Turtle brownies are an ultra-rich, fudgy brownie with homemade caramel oozing from every corner, and crunchy pecans adding that perfect nutty touch. They’re like a sweet slice of heaven. Two types of chocolate add intense chocolate flavor to these homemade treats and the caramel is easy to make, you don’t even need a candy thermometer.
Indulge in Gooey Caramel Chocolate Brownies
Unlike boxed brownies, this homemade brownie base is made with butter, not oil, for an elevated flavor and decadent texture to the brownie. It’s the perfect brownie recipe to surround a buttery caramel filling.
These brownies are a bit of a labor of love because of the extra step in making the caramel, but they’re not hard to put together. If you’ve never made homemade caramel before, I promise it isn’t as hard as it seems – for this recipe, you don’t even need a candy thermometer. I’ve got photos to walk you through it.
Homemade caramel has only 3 ingredients and will take just a few minutes to make. You can make this days in advance. If you don’t have time, a jar of caramel sauce works fine too. Make extra and use it to pour over cinnamon rolls or baked apples. Or use it for a dip for apple slices, or just pour it over ice cream. It’s hard to beat cream, butter and sugar!
Caramel and chocolate are a great combination, but be warned they are super rich. Try warming them up for a few seconds and topping them with vanilla ice cream. You’ll need some coffee, tea or grab a big glass of milk.
What is a turtle brownie?
The name turtle comes from a dessert called Turtle pie, which is defined by its three main ingredients – chocolate, caramel, and pecans.
What I Love About Chocolate Caramel Brownies
- They’re rich and indulgent. Butter, caramel, and dark chocolate make these brownies ultra-moist, rich, fudgy, and decadent.
- They’re perfect for guests or for gifts. Everyone loves brownies, and these are no exception. You can package a few up in a bakery box or cellophane bag to send home with my guests or even bring as a hostess gift to a party.
- They have caramel and pecans. Chocolate brownies don’t need any help to be awesome, but the addition of caramel and pecans somehow makes them into a showstopper dessert. These aren’t your typical brownies, and you’ll love the additional texture and flavors the caramel and pecans add.
How to Make Homemade Caramel
- Add the sugar to a heavy saucepan and cook while stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. The sugar will form clumps and then turn clear as it melts.
- Continue to cook and stir the sugar until it turns an amber color.
- Once the color is dark enough, add the butter, stirring constantly until it is absorbed.
- Stir in the heavy cream very carefully because the caramel will bubble up when the cream is added and release a lot of steam. Once the cream is fully incorporated, boil the caramel for another minute without stirring.
- Stir in the salt, then remove the caramel from the heat and allow it to fully cool.
If you don’t plan to use the caramel right away, store it in an airtight container or jar and warm it up in the microwave to make it spreadable before you use it.
Ingredients for Turtle Brownies
- Sugar – Sugar goes into both the caramel and the brownie itself.
- Butter – I like to use salted butter for the caramel and unsalted butter in the brownies, but you could use one or the other. If you use salted butter, eliminate the added salt in the brownies; if you use unsalted butter, add some extra salt to the caramel.
- Heavy cream – Heavy cream you can’t skimp on this, go with heavy whipping cream.
- Dark chocolate – You can use any high-quality dark chocolate bar that you like. I usually aim for something that is 65 to 80% cocoa solids, which falls into the bittersweet range. You can use any type of chocolate that you like, milk or semi-sweet, it’s just what you like.
- Cocoa powder – Use high-quality cocoa powder for the best flavor.
- Chopped pecans – Pecans are one-third of the Turtle flavor, and chopping them up means every bit of brownie has a little bit of pecan in it.
- Cayenne pepper – Cayenne pepper adds a tiny touch of heat that offsets the sweetness of the brownies and beautifully complements the flavor of the chocolate.
- Pantry Staples – Flour, salt, eggs, vanilla extract.
What type of caramel should I buy at the store?
If you choose to buy caramel instead of making your own, you should buy a jar of caramel sauce – don’t buy anything that comes in a squeeze bottle. While those caramels are great for topping ice cream sundaes or fun coffee drinks, this recipe requires a thicker texture than you can get from a squeeze bottle. Trader Joe’s makes an excellent salted caramel sauce, but there are plenty of brands at the regular grocery store that will do the trick.
How To Make Rich, Gooey Turtle Brownies
Step 1: Prepare the chocolate.
Place the chopped chocolate into a large microwave-safe bowl along with the butter. (Use a bowl bigger than you think you need because this bowl is where the whole batter will get mixed together.) Microwave them on medium power in 30-second intervals, stirring between each step until the butter and chocolate are both melted and fully combined. Set the chocolate mixture aside.
Step 2: Mix the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cayenne pepper together.
Step 3: Mix the batter.
Add the sugar and cocoa powder to the melted chocolate and butter and whisk thoroughly. Then, add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Finally, gently fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined.
Step 4: Layer the brownies.
Pour half of the brownie batter into a parchment-lined 9×13 pan, and spread it out with a spatula. Sprinkle half of the pecans over the batter, then drizzle over the homemade caramel. Finally, spoon over the remaining brownie batter, smooth it out, and top with the rest of the pecans.
Step 5: Bake the brownies.
Bake the brownies until they’re just set, and the center doesn’t wobble when you nudge the pan. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan before cutting.
How do I know the brownies are baked through?
The brownies shouldn’t wobble when you tap the pan and the edges should be formed and will pull away from the pan. It’s hard to tell if these brownies are cooked using a cake tester or skewer because of the caramel.
Grab some milk and enjoy!
How to Store Brownies
At room temperature: Keep the brownies in an airtight container for up to four days.
In the refrigerator: You can extend the shelf life by storing the brownies in the refrigerator for up to a week – just keep them in an airtight container.
Freezer: Brownies will stay fresh for 3 months in the freezer and don’t take long to thaw.
More Brownie Recipes to Try
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Gooey Turtle Brownies with Homemade Caramel
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 18 tablespoons butter
- 3 ounces dark chocolate chopped
- 11/2 cups flour
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 2 ½ cups sugar
- 3 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- ¾ cups chopped pecans
- Add sugar to a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula. The sugar will form clumps and then turn clear as it melts. Cook until it turns an amber color.
- As soon as the clumps have melted and it has turned amber, add butter, stirring constantly until it is absorbed. Add the cream, it will bubble up when added. Stir to incorporate and then let it boil for a minute without stirring. Add salt and remove from the heat and let cool.
- If not using right away, warm up in the microwave so that it is spreadable.
- Preheat the oven to 350º. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment.
- Place chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl with butter and microwave on medium power until the chocolate has melted, stirring every 30 seconds for about 2 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cayenne pepper.
- Whisk cocoa powder and sugar into the chocolate mixture. Add eggs and vanilla and vigorously whisk until smooth. Gently fold in flour mixture until just combined.
- Place half of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan, spread with an offset spatula or knife. Sprinkle with half of the pecans. Top with caramel mixture and dd the other half of the brownie batter. Top with remaining pecans.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- If using purchased caramel, you will need about a cup.
- You can use milk or semi-sweet chocolate.
- If the caramel is too thick to spread, warm it in the microwave.