Chocolate Caramel and Pecan Turtle Clusters

Chocolate Caramel and Pecan Turtle Clusters

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.





Post a comment!


  1. 1
    Suzanne Reising
    October 28, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Could I use a jar of caramel for ice cream instead of making it by scratch?

    • 2
      October 29, 2016 at 8:31 am

      Hi Suzanne,
      Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, the caramel you mention wouldn’t be thick enough, or have the capacity to set up like the homemade version does.
      Best of luck!

    • 3
      October 30, 2016 at 8:07 am

      I use Kraft caramels and a little milk

  2. 4
    October 31, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    I am planning to make these for a fundraiser in about a week. Rather than freeze them, can I store them in a sealed plastic container in the refrigerator?

    • 5
      November 1, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      Thanks for your question. I’ve had these turn a little bit spotted if I store them in a sealed plastic container on the counter. I’m not sure if the nuts give off some moisture that makes the chocolate turn spotted…or not. However, it doesn’t generally turn out well. I would opt to store them in the freezer. Best of luck to you!

  3. 6
    November 4, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    i just made these…used wrapped caramels…i went to walmart day after halloween and got them half price for this reason 🙂 but they really set fast but soooo delicious. enjoy!!

    • 7
      November 22, 2017 at 10:20 am

      May I ask how many wrapped caramels you used for this recipe?

    • 8
      August 21, 2019 at 4:23 pm

      Did you add anything to the melted caramels? How much

  4. 9
    November 6, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    How long do you think these will keep fresh? I want to start early for Christmas.

    • 10
      November 22, 2016 at 10:30 am

      I want to also start early for Christmas and give them as gifts. What is the best way to give them? Should it be in an airtight container? How many days will they keep? Can I do them 2 weeks ahead of time? Thanks

  5. 11
    November 20, 2016 at 10:34 am

    I just made these and the caramel is NOT setting up. I followed the directions to a tea!I used my candy thermometer and did exactly as you said. Any way to save them???
    It tastes fantastic but the caramel is gooey! HELP

    • 12
      April 8, 2018 at 3:15 pm

      My caramel didn’t set up quite perfect, but I spooned each cluster of pecans, then the chocolate, & put the sheet pan in the freezer, about 5 to 7 minutes
      Came out perfect

  6. 13
    November 21, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    I like my clusters completely covered. What can be done to cover the bottom as well.
    I made some last year from a different recipe but they were a bit thick.

    • 14
      November 22, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      Hi Angela,
      I would suggest waiting for the caramel to set up completely. Then set each cluster on top of a fork and submerge it in the melted chocolate. Bring it up out of the chocolate and allow any excess to drip off into the bowl. Set them back on some parchment paper and allow the chocolate to set up. It should work well for you. Best of luck!

      • 15
        Rebecca Wilkins
        December 21, 2016 at 10:01 am

        Instead of dipping the whole Turtle in chocolate I put a dollop of chocolate down before placing the pecans and caramel…this gives a chocolate base and chocolate top to the Turtles.

    • 16
      September 26, 2019 at 6:56 am

      I plan on using cupcake liners like I do when I make peanut butter cups. A bit of chocolate on the bottom and build your clusters in them .. No muss no fuss.. I hope this helps

      • 17
        November 24, 2019 at 1:47 am

        Do the turtles stick to the paper? It seems a lot easier to make these in mini muffin liners to keep them all corralled. I’ve made a batch and they have sort of spread out.

  7. 18
    November 22, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    I need some ideal for a bariatric diet.

    • 19
      Nancy Malig
      April 22, 2017 at 10:06 pm

      Pecans are very nutritious! These turtles would be a yummy way to fit nuts into your diet.

  8. 20
    November 29, 2016 at 9:29 am

    are the choc. chips sweetened or non sweetened kind?

    • 21
      December 13, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      Thanks for your question. I like to use Milk Chocolate, but semi sweet works as well.

  9. 22
    Deborah McClintick
    December 2, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I made these for co-worker Xmas gifts and WHAT A HIT!! Once they were I put the nut “blobs” into mini cupcake papers and poured thee chocolate over them. It kept them separate and added a festive touch. The downside is that you must make them just before packaging them to gift to your friends. I left them in the fridge overnight and put 12 in each small Xmas tin I bought at the Dollar Store. What Fun!! Thanks Jamie!! Wonderful recipe.

    • 23
      December 13, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      So happy they turned out well! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂
      All my best,

  10. 24
    Dianne Voisin
    December 10, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Can the turtles be kept in my freezer for use later.

    • 25
      December 13, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      These freeze very well.
      Best of luck to you!

  11. 26
    December 10, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    I suppose I can use choc. almond bark instead of choc. chips?

    • 27
      December 13, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Hi Debbye,
      Almond Bark is not a good option here. Much too waxy and artificial tasting. I would stick with milk or semi sweet chocolate chips. Best of luck to you!

  12. 28
    Doug Clifton
    December 18, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    how would you get the whole thing covered in chocolate

  13. 29
    lupe solis
    December 21, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Chocolate did not set , I followed the directions , caramel turned out perfect .

  14. 30
    December 23, 2016 at 11:44 am

    neither caramel nor chocolate set up as thick as shown–2nd year I have done this. Worked but not as pretty.

  15. 31
    March 31, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I am making these for the second time, they were loved by all, and the Carmel is the best I HAVE EVER

  16. 32
    April 11, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Love this recipe! Planning to make them as a favor for my daughters wedding!
    Glad to hear they freeze well so I can make them a bit in advance.

