Cashew turtles are sweet, delicious clusters of cashews and gooey caramel that have been enrobed in sweet, decadent chocolate. They are just like the classic turtle candy that is often made with pecans, but instead are made with sweet, buttery cashews.
These easy cashew turtles come together with just a few simple ingredients, and you can have a batch made in under an hour. They are perfect for serving on dessert trays for Christmas and other holidays, and when packaged in boxes, they make great gifts.
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What are Cashew Turtles?
Cashew turtles are sweet, delicious clusters of cashews, gooey caramel, and chocolate. They are just like the classic pecan turtles, except they are made with cashews instead.
Cashews have a slightly softer texture than pecans and are a bit sweeter with a buttery flavour. They are my favourite nut and taste incredible when combined with caramel and chocolate.
These turtle candies are incredibly easy to make. They require just a few ingredients and come together in less than an hour.
I choose to use whole, raw cashews when making my turtles. But you can use cashew halves, whole cashews, or chopped cashews. If you want a bit deeper flavour you can use roasted cashews or roast your own before making your turtles.
To keep things super simple, you can simply drizzle the chocolate over the top, or you can choose to dip them for turtles that are fully enrobed in chocolate.
These tasty little candies can be decorated any way you like. Add an extra drizzle of chocolate, some crushed nuts, or pretty sprinkles to decorate for the holidays.
They are always a welcome addition to the dessert platter at Christmas, and when packed in a box and tied with a bow, they make the perfect homemade gift.
For a full list of ingredients and measurements, see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Soft Caramels – Kraft caramels or milk caramels, sometimes called caramelos. Be sure you are using soft caramels, not hard candy.
- Cashews – You can use whole cashews, cashew halves, or chopped cashews, depending on your prefrence. I use blanced cashews, but you can also use roasted cashews if you choose and they will give a slightly deeper flavour and crunchier texture. I prefer unsalted, but you can use salted if you like.
- Chocolate melting wafers – Milk, semi-sweet or dark. You can also use chopped baking chocolate or chocolate chips.
- Heavy Cream – This helps the caramel melt and creates the smooth, chewy caramel layer.
- Shortening – This is optional, but if you are using chopped chocolate or chocolate chips it will help them melt smoothly. You shouldn’t need this if using melting wafers. You can use butter or solid coconut oil instead of shortening if needed.
Pro-Tip – I would avoid salted cashews as you never know how much salt was used. Some batches will be saltier than others, and you don’t want your turtles overly salty. If you love the combination of caramel, chocolate, and salt, I recommend sprinkling just a wee bit of sea salt flakes on top after you have dipped them in chocolate.
Step by Step Instructions
Arrange the Cashews and Melt the Caramel
One – Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper. Arrange the cashews in piles of about one tablespoon over the baking sheet. Leave between half an inch and one inch of room between the cashew piles to allow room for the caramel and chocolate to spread.
Two – Place the caramels and heavy cream in a medium size bowl. Make sure there is enough room to stir the caramels.
You can melt the caramels in the microwave using 20-second intervals, or you can place the bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove. It is going to seem like it doesn’t want to melt at first, but it will eventually melt and become smooth.
Pro-Tip: As the caramels warm, stir them occasionally (or between each microwave interval). You will begin to notice the cream starts changing color as the caramels start to melt. Keep stirring. Eventually, the caramels will start to come together in a big sticky ball. As you continue to heat and stir, you will notice that the ball starts to separate and get stringy; this is when you know they are almost done. Keep stirring until the caramel has completely melted and is smooth and creamy.
Assemble the Turtles
Three – While the caramel is warm, drizzle about one tablespoon over each pile of cashews.
Next, place the tray in the fridge or freezer for about 10 minutes to allow the caramel to firm up. If it is cold outside, and it isn’t raining, you can even place the tray outside for a few minutes. You just want to bring the temperature down so the caramel can firm up before adding the chocolate.
Four – Next, melt the chocolate. You can do this over a simmering double boiler on the stove or place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and melt it in the microwave using 10-second bursts, stirring between intervals until it is melted and smooth.
Pro-Tip: Be sure not to skip lining the baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet; otherwise, the turtles will stick to the pan. Do not use tinfoil, as it will also stick to the caramel.
