Once it has hardened and cooled you can serve them immediately, or transfer them to an air tight container.




  1. srnhrrs says:

    I just made these and they turned out perfectly. I always appreciate a recipe that’s accurate in the amount it says it will produce, and this made forty turtles exactly. Thanks!

  2. Dee Dee says:

    Thank you for a great recipe! Made these for Father’s Day and they came out great. So easy I no longer have to buy them. Modified recipe by substituting honey for corn syrup and coconut oil for shortening.

  3. Carol says:

    Need to make about 250 for granddaughter’s wedding reception. Can I make ahead and freeze; or is it best to make in the days preceding the wedding?

  4. Bonnie says:

    You may want to put a watermark on your pictures. I found you pictures on a website with another recipe tacked on to them and you weren’t cited on it. Just thought you should know! They look beautiful!!

  5. Alice says:

    I made them for my daughter’s birthday, they were delicious! Thank you!

  6. Kimberly says:

    This site appears to be using your photos and recipe (with some weird instructions). Not sure if they were used with your permission or not, so I thought I’d mention it. I’m going to make some of these for Christmas, btw. They look yummy! :)

    1. Kimberly says:

      Oop! I suppose I ought to actually give you the website, eh?

  7. Megan says:

    Can I use golden corn syrup for the caramel sauce

  8. Jan says:

    I’ve made thes twice and my chocolate doesn’t set up. I’ve had to put them in the freezer. Suggestions?

    1. Cassandra says:

      Chances r it’s the shortening. I make chocolates all the time and use anything from chips to molding wAfers to baking chocolate n all I add is a wee touch of coconut oil BEFORE melting to keep it smooth and have never had it not set up. I made these yesterday n they were set in 20 mins. I’d say if u wanna try again don’t add the shortening n see what happens

  9. MOM IN NEED says:


    1. mary says:

      We use the mini tart papers(like cupcake liners only smaller). They have them in seasonal patterns. If the turtles are smaller we put them back to back and put two per tart liner.

  10. Gena says:

    I made these and my chocolate is not setting up either. I am so bummed. I think 1/2 tsp is not enough shortening to make the chocolate set. Don’t think I will try them again. Ingredients are too expensive to experiment. :(

    1. Gena says:

      They did set up. I am too impatient! They are delicious. Thanks!

    2. Lily says:

      My experience is that you never mix anything with the chocolate chips specialy butter. Just melt the chocolate chips and pour.

  11. Kathy fuhrman says:

    I use Dove chocolate candies for the chocolate part and don’t add anything to it……you can also freeze the turtles without the chocolate,then pull them out,when at room temp. Put the chocolate on. I have to make a lot of these near Christmas so I start a week ahead and freeze,then put the chocolate on before I give them out.

  12. Crystal S says:

    Made these for the first time tonight. Why did I wait so long? They are better than any I’ve bought at the store, and a lot cheaper to make at home. :) The caramel did cook up quicker than your recommended time. It probably took around 15 minutes. I can’t wait to make these to take to my family next week for the holidays. Thank you so much for your recipes and instructions. :)

  13. Penelope says:

    I would imagine leaving out the shortening altogether would make the chocolate set. I make something similar to these on a regular basis, and I just melt the chocolate in the microwave, spoon it on the top and wait til it’s rock hard.

  14. BDM says:

    Sorry, but this was a waste of good pecans, chocolate and vanilla. The caramel made with the condensed milk was awful. Not buttery or tasty.

  15. Cathy says:

    To BDM: I cannot imagine anybody not liking these & ur comment they r not buttery what kind of butter did u use.
    Thanks for sharing the re ipe.

  16. Denine says:

    My caramel is rock hard. I only cooked it for 20, not the whole thirty, and followed the ice water instructions. I don’t have enough ingredients to try again and they’re expensive ingredients at that. Is there ANY way I can still save my caramel?

    1. Cathy says:

      This happened to me also. I have a gas stove & med. low is a 5 on my stove and I did mine over and set my heat at 2 which is low and stirred for 20 min. and it came out perfect.
      Hope this helps and if u research the internet I think there is a way to save ur caramel.

  17. ellen says:


  18. Ash says:

    Shortening makes the chocolate seize up. Don’t add it.

  19. Amy says:

    I would love to use the image of your turtles for a candy company website I am building. Can I purchase it from you?

  20. says:

    I made them for my husband for Valentines, he is going to love them. I make a lot of truffles so at the holidays I stock up on Ghirardelli candy and dipping chocolate from Sam’s and I used that, they turned out awesome! Going to try your caramel recipe next. Thanks

  21. Rachel Ash says:

    Are you using dark or light brown sugar for the caramel? Thanks!!

    1. Jamie says:

      I almost always use light. Best of luck to you!

  22. Jamie says:

    I made these and refridgerated them after. And my Carmel turned hard like toffee?? Will it get soft if not refridgerated or did I do something to the Carmel wrong?

    1. Jamie says:

      I would suggest setting them out on the counter so they can come to room temperature. The caramel should soften back up for you. However, if you by chance over cooked the caramel then it will still be hard. Bringing them to room temperature should help you know for sure.
      Good luck!

  23. Janet says:

    This was a simple and easy recipe. They turned out great and will use this for holiday gifts. Thanks

    1. Jamie says:

      So happy to hear it! Thanks for letting me know!

  24. Janille says:

    I made these last night and they were amazing. I followed your directions with the caramel and It taste perfect. If it didnt turn out for other people then it is operator error. This is a great recipe and it will be one for the books. Thanks

    1. Jamie says:

      So happy they turned out well for you! Thanks for letting me know!

  25. Jill says:

    my caramel never set, it was a sticky mess. Had to throw the whole batch out!

  26. Susan says:

    This was a simple and delicious recipe. They turned out great! Thanks for sharing.

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