Did you grow up eating the classic caramel turtles around the holidays? I remember having them along with countless other chocolates too. Specifically, those Guylian chocolate shells, do you remember those? Those were probably my favourite. I've always had a sweet tooth when it comes to chocolate and I'd happily eat them around the holidays no matter what time of day (yes, even at like 8 am!). It only made sense to make my own version of one of these classic holiday chocolates. These homemade turtles are irresistibly good and made with some healthier swaps because my sweet tooth just isn't the same as it once was.
I want to preface this whole post by saying, I'm not advocating for avoiding to eat the real chocolate turtles around the holidays. If you want to enjoy those, by all means do so! I'm not an all-or-nothing girl when it comes to food and I don't place food restrictions on myself either. There are many reasons for this. One of them being that when you place strict restrictions on yourself around food, usually this makes you want it more. This can lead to bingeing and overall creating an unhealthy relationship to food. I have a very neutral relationship to food now and choose to indulge when I want.
The reason for me creating these homemade turtles is because I personally don't have a big sweet tooth anymore. I still love dessert and chocolate, but I often find most conventional ones too sweet. It's not my intention to label the original version as "bad" and mine as "good." They both can have a place on the table depending on your own circumstances and preference.
With that being said, let's just enjoy these homemade turtles, because I think they may just be the cutest dessert I've ever made. Plus, there only FIVE ingredients!!
Oh how I love medjool dates! Soft, plump and they can transform into a creamy, soft and delicious caramel. I even love having them just as a snack stuffed with almond butter. For this recipe, you'll need about 10 large medjool dates. I like to soften them in hot water because it makes this recipe easier for blending, even if they're already soft.
The addition of cashew butter (or other nut or seed butter) helps to provide some fat to the recipe. This helps to slow down the release of sugar from the dates and the chocolate. Beyond that, it's also just delicious and helps add to the creaminess, so I don't recommend skipping it.
You simply can't have homemade turtles without pecans! They're pretty essential to the recipe. They also give the turtle shell its legs and head, and a turtle needs those. You'll need about 3/4 to 1 cup of raw pecans.
I like using chocolate chips for this recipe and melting them down for the chocolate shell. Feel free to use whichever chocolate you have access to.
I like using these chocolate chips because they're pretty readily available in most grocery stores and online.
If you know me, you know, I LOVE salt. I'm always adding kosher salt or flaky salt to things because it simply makes them taste better. And because the dates and chocolate provide plenty sweetness, I like balancing that out with just a pinch of flaky salt on top. If you're giving them to kids, I'd imagine leaving the salt off would be the best option though.
With only five ingredients, these healthier vegan homemade turtles are so simple to make.
The first step is to soak your dates. Even if your dates are soft (mine were), I still like to soak them first. This just helps the mixture blend a little more easily. Place them in just boiled water for about 10 minutes. Then remove, pit them, and add to a food processor (or blender) along with the cashew butter and a pinch of kosher salt. Process until a dough forms and the mixture comes together. It will be sticky!
Take that ball of sticky dough and place it in some plastic wrap. Then place that in the freezer for about 1 hour. This just allows you to break it apart easier and makes it much less sticky and easier to handle.
Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper. Once you remove the dough from the freezer, go ahead and take about 1 1/2 tbsp of the dough and roll it into balls. Flatten them slightly with your hands. If you find it's getting sticky, wet your hands with water. This helps BIG TIME!
Now take your flattened date caramel balls and place three pecans on the under side of your dough. You want the top side of the pecan to peek out from the dough as you'll cover the dough with chocolate. See the photo for reference on where to place the pecans.
Once all the turtles are made, (this should make about 16 to 18) place the tray in the fridge while you melt the chocolate.
Melt your chocolate either on the stovetop over low heat in a small saucepan, or in the microwave in bursts.
Once melted, take out the tray of turtles. Dunk each one (caramel side) into the melted chocolate. Carefully remove with a fork or spoon (or your hands) and place on the baking tray, shell side up. Add some flaky salt (if using) and continue with the rest.
They should start to harden pretty quickly, but you can place them in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes. Once the chocolate is hardened, place them in a container and leave them in the fridge or freezer until you want to have one (or three!).
I like to keep mine in the fridge and eat them directly from there. But because I made a whole batch and want them to last, I also keep some frozen in a sealed container. If you're eating them from the freezer, you can let them defrost for a few minutes first, or enjoy them right from the freezer.
These healthier homemade turtles make such a great holiday dessert because they'r easy to prepare and can be made far in advance. It's already stressful enough making sure you have all your food ready and cooked on the day of the holiday, these make it just a little easier.
You can also make them anytime of the year too, not just around the holidays. And if you're looking for a special homemade gift to make for someone, these are great!
If you make these homemade turtles, I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to tag me on Instagram, and/or leave a comment, rating or review below.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only share products and services I have personally used and love. Disclosure here.
Easy, five ingredient and healthy homemade turtles that are perfect anytime of the year.
These are best enjoyed straight from the fridge or freezer.
They will last in the fridge for about 3-4 weeks and in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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