Turtle bars come from an old recipe that just never gets old. Make this bar recipe with simple ingredients for the holiday season or your next bake sale.
Just be sure and make a second batch because you'll want to have a few of these dreamy bar cookies on hand at all times!
What are these?
If you're a fan of turtle candy, you'll love this delicious cookie bar version at first bite. These turtle bars feature a mixture of pecan pieces with semi-sweet chocolate chips and bits of toffee embedded on a shortbread base.
Perfect for Christmas baking or the new year, these turtle cookie bars are sure to become one of your favorite easy recipes.
One of the beautiful things about these amazing treats is that it is all baked. No need to worry about melting any of the ingredients over medium heat in a small saucepan, a medium saucepan, or anything like that.
Instead, heat oven, mix ingredients, bake dessert, and get ready to smile!
Ordinary pantry ingredients are another thing that makes this recipe for turtle bars a kitchen winner. You probably have almost everything you need to put these together today!
For the Buttery Shortbread Crust
- One cup butter at room temperature. I like to use regular (salted) butter for this decadent dessert.
- Flour - Use all-purpose unbleached flour.
- Powdered sugar.
You'll use a food processor to mix the shortbread base. If you don't have one of these, you can also use an old-fashioned pastry blender or even a heavy-duty table fork (which is what my mom probably would have used!)
For the Filling and Topping
- Sweetened condensed milk
- A large egg (at room temperature.)
- Vanilla extract
- Crunchy pecans - I like to use a combination of pecan halves and broken pieces to sprinkle pecans on top.
- Semisweet chocolate chips - Always use ones made from real chocolate if you can!
- Toffee and chocolate baking bits (like Heath bits.) You'll use these instead of a traditional caramel sauce.
Substitutions and variations
There are many variations of turtle bars you can use from the original recipe.
Graham cracker crust - Instead of the traditional shortbread base, combine some graham crackers and butter. Then use a food processor to make a yummy graham cracker crust version of turtle bars.
Or, use a pie crust for a turtle pie. Sounds delicious, right? Here are a few other simple variations:
For the sweetened condensed milk you can use evaporated milk. Use the same amount for a one-to-one substitution.
Although the consistency will be the same, you'll lose some sweetness. You may want to add some light brown sugar to taste if you use this substitution.
Instead of semisweet chocolate chips, consider using milk chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, or even white chocolate bits.
Mixed nuts - Instead of pecan you can use regular peanuts, cashews, or any other combination of nuts.
Kept in an airtight container, these will keep at room temperature for 3 days.
These turtle bars will keep well in the freezer for up to 4 months. Allow them to cool completely after baking, then double-wrap in plastic kitchen wrap and freeze.
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- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 cup butter
- 1 14- ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 large egg beaten
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup pecans coarsely chopped
- ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup toffee-and-chocolate baking pieces such as Heath or Skor
- Heat oven to 350°F. Combine the flour, confectioners' sugar, and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until a crumbly dough is formed. Press the dough firmly into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake until just golden brown, about 15 minutes.
- Whisk together the condensed milk, egg, and vanilla. Pour the filling over the baked crust. Sprinkle chocolate chips, pecans, and toffee pieces evenly over the filling. Bake until the filling is set, the edges are golden brown, and the toffee is melted, about 25 minutes.
- Cool completely in the refrigerator, about 2 hours. Cut into 32 bars.
- For easier cleanup, line the entire pan with parchment paper before baking.
- For added flavor, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over the surface of the bars.
- Allow these to cool on a wire rack in the refrigerator for 2 hours before cutting into small squares.
- Remove from the baking pan with an offset spatula.