Turtle bars are a decadent chocolate, caramel, shortbread and pecan cookie bar that is easy to make. It takes 20 minutes to make a pan of these making them one of my go to holiday cookie recipes!
I LOVE a decadent holiday cookie recipe. Of course I love it even more if it is EASY so that I can make it with my little ones. These turtle bars are a wonderful gooey cookie bar that only takes 20 minutes of prep. The recipe uses store-bought caramels (like Kraft) as a base for the caramel which saves a lot of fuss. My kids enjoy helping unwrap the caramels. (I don’t understand why that part is fun but it means we get to cook together so I’m calling it a win!)
Easy Turtle Bars
Turtle cookie bars are one of my favorite bar cookies. There is a solid, buttery shortbread crust and a decadent layer of gooey caramel. Toss in pecans or your other favorite nut and then cover it with plenty of chocolate! Voila! The stuff of dreams.
I’m picky about texture – food has to have the perfect mouth feel or it just won’t taste right to me. These cookies have that. First your teeth hit that firm layer of chocolate, next they sink into the thick layer of caramel studded with nuts. Then, just about when you think perfection has been attained your teeth arrive at the buttery, crumbly shortbread cookie layer. Oh yeah…
Some layered bar cookies can be time consuming but this version of turtle bars is quite simple. A few ingredients form the shortbread base and then a quick caramel sauce goes on top with a nut layer. Bake it all and then frost with the chocolate layer.
The most difficult part of the process is probably waiting for it to cool! While most cookies are great right out of the oven these cookie bars do need some time to set up. And I will say some patience is required if you don’t want to burn your tongue. Don’t ask me how I know 🙁
Making a Great Holiday Cookie Plate
I’m of the opinion that turtle bars have a well earned spot on the Christmas cookie plate. These cookies give some diversity to the usual blend of cookies: lemon, sugar, ginger, and maybe almond if you are feeling fancy. Tossing in some tasty caramel and chocolate just ups the ante!
More Holiday Cookie Recipes I Love
- Easy Cut Out Sugar Cookie Recipe (No Chilling the Dough!)
- Soft Ginger Cookies With Icing Drizzle
- Anise Cookies
- Oatmeal Rum Raisin Cookie Bars With Pecans
- 4 Ingredient Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies w / Chocolate Frosting
Easy Turtle Shortbread Bars
For The Shortbread Layer
- 1/2 cup salted butter softened
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chopped pecans can sub walnuts or any nuts
For The Chocolate Turtle Layer
- 28 small square caramels such as Kraft
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2/3 cup salted butter
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips can sub milk chocolate
The Shortbread - Caramel Cookie Layer
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a rectangular 9”x 13” glass pan.
- Combine the ½ cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 2 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. Mash together with a fork until the mixture becomes a fine crumb.
- Use your hands to press the crumb mixture into the glass pan so that it is firmly packed down to form the shortbread.
- Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the top of the top of the crust and set the pan next to the stove.
- Remove the wrappers from all the caramels and microwave them in a small bowl for 30 seconds.
- Add the soft caramels to a large sauce pan with the ½ cup brown sugar and the 2/3 cup butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (once the butter is melted switch to a whisk to beat the mixture smooth.
- When it comes to a boil, immediately poor the caramel mixture over the nuts and crust. Use a spatula to spread the mixture all the way to the edges.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes until caramel is bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
The Chocolate Top
- When the caramel is set, microwave the chocolate chips until melted stirring with a fork every 30 seconds. When no lumps remain use the back of a spoon to smooth the chocolate over the caramel.
- Cool again and cut into squares. You can cut 12 large squares or 24 medium squares or 48 small squares.
- Store tightly covered at room temperature for up to five days. If you live in a warm climate store the cookie bars in the refrigerator to keep them from melting.
I read each and every comment and I try to respond to questions asap, so ask away! If you’ve made a recipe, I would love to hear about it! Please come back and share your experience and give the recipe a 5-star rating so other people will know how much you loved it!
Special thanks to the McConnell family for introducing me to these amazing treats. They graciously shared their recipe with me (originally from Cheryl Peck, Heaven’s Bounty Cookbook, Diagnostic Clinic). I have made some changes to suit my ridiculous passion for caramel and chocolate.
This recipe was originally published in November of 2016 and updated for content in October of 2020.