Gooey Turtle Bars

These Gooey Turtle Bars are crisp, buttery shortbread covered in a layer of gooey caramel, and topped with chocolate and pecans. Is there anything better?!

These Gooey Turtle Bars are crisp, buttery shortbread covered in a layer of gooey caramel, and topped with chocolate and pecans. Is there anything better?!

It’s crunch time! I have five more classes as a college freshman, one more test, 2 more essays, 2 more projects, and one final. It’s seriously weird that it’s almost over.

I feel like it was just yesterday that I was incredibly sick, wondering how in the world I would be able to choose a school to go to, and pretty much throwing a shot into the dark and coming to Washington. It’s weird how everything just falls into place.These Gooey Turtle Bars are crisp, buttery shortbread covered in a layer of gooey caramel, and topped with chocolate and pecans. Is there anything better?!

I’ve made some of the best friends I’ve ever had here (two of which I’ll be going to Mexico with at the end of May!! Woohoo…viva Mexico!), joined a sorority (Alpha Phi!), studied my butt off, and taken extremely random classes. It’s been a great year, just off to think that 1/4 of my college career is over. When people say that the older you get, the faster time goes, they aren’t kidding.

And I’m not sure I like it!

But time isn’t slowing, so time to not take one thing for granted, to enjoy every moment I have with the people I love, and make the most of the next three years I have in college.

These Gooey Turtle Bars are crisp, buttery shortbread covered in a layer of gooey caramel, and topped with chocolate and pecans. Is there anything better?!

This summer will be a blast, and I’m so excited. I’m going to road trip home from Washington to San Diego (follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@rachelconners) for all the pictures of that adventure) and then Mexico, and then working, baking, blogging, and having tons of fun with all my best friends for the rest of the summer. It’ll be a blast, so stick around here and enjoy it with me through some delicious food, alright?!

These bars are everything you want in a bar – chewy, crunchy, sticky, chocolatey, nutty, tender, and absolutely scrumptious. The caramel is not hard to make, so don’t be scared away by that! These aren’t difficult, but people will think they are, so feel free to brag all you want. I didn’t make any changes to the recipe except to put the pecans on top instead of the middle, but that was all for aesthetics. Keep them in the middle, or throw them on top! Either way is delicious. Hope you enjoy!

These Gooey Turtle Bars are crisp, buttery shortbread covered in a layer of gooey caramel, and topped with chocolate and pecans. Is there anything better?!

Gooey Turtle Bars
Serves: 36 bars
For the shortbread
  • 14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ⅜ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
For the caramel/chocolate layers
  • 1¾ cups (12.25 ounces) packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey or light corn syrup
  • ⅜ teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon for coarse or flaky sea salt)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (7 ounces) whole pecan halves, toasted
  • 6 ounces milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 1 cup milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
For the Shortbread
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line the pan as specified in the individual recipe with foil.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter with the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft or oily. Press and smooth the dough evenly over the bottom of a parchment or aluminum foil-lined, greased pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is a rich golden brown with well-browned darker edges. Let cool on a rack before proceeding as directed in the recipe.
For the caramel & chocolate layers
  1. Prepare the shortbread crust as directed.
  2. In a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the brown sugar, honey, salt, and water. Set on medium heat and add in the butter. Stir constantly with a heatproof spatula, scraping the corners and bottom of the pan as the butter melts. From time to time, scrape the mixture off the spatula against the top edge of the pan and scrape the sides of the pan clean.
  3. Bring the mixture to a medium boil and continue stirring and scraping the pan for about 3 minutes, dissolving the sugar.
  4. Stir in the condensed milk and return the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, scraping the sides, corners, and bottom of the pan to ensure that your caramel doesn't burn. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils actively but not too furiously. Continue stirring and cooking until the mixture registers 235°F on a candy thermometer. Total cooking time will be close to 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Scrape the hot caramel over the warm crust.
  6. Tilt the pan to level the caramel. Scatter the toasted pecans and chopped chocolate over the surface and set aside until the caramel is cool and the chocolate is set. (I let the caramel set slightly, and then spread melted chocolate over the caramel, and sprinkled the pecans on top. Feel free to use either method, both work wonderfully!)
  7. Slice the bars into relatively small pieces, they're very sweet. I've found their easier to slice when chilled. Keep in an airtight container for up to a week. Enjoy!


  1. OMG. These are a no-brainer in our house. My kids will FLIP OUT when I make these!! I am drooling over here!!

  2. These look scrumptious!
    Congrats on nearly finishing your freshman year. It does go by fast, so make the most of it. But it looks like you already are!

    Great blog! :)


  3. Tina@flourtrader says:

    This is a special chapter in your life, so I am glad you are cherishing the time. Sounds like you have some great plans for the summer.
    Your bars here look so amazing, I love the layering. They do have a great balance. The crunch from the nuts on top is a nice addition of texture too. Delicious post!

  4. Time really does go so much faster as you get older! I just graduated with my Master’s in Counseling this past Saturday. It was two years of hard work, but it I’m amazed that I’m done already.

    The bars look amazing; my family would love them but I won’t dare make them right now as my husband and I would eat them all by ourselves! Better wait until we’ll be visiting our parents ;)

  5. Congratulations on being almost finished your first year! It definitely does fly. It sounds like you have a fantastic summer planned, though! Good luck on your finals, and eat a couple of these bars for study energy. ;)

  6. So glad you stopped by my blog because I’m loving yours :) Enjoy your college years – they are the best! Most of my best lifelong friends are the ones I found in college. And I’m an Alpha Phi too :) These bars look delicious by the way!

  7. Aw college is seriously the best time ever, enjoy every minute! I was a Kappa Delta in college :) But one of my best girl friends was Alpha Phi! Your summer sounds like a blast! And those turtle bars….OMG… yum!!! They look too good! That thick caramel layer looks irresistible!

  8. Good luck with your finals Rachel! I’m sure the summer will be a well deserved break/baking extravaganza. These turtle bars look fantastic – I will definitely be making these for my stepdad’s next birthday (he’s a turtles fanatic). This also reminds me that I need to check out this cookbook (it’s been on my amazon wishlist for ages) – I just got Bi-Rite Creamery’s (a SF favorite) ice cream cookbook, but that might have to be my next acquisition.

  9. says:

    To be a college freshman again! Enjoy your time and i will enjoy these delights!

  10. Gayle Glass says:

    Sounds delicious!!!

  11. Pretty sure I couldn’t eat just one of these. Waaaay too yummy!

  12. Your college years just fly by right? Well it seems like you’re making the most of your college experience.

    As for these bars, I love them. If only I had them during finals week during my college years, I might have aced them all! :)

  13. These look delicious! And have fun in Mexico :)

  14. Rach, these look amazing. i’m literally drooling. Caramel, chocolate, and nuts?! What could be better…Oh, maybe eating them in Mexico. Have fun on your trip! :)

  15. My mouth is literally watering at these. You just can’t go wrong with chocolate, caramel, and shortbread.

  16. Do you think a jar of store bought caramel sauce would work just as well?

    • I’m not sure a jar of caramel sauce would work, because it’s so runny and you want a thick caramel here. However, you could melt down some caramel candies with some heavy cream to get a similar sort of caramel. Good luck! :) Hope you like them.

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