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Turtle Cookie Balls couldn’t be cuter as a make-ahead holiday treat. Homemade gifts are the best, and these babies prove it!

White plate with 3 turtle cookie balls in front of a cup of coffee

As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I start to think about the gift-giving season. Since we can’t get together in person with all of our family this year, I’m trying my very best to make sure I am ready with lots of homemade treats on hand to give to my loved ones.

Store-bought gifts are awesome, sure. (I’d never turn down some new candles from that smell-good place at the mall, after all!) But there’s something so lovely about giving your family homemade yummies.

Like these Turtle Cookie Balls. Let me just say that there’s something truly spectacular when chocolate, caramel, vanilla wafers, and pecans come together in one little morsel. And they’re SO easy to make!

Ingredients for turtle cookie balls on a marble counter

Honestly, the hardest part of making these cookie balls is keeping yourself from eating the filling by the spoonful before you can enrobe each little ball with a decadent covering of chocolate.

For these Turtle Cookie Balls, you’ll need:

  • Softened cream cheese
  • Crushed vanilla wafers
  • Caramel ice cream topping
  • Semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
shaped cookie balls lined up on a parchment-lined baking sheet, ready to dip into chocolate

I’ve made a number of variations on this recipe over the years: Peppermint Oreo Cookie Balls, Peppermint Kahlua Oreo Cookie Balls, and Berry Oreo Cookie Balls

But this combination of chocolate, caramel, and pecans might be one of my favorites. If you’ve made my Caramel Pecan Clusters or my Turtle Pretzel Candy Clusters, you know how good that classic turtle combo is.

Gray spatula set on the edge of a glass mixing bowl filled with chopped chocolate


If you’ve ever watched shows like the Great British Bake Off, the idea of tempering chocolate might scare you. 

But melting chocolate for recipes like these Turtle Cookie Balls doesn’t need to be complicated! In fact, you can get perfectly smooth results using a microwave.

spatula stirring melted chocolate in a small glass bowl next to a tray of shaped cookie balls

(And we know from my Microwave Lemon Curd that I’m a fan of microwave shortcuts that really work!)

Just make sure you’re using baking chocolate bars or couverture chocolate wafers. Chocolate chips have extra ingredients to hold their shape so they don’t melt as smooth.

Fork holding a dipped turtle cookie ball over a bowl of melted chocolate

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Break the chocolate into equal-size pieces and place in a microwave-safe glass bowl. 
  2. Microwave on high for 30 seconds and stir.
  3. Repeat and stir.
  4. Continue cooking and stirring in 10 second increments until completely melted and perfectly smooth.
Decorated turtle cookie balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet

Remember how I said that the hardest part of making Turtle Cookie Balls is not eating the filling before you can coat them in chocolate?

It’s true! All you have to do is finely crush some vanilla wafer cookies and combine them with softened cream cheese.

To give this Turtle Cookie Balls recipe that key caramel component, you’ll also mix in a few tablespoons of caramel ice cream topping.

Three turtle cookie balls on a white plate, with one cