Grandma Kathy’s Homemade Turtle Candy Recipe

Breaking apart a homemade turtle candy

Grandma Kathy’s Homemade Turtle Candy ~ this vintage homemade chocolate candy 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.

Homemade Turtle Candy on a glass plate

This beloved turtle 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.

Breaking apart a homemade turtle candy

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.

A platter of homemade turtle candies

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 🙂

Making homemade turtle candy

Homemade candy is such fun, and surprisingly easy. Here are a few more recipes from the blog if you get inspired ~

A platter of homemade turtle candies
3.91 from 41 votes

Grandma Kathy’s Homemade Turtle Candy

Grandma Kathy's Homemade Turtle Candy ~ this vintage homemade chocolate candy 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.
Course candy, Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 45 minutes
Yield 24 turtles
Author Sue Moran


  • 96 pecan halves
  • 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 an unlined 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.)
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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.


Grandma Kathy's Homemade Turtle Candy pin.

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    December 23, 2020 at 8:15 am

    5 stars
    We are away from home staying in a guesthouse on a ranch in Santa Ynez Valley for Christmas week, but I do have a tiny well equipped kitchen and plan on making these for our ranch family. These bring back Christmas time memory when we’d visit the big city Chicago and mom would go to Macy’s candy counter and buy turtles. What a treat and now I can make them. Thank you and merry Christmas and a peaceful 2021.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    So easy to make and so good! i used Ghirardelli chocolate. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Reply
    December 2, 2018 at 11:36 pm

    Love to see these appear on your side. One of my American exchange students made these for us at Christmas and they were a big hit. He had the caramels send from the US however so I would have to make my own instead.

    December is just such a crazy busy time and even more so in Denmark. We have so many traditions and lovely little things we do all month. Among other things we celebrate Lucia, and we celebrate 1 of December (where the “nisse” moves in (kind of an elf but different and have a history of a least a 1000 years as a magic creature living on the old farms. Today they have their own tiny doors in many homes with kids), we also celebrate all four advent Sunday’s (with a special advent wreath). Do you have special national traditions in Canada?

    Winter hugs from Denmark

    • Reply
      December 3, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      I love all your traditions, I want to post a traditional Danish cookie, do you have one that you recommend? (PS I’m in the US (Los Angeles) not Canada!)

      • Reply
        December 4, 2018 at 1:23 am

        Oh I always been sure you where in Canada. Sorry. I lived in New York (for my Master degree) so I know American traditions better.

        We have lots of traditionel Christmas cookies. The oldest being “kleiner” because you could make them without an oven (they go back to around 1500). “Brunkager” do require an oven but are very old to (around 1700) while “jødekager” is from around the late 1700. Among other very popular and old are “vaniljekranse” and “pebernødder”. They are all good.

        As to what to choose it depends. Vaniljekranse is the ones you can find in the Danish butter cookie collection (but the ones in these tins are considered bland in Denmark. The real ones are made with almonds and real vanilla). All the rest will be new for your American readers. “Brunkager” and “kleiner”” is less of a hit with my American students than the rest. “Pebernødder” are easy and cute and you will find them everywhere in Denmark in December (literately: in little trays in all shops, at all social gatherings, Santa’s and ““Nisser” will be carrying them and all kids will bake them). They are one of few things you can buy a finished spice mixture for but you can easily find the spices separately.

        I can point you in a direction for a good recipe if you choose one of these.

  • Reply
    Laura | Tutti Dolci
    December 2, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    These turtles look so delicious! The perfect treat for gifting (and indulging!) 😉

  • Reply
    November 30, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    These turtle candies look so inviting! I need to get some pecans to make this too.

  • Reply
    November 30, 2018 at 8:40 am

    You have definitely made grandma proud with this recipe. I love how few ingredients there are, and even better is how beautiful they are!

    • Reply
      November 30, 2018 at 8:51 am

      Thanks Kelly, I made these a few times before I got my system down, and I think my method produces the best looking turtles 🙂

  • Reply
    Lisa | Garlic & Zest
    November 30, 2018 at 8:12 am

    A bit of extra chocolate is NEVER A BAD THING. My husband absolutely loves turtle candy — maybe I’ll surprise him with a batch this weekend. I know he’d go nuts for it!

  • Reply
    November 30, 2018 at 8:06 am

    The best recipes come from Grandmas recipe box! What a delicious classic and one that will never go out of style!

    • Reply
      November 30, 2018 at 8:31 am

      I agree! I love to raid people’s recipe boxes, they’re like little treasure troves.

  • Reply
    Jessica Formicola
    November 30, 2018 at 7:55 am

    So cute! And perfect for serving on a Christmas cookie tray! Love this recipe!

    • Reply
      November 30, 2018 at 8:01 am

      It’s always the first thing to be grabbed!

  • Reply
    November 30, 2018 at 7:55 am

    Thank you for sharing this family recipe! These turtles are absolutely adorable and would make a fantastic holiday gift!

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