Buttery shortbread. Rich caramel. Crunchy pecans. Creamy chocolate. These chocolate caramel pecan turtle bars have it all! Plus, you'll be surprised just how easy they are to make.
I have no idea how many times I've devoured these chocolate caramel pecan turtle bars, because my mom has been making them for as long as I can remember. She's made them for countless parties, celebrations, and - occasionally - just because.
Do you have recipes like this? Recipes that you've made so many times that you can't remember exactly where the recipe originally came from? Recipes that you've adopted as your own family classics over the years? For my family, this is one of those recipes.
Easy Dessert Bars: How to Make Chocolate Caramel Pecan Turtle Bars
These bars can be broken down into 4 layers:
- Buttery shortbread: super simple and just 3 ingredients
- Crunchy, toasted pecans: for a deliciously nutty crunch
- Smooth, rich salted caramel: the easiest caramel you'll ever make
- Creamy chocolate ganache: the perfect topping ties all the flavors together into one delicious package
To make the bars, we'll start with a simple shortbread crust made with flour, brown sugar, and butter. These 3 ingredients are blended together with a food processor (or you can use a pastry cutter to cut the butter in by hand), pressed into the bottom of the pan, and par baked (baked just part way).
The caramel layer couldn't be easier to make. The 4 ingredients are added to one pan all at once and boiled briefly. The warm crust is then topped with toasted pecans, and the hot caramel is poured on top before the pan goes back into the oven to finish baking.
Once the bars are baked and cooled, they're topped with a smooth, creamy layer of chocolate ganache. The ganache is made by simply whisking warm cream and finely chopped chocolate (read all about chocolate ganache here!) before spreading the ganache over the top of the bars. A sprinkling of salt over the top of the bars is optional but makes for an extra pretty presentation.
The chocolate ganache topping is an upgrade that I recently decided to add to the bars. We've always made them with a simple melted chocolate topping, but I can't leave good enough alone so I've started making them with a creamy ganache instead. If you want to save a few minutes you can certainly go the melted chocolate route (I've included a note in the recipe for how to do this), and the bars will still be spectacular! But if you have a few extra minutes I recommend making the ganache to really take this dessert to the next level.
A Season-less Dessert for Every Occasion
It's easy to see why these chocolate caramel pecan turtle bars have withstood the test of time and why they've made an appearance at so many get-togethers over the past several decades. These bars are rich and creamy, soft and crunchy, and the kind of decadent dessert that's impressive enough to serve at a party but laid back enough to bake on a Saturday afternoon just for fun. They'd be an unexpected (but welcome!) addition to the dessert line-up at Thanksgiving, a hit at the Christmas cookie swap, and the first dessert to disappear at the summer picnic. They're season-less, so we make them all year round for gatherings big and small. (Tip: These bars are indulgent, so for big parties where lots of treats will be served, I love to cut the bars into small, bite-sized squares so that guests can sample multiple desserts!)
Love these chocolate caramel pecan turtle bars? Leave a review and be sure to check out these other chocolatey dessert bar recipes!
- Salted Brookie Bars
- Small Batch Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie Bars
- Chocolate Mint Creme de Menthe Brownies
Buttery shortbread. Rich caramel. Crunchy pecans. Creamy chocolate. These chocolate caramel pecan turtle bars have it all! Plus you'll be surprised just how easy they are to make.
for the shortbread crust:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 6 T unsalted butter, room temperature
for the caramel pecan layer:
- 3/8 cup dark brown sugar
- 6 T unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 T heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted*
for the chocolate ganache layer**:
- 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate baking bar, coarsely chopped
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- fine sea salt, for sprinkling on top (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8 metal baking pan with foil and set aside.
- Make the shortbread crust. Add flour, brown sugar, and butter to the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture becomes a very crumbly dough.
- Pour the dough into the prepared pan and gently press the dough into the bottom of the pan to create a solid crust. Make sure the crust reaches all the way into the edges and corners of the pan and that there are no holes in the crust.
- Bake the crust until it's a light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool slightly while you prepare the caramel pecan layer.
- Prepare the caramel pecan layer. In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter, and heavy cream, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve. Let the mixture boil without stirring for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat.
- Sprinkle the toasted pecans over the shortbread crust and pour the caramel over the pecans.
- Bake the bars. Return the pan to the oven and bake the bars until the caramel is bubbling and darkens slightly in color, about 15 minutes. Remove the bars from the oven a let cool completely.**
- Once the bars have cooled, prepare the chocolate ganache. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it's just simmering (not boiling!). Pour the warm cream over the chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes. Then whisk the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Pour the chocolate ganache over the cooled bars and spread it into an even layer using a spatula. Let the chocolate set before sprinkling with salt (optional), slicing, and serving the bars.
Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
*To toast pecans, spread them on a baking sheet and bake them in a preheated 300°F oven until they darken slightly in color and begin to give off a nutty toasted aroma, about 4 minutes.
**If you're in a hurry you can skip making the chocolate ganache and simply melt the chocolate on the warm bars (you will not need the heavy cream for this option). To do this, sprinkle the chopped chocolate (or 3/8 cup semisweet chocolate chips) over the bars immediately after taking them out of the oven. The heat from the bars will melt the chocolate. When the chocolate becomes glossy, use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top of the bars. Let the bars cool and the chocolate set before slicing and serving.
Instead of using a food processor, you could also use pastry cutter. Add the flour and brown sugar to a medium bowl and stir to combine. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture until a very crumbly dough begins to form.
Keywords: chocolate, caramel, pecan, turtle bars, dessert bars, easy dessert recipe
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This post was updated in April 2020 to provide an improved user experience.