How to make healthy choices every day

Healthyish Salted Caramel Turtles


Everyone has strong food memories around holidays or special occasions in their life. I can completely recall the distinct taste of boxed cake from my childhood birthdays. Summer vacations were steeped in melting grape juice popsicles made by my grandmother. And one of my favourite treats during Christmas, was undoubtedly Turtle chocolates. The iconic striped box was always within arms reach during the holidays, so as soon as the tree went up, it was like a Pavlovian response…the Turtle cravings began! If you live outside of North America, you may not be familiar with these pecan-chocolate-caramels (and for this, I feel very sad for you), but today, rejoice! I’m posting my own version, which is a healthier spin on this classic candy that you can whip up yourself with just six simple ingredients.

The original Turtle candies are relatively basic: pecans, caramel, and chocolate, but seemingly so much more than the sum of these parts. There is a magical synergy in this trinity, each ingredient complimenting and highlighting the others in perfect union. There isn’t much to improve upon, so my mission was clearly to health-ify the caramel and find some high-quality chocolate to steer us all away from refined sugar, modified milk ingredients, and emulsifiers. Blech.

I started off on my journey by looking online and found that healthyish Turtle recipes exist, but they all use dates and I didn’t want that to be the predominant flavour. Plus, I knew that the caramel needed some serious creaminess, so I started by blending up cashew butter with vanilla as the base, then added brown rice syrup to achieve that distinctive gooey-ness that makes Turtles so crave-able. The results were sooooo right on the money, confirmed by several of my closest, discerning friends, lined up to taste test.



Pecans are one of my favourite nuts because they are tender-crisp and so naturally sweet. I love them in baked goods like pecan pie, on top of waffles or pancakes, or in candies like these babies!

Pecans are native to North America, and grow in tough, wood-like shells on large, sprawling trees, some of which can live up to 200 years. The name pecan is a Native American word used to describe nuts that require a stone to crack – but you can easily open them by crushing two of their hard shells together.

Along with macadamias, pecans contain the lowest amount of protein (5-10%) and the highest amount of fat (80-95%) of all the nuts. The fat that they do contain however, is mostly monounsaturated, with some polyunsaturated fat as well. Pecans are high in minerals, like manganese, copper, and zinc. They also contain a good amount of fiber and protein.

There are a wide variety of pecans, but if you live outside North America, you may only have access to one type. That’s okay! The thing to look for is shelled pecans that are uniform in size and colour. Check the date on the package or bulk bin, and smell the nuts beforehand if you’re able to – they should be sweet, and well, nutty. If you’re shopping in bulk, visit a shop that has a high turnover to ensure that the nuts are fresh. Once you get them home, store shelled pecans in an airtight container at room temperature for up to six months (although try to eat them sooner) and in the freezer for up to a year. Pecans are highly susceptible to absorbing other smells, so keep them locked up tight in glass to prevent them from tasting like garlic, onions, or last night’s casserole.



I had hesitations about using brown rice syrup in this recipe, since I know it’s one of those harder-to-find ingredients, but it’s just SO perfect in this context that I had to! If you cannot find brown rice syrup, try whipped or creamed honey in its place. I recognize that this isn’t an alternative for vegans, but I think it is the only sweetener that would work due to how thick and viscous it is. If the caramel is too runny, if will be impossible to work with. Trust.

It’s best to store your Turtles in the freezer, and take them out about 10-15 minutes before serving. They’re also fine at room temperature, but will keep better cold. I actually dig them a little on the frozen side – the caramel is extra thick and chewy at subzero temperatures!



This will be my last post before the New Year, my friends! I’m off to Bali in a mere 10 days (!!!) and words cannot describe how excited I am for the Wild Heart High Spirit Retreat, and meeting women from all across the world. If you’d like to know more about my retreats, visit the Golden Circle Retreats website. We’re planning another round for 2019, so sign up to mailing our list to be the first notified when we announce the dates.

We are also taking orders for the Life-Changing Loaf of Bread Subscription Box! What better way to start off the new year than with a delicious monthly gift of health to yourself? If you want to learn more, or place your order, visit the shop page here.