  17. 33
    August 20, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    I use Ghiridelli milk choco chips for the chocolate, it melts so well and is rich for this treat to say the least.

  18. 34
    myrna ackerman
    October 12, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Instead of chocolate chips can I use Wilton melting wafers instead?

  19. 35
    Dave Conrad
    November 28, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    Great taste! I followed the recipe to the T but the chocolate didn’t set up well. Used Nestle’s milk chocolate chips. Any thoughts on why it didn’t set up?

    • 36
      December 13, 2020 at 10:50 pm

      I’m leaning towards the shortening / oil being your culprit. Original recipe calls for 1.5 teaspoons of shortening. Shortening is solid at room temperature. Was oil substituted?

  20. 37
    December 14, 2017 at 10:18 am

    This was my first experience making caramel and, like others who posted, I overcooked it. I didn’t want to ruin an entire batch of turtles, so I did a test of the caramel on an aluminum cookie sheet set over ice. The caramel was like shoe leather. I thought it was a lost cause, but I didn’t want to waste all that butter, brown sugar, and sweetened condensed milk, so I let the caramel cool, tossed it in the refrigerator overnight and thought about how to fix it. The next morning, I set the shoe leather caramel over a double boiler added a couple of tablespoons of half and half, stirred, and tried the cookie sheet over ice test again. When I had the right consistency, I proceed with making the turtles. They were perfect!

  21. 38
    December 18, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    These are soooo tasty and easy to make. I can’t imagine having any difficulty with them setting if you use a candy thermometer. I found the caramel reached temp in 10 – 15 min. Also found that letting the caramel cool just a tick before pouting over the nuts stopped it from spreading out excessively, Easy to just leave the element on and just place the pot back on for a minute if it starts to stiffen. Fills two large cookie sheets with turtles. Delicious!! A tradition in my Christmas baking for a couple of years now 🙂

  22. 39
    December 19, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Can you substitute semi sweet?

  23. 40
    December 19, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Can I substitute semi sweet instead of milk chocolate chips?

  24. 41
    December 22, 2017 at 11:42 am

    I just made these first tryed the carmel candies but
    didnt work for me, but your recipe for carmel worked great will be makeing these again, and will be useing the carmel recipe also for other recipes, thanks

  25. 42
    December 23, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Great recipe. I ran out of Caramel so instead of making more I just put a carmel on top and poppep in oven low for about 6 min and then did

  26. 43
    June 8, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    The better the chocolate. the better the turtle. The homemade caramel is so much better than the wrapped ones. Just try it. This caramel is soooo good.

  27. 44
    Mary Laarman
    September 27, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    2 questions. Would dark chocolate chips work? Also, would real butter work to replace teh crisco.

    • 45
      September 28, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Hi Mary,
      Thanks for your question. Dark chocolate would be wonderful, real butter would also work well.
      Best of luck to you!

  28. 46
    October 9, 2018 at 11:38 pm

    Thank you for this recipe, cant wait to try it. Anna

  29. 47
    October 25, 2018 at 7:51 am

    If your caramel doesn’t set up check instructions on the internet for making candy at your altitude. That can also be found on the internet. I’m at a very high altitude and have to adjust cook times on about everything.

  30. 48
    December 19, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    If I do not use all of the caramel because I ran out of peacans will it keep in the fridge to make more another day?

  31. 49
    June 28, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Hi, can I use the caramel recipe to dip apples? Thank you

  32. 50
    November 2, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    Can I use wrapped candy instead of homemade carmel?

  33. 51
    November 13, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    1/2 t butter crisco? What’s the purpose of it? Can I use real butter instead?

  34. 52
    Sharon Sims
    November 18, 2019 at 9:14 am

    You said to use Shortning, what kind exactly?

  35. 53
    Stephanie H
    December 13, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    Hi,I made these in molded form. After placing melted chocolate in the molds I put chopped pecans in the bottom of the molds then put a layer of cooled caramel and finished with last layer of chocolate. They turned out great! The caramel turned perfect and I had lots of caramel left over. My husband requested your original method so all that caramel will get used. That caramel was delicious! Thanks for the recipe. It’s a keeper.

  36. 54
    December 19, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    Amazing! I can’t believe ***I*** (we;) ) made this!!

    My first batch I did the wrong /smaller amount of butter and didn’t cook as long- came out on the softer side and didn’t set.

    2nd batch was perfect- correct amounts and once all ingredients to caramel were in I boiled for a min 10 minutes (maybe even 12) and it set perfectly right away.

    Wi didn’t toast my pecans which I will do next time.

    I’ll probably add a lil coarse sea salt to top!

    Mmmmm, everyone will enjoy this Xmas, thanks!!!!

  37. 55
    sidnee kasnowicz
    November 25, 2020 at 9:28 am

    I make these every Christmas and there is NO substitute for the caramel. I am told it is the best they have ever had!

    • 56
      December 1, 2020 at 3:56 pm

      After making should I put in freezer and for how long? Do I cover them when I put in freezer ?

      • 57
        December 22, 2020 at 7:37 pm

        Hi sorry to ask you this but I can’t find an answer, If I make these Wednesday and put them in a tin will they be ok Christmas on Christmas? Sorry your the most recent post that has made these. Thank you!!

  38. 58
    December 7, 2020 at 6:52 am

    Can I freeze these

  39. 59
    Candi Blackwell
    December 23, 2020 at 1:13 am

    How do you store these? Air tight container or in the frig?

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