Grandma Kathy’s Homemade Turtle Candy ~ this vintage recipe is straight from grandma’s recipe box, it’s the one she made throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s and it’s still the best classic holiday candy around.
This beloved candy is easier and quicker to make than most, but involves just enough labor to make it special. When I was growing up all the neighborhood moms would try to outdo each other with their holiday cookie collections. They arranged them in neat little compartments in what seemed to be, at least in my memory, HUGE boxes that made all the kids’ eyes bug out. Each mom had their own signature assortment of goodies, but everyone included turtles.
Each one of my weighty turtle is a handful and will keep anybody happy for a while. Give a small box of these as a host or holiday gift and you will be very popular, I promise.
Turtles are a nostalgic candy, invented at the turn of the last century. They’re made from caramel and pecans layered together and coated with chocolate. You don’t need a mold, or any special equipment to make turtles, just a microwave, a baking sheet, and a silicone mat or parchment paper for a non-stick surface to work on.
The secret to the best homemade turtle candy ~
- The trick to making blue ribbon turtle candy is simple: first toast the pecans for 10 minutes in a 350F oven. That’s it. This not only makes the nuts super crisp, it intensifies their flavor. Raw pecans are virtually flavorless compared to roasted nuts, so your turtles will have a big leg up on the competition from the get go!
- The toasted pecans paired with dark chocolate make a very rich and sophisticated flavor profile in this candy. Definitely gift-worthy.
There are lots of ways to construct a turtle, but I think I’ve found the best way. It starts with a dollop of melted chocolate which provides a sturdy base for the candy. Then the pecan ‘legs’ go on, topped with caramel. Then another layer of chocolate seals it all together.
My way prevents all the stickiness that can happen if any caramel is exposed. Plus you get extra chocolate this way, which is never a bad thing :)
Homemade candy is such fun, and surprisingly easy. Here are a few more recipes from the blog if you get inspired ~
- 96 pecan halves (just buy a bag)
- 10 ounces dark chocolate (I used a bag of Nestle Dark Chocolate Morsels)
- 11 ounce bag of Kraft Caramels, unwrapped (the soft kind)
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp evaporated milk
- Line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Put the pecans on a bare baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- Heat 1/2 the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove and stir. Microwave a further 15-30 seconds and stir again until melted and smooth.
- Drop small amounts of chocolate onto the prepared baking sheets and spread with your spoon to the size of quarters. Top with 4 pecan halves to form the turtle legs. (See photos)
- You can proceed to the next step immediately or put the tray in the freezer to firm up for 5 minutes.
- Melt the caramels, butter, and milk in the microwave. Start at one minute, stir, and if necessary heat in 15 seconds increments until smooth. I like to let the caramel cool a little to thicken up before proceeding.
- Add a small (about 1/2 tsp) dollop of caramel to the top of each turtle.
- Again, put the tray in the freezer for 5 minutes.
- Melt the remaining chocolate and add a small amount to the top of each turtle, spreading it around to cover the caramel. I like to give the chocolate a little swirl flourish as I lift up my spoon. Put the tray in the freezer for 5 minutes.
- The turtles can be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator. These will freeze well for longer storage (put them in a heavy duty zip lock freezer bag.)
Variations on these turtle candies ~
Use any chocolate you like, including milk or white.
Garnish with crushed pecans or sea salt while the final chocolate topping is still wet.
Use your favorite spiced pecans for a unique touch.