All love from Canada, and happiest of holidays to you and yours!

xo, Sarah B

38 thoughts on “Healthyish Salted Caramel Turtles”

  • Hi! I’m making turtles for the first time so your article is among one of the plethoras of others I’ve read to learn how to make some. I was curious about your caramel and how it didn’t crystallize! Other articles swore up and down that you can’t stir it at the beginning (only swirl the pot) to prevent crystallization and they also added the butter at the end. You did what you wanted and it turned out perfect! I’m really nervous about messing up because these are a gift for a good friend but it seems like I’d be fine doing it the way you did? Do you test the chocolate to see if it’s tempered before adding it to the candy?

    • Hello! The caramel in this recipe is not a traditional caramel so you don’t need to worry about the temperature or the crystallization. You will be just fine with that step of the process and I didn’t temper the chocolate either. This is a low-fuss, easy recipe that yields delicious and more nutritious results than some others you can find out there 🙂 Enjoy!

  • These sound absolutely amazing! Caramel turtles were one of my family’s favorite treats, but when I found out I couldn’t have corn I had to give them up. Thanks for the recipe.

  • I have never commented on a recipe before, but I have to because THESE ARE SO GOOD. I have made them dozens of times since finding this recipe, and I have passed the recipe on to so many people who were blown away by how good they are.
    I sometimes toast my pecans, but otherwise I don’t alter the recipe at all. It’s perfect.

  • Hi Sarah, Just tried HEALTHYISH SALTED CARAMEL TURTLES recipe & it was a huge hit w/me & family! Thx for sharing!! (Ended up w/12 oversized turtles! Guess will need to use tiny little spoons next time to make 30 servings or will just continue being a little oinker!) Cheers, Nina

  • I don’t usually comment, but I’ve made multiple variations of these since the recipe appeared (and you know its good when I’ve made it again and again either very pregnant or with a newborn!). Though I’ve never had a conventional turtle to compare against. Variations for the caramel and our comments as follows for those interested. All amazing, all so different!
    – cashew butter – as written, tastes most like a nougat caramel (our second favourite)
    – hazelnut butter – our favourite (very decadent, albeit the most expensive option we tried)
    – peanut butter – like a healthy peanut butter cup! but so much better! I’d like to replace the pecans with salted peanuts next time we make this variation.
    – almond butter – one of the thicker caramels out of the variations, very nutty and yum
    – coconut butter – could make nut free if you replace the pecans, a bit runnier than other caramels, but a bit like a bounty bar in flavour. I think this would be a great base to add some berries two or beetroot powder to the coconut caramel and make into love hearts for a cute valentines on anniversary treat.
    – tahini – could be nut free if you replace the pecans, has a slight bitter undertone so could do with a slightly sweeter chocolate (though yum anyway). I added a little maple syrup to the caramel for a bit of extra sweetness, however this made it slightly more runny.

    Would love to try macadamia butter or sunbutter, vary up the nuts instead of the pecans or start blending the nut butters used for more flavour fun. We just sprinkled various nuts and seeds on top to identify which options were which.

    As someone who has made a lot of homemade raw chocolate in the past, this caramel is so easy to make and work with. I usually make a date caramel and love how fast and less overtly sweet this option is to bring together. Love it! Thanks for the great recipes as always. x

      • Hi Mindy,

        I think the best sub for the cashew butter is tahini, or any other kind of nut / seed butter. I hope that helps!

        Sarah B

    • Steph, thanks for that variations run down on Sarah’s great recipe. I work the same way testing new options every time I try a recipe so it’s great to have an idea in advance of how some might turn out.

  • Just made these, following the recipe exactly as written (made the cashew butter myself). So delicious! Best salted caramel turtles I’ve ever had – my husband agrees. Will be making another batch soon. Thank you for another great recipe, Sarah!

  • Thank you for this wonderful recipe, Sarah! This dessert looks so delicious! I will definitely make it in the nearest future and will tell you about the results.
    Happy Christmas!

  • Thank you for sharing!
    For those who, like me, cannot find rice syrup easily:
    I only had maple syrup and agave. I doubled the recipe an used half of those two sweeteners. It was runny, as you mentioned, but I put the mixture on the stove, mixing constantly for approx 5 minutes. The outcome was thicker, very caramelly-like and delicious!!!!

  • Turtles have always been my most favorite…thank you so much for sharing this healthier recipe. To be a pain in the butt I am wondering if you think I could do some subs? Could I use almond butter or other butters like peanut butter (organic or home made of course) instead of cashew and pure maple syrup as sub for rice syrup? I think I will make these for Christmas gifts next year as anyone would LOVE these! Once again thank you so much. Merry Christmas!

    • Hello Colleen,

      You can definitely sub in another nut butter, but I really wouldn’t replace the brown rice syrup with maple – like I said in the post something with that kind of runny consistency isn’t likely to work. It needs to be viscous . I think creamed honey would be best…let me know what you try!

      Merry Christmas to you too <3
      xo Sarah B

  • Hi Sarah!
    Not to do with this recipe, but.. I’m starting one of your courses on Alo, will be making the home made nut butter, and just wondered if you have any suggestion for which food processor to invest in? For consistent home use.. Thanks so much – love your blog 🙂

    • Hello Anna!

      So great that you’re doing the ALO course 🙂 I hope you like it!
      I actually just bought a food processor (couldn’t bring mine from Denmark…) and it’s this one: Cuisinart DFP-14BCNY 14-Cup Food Processor
      I really like it so far, although I haven’t made nut butter in it yet! I actually love old models of this brand. If you can find one from the 70s, the motors tend to be more powerful…I hope that helps and good luck!

      xo, Sarah B

  • Yummmm. Totally agree about the combo of pecans, dark chocolate, and caramel.
    If people can’t find rice syrup, maybe golden syrup would work? I suggest only because I think golden syrup is maybe not as common in North America as the UK and Australia, so it may not have been on your radar.
    On a similar note, would another nut butter work in place of the cashew butter? Cashews / cashew butter are sooo expensive here.

    • Hello Ella,

      Thanks for the suggestion, but golden syrup is a very refined sugar cane product, and probably not something I would recommend to people. It will probably work in this context, but you’d need to reduce the amount, since the golden syrup is much sweeter.
      And sure you can use a different nut butter, but I chose cashew because it is relatively mild in flavour. I didn’t want the caramel to taste like roasted almonds for example 🙂

      I hope that helps!
      Big love,
      Sarah B

  • Hi, how long can you keep them, I was thinking of offering them as a gift to my guest at me Christmas dinner?

    They look delicious, I can’t wait to try them

    • Hi Isabelle,

      These will keep in an airtight container in the freezer for a few months, so giving them as gifts is possible all year long 😉 I hope you enjoy!

      xo, Sarah B

  • Do you have to temper the chocolate first to keep it from melting at room temperature? I live in Bombay where room temperature is very warm… do you have a choc tempering method that you recommend?

  • I will 100% make these and I will report back the moment I do. But I came to urge you to follow in my Sweet Georgia Brown footsteps. If you are in Ontario you gotta hunt down a Purdys chocolate store and get a package of them. They are not healthy AT ALL. And I die for the one overpriced package I get each Christmas that puts current-day Turtles to absolute shame. Treat yo self! But these will be an amazing sub for those less decadent times. Always a fan of healthy food that actually scratches that itch. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
    Side note: I have been crushing my big batch golden milk and life changing loaf for like 3 weeks straight now!

    • Hey Hillary!

      Haha…just found myself on Purdy’s webshop watching a video of how Sweet Georgia Browns are made…YOWZA! They look amazing (and we ALL need a little un-healthy sometimes, ya know?). Thanks for the recommendation!
      Glad to hear you’ll be enjoying these and continuing to enjoy the golden milk and LCLOB! Happiest holidays to you and yours.

      Love, Sarah B

      • I was also going to mention Sweet Georgia Browns as a non-healthful alternative but far superior option to Turtles. I fundraise for our local Alternate School, and they are always so popular.

    • I second that!!! They are all sugar, all the time, but one of life’s worthwhile indulgences!! I too look forward to my one and only treat in my (adult) stocking each and every year. Turtles-schmurtles. These are in a league of their own. That being said, I am very interested to try out a much healthier version, with peanut butter – because PB and chocolate. Can’t go wrong. 🙂

      God Jul Sarah! (I know–Swedish–but that’s what I speak!)

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