Five – Lastly, coat the turtles in chocolate. You can either drizzle the chocolate over the top of the clusters, or you can fully enrobe the turtles in chocolate. If you choose to dip them, simply lower them into the chocolate, turn them over to make sure they are fully coated, then lift them out with a fork or dipping tool and move them back to the tray to harden.
Decorate the turtles any way you like, drizzle with more chocolate in pretty patterns, or sprinkle them with sea salt, crushed nuts, or candy sprinkles while the chocolate is still tacky.
Substitutions & Variations
There are a few ways you can customize this recipe to suit your tastes or accommodate allergies.
Nuts – If you don’t like cashews, don’t have any on hand, or are allergic, you can substitute them with any nut you like. Pecans are common in chocolate turtles, but almonds can also be used. Peanuts are a delicious alternative if tree nuts are an issue for you. If you can’t have nuts at all, chopped pretzels are a fantastic choice; the crunchy, salty snacks go really well with caramel and chocolate.
Caramel – I use soft, square-shaped caramels. Either the Kraft caramels or milk caramels work well for this recipe, as with just a bit of cream, they will melt to a smooth, gooey, and stretchy caramel that is ideal for candy making. If you have a favourite caramel recipe, you could use that instead.
Chocolate – I like using milk chocolate melting wafers for this recipe as they are easy to work with. They melt quickly and smoothly without needing to add any fat. But you can use chocolate chips or chopped chocolate if you like. Just be sure to add a teaspoon or two of shortening or solid coconut oil to help it get to a smooth, shiny consistency.
Depending on your flavour preference, you can use milk, dark or white chocolate. Or dip them in one chocolate and drizzle with another. The combinations are endless.
Baking sheet – I use half-sheet pans for nearly all of my baking. One pan is large enough for a whole batch of turtles. But you can use any size you have on hand. Depending on your room in your fridge or freezer, you may find smaller trays easier to accommodate.
Silicone mat – A silicone baking mat is perfect for these sticky turtles. The caramel and chocolate will release easily from the mat. Be sure to get a size that fits your baking sheet.
Double boiler – A double boiler is handy if you want to use the stove-top method for melting the caramel and chocolate. You can also simply use a bowl over the top of a pot, but you need to make sure the bowl is large enough to fit over the pot without allowing water to get in.
The best way to store chocolate turtles is in the freezer. The caramel will tend to soften if they are left at room temperature for too long, especially if you’ve chosen to simply drizzle the chocolate over the top instead of fully enrobing them.
Simply place them in an air-tight container with a layer of parchment or wax paper between each layer.
When ready to eat just take out as many as you like, let them thaw for a few minutes, and enjoy.
If you have fully enrobed the candies in chocolate, they will be safe at room temperature as long as they are in an air-tight container and away from any heat source.
Top Tips & FAQS
- Melt the chocolate over low heat to prevent it from seizing or burning and, if using the double boiler method, be sure no water gets into the chocolate.
- If you want to store these candies at room temperature for longer, I recommend fully enrobing them in chocolate. A full chocolate coating will help prevent the caramel from becoming too soft and sticking to the platter or the rest of the turtles.
The melted chocolate will seize for a couple of reasons. Usually, it means it either got too hot, or water got into it.
If you are melting on the stove, make sure the double boiler is set to medium-low. If using a microwave, you only want to use 10-15 second intervals.
Be careful not to let even a drop of water come in contact with the chocolate.
You want to choose a soft caramel, like Kraft caramel squares or Milk Caramels, often called caramelos. These caramels will melt into a creamy, stringy caramel that turtles are famous for.
More Chocolate Recipes
- On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner, make little piles of cashews (about one tablespoon each). Leave half an inch to one inch of space between them to allow the caramel and chocolate room to spread when it's added.
- Place the caramels and cream in a large, microwave-safe bowl or the top of a simmering double boiler. Stir the caramels with the cream until they are melted and smooth. If using a microwave, use 20-second intervals and stir between each interval.
- While the caramel is warm, pour approximately one tablespoon of caramel over each cashew pile.
- Place the tray in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to help the caramel set while you melt the chocolate.
- Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or on top of a simmering double boiler and heat until melted and smooth. If using a microwave, use 10-second intervals stirring between each interval.
- Remove the turtles from the freezer, drizzle chocolate over each caramel cluster, or dip them in chocolate to fully enrobe them.
- If you want to decorate them, sprinkle them with sea salt, crushed nuts, or candy sprinkles before the chocolate has fully set.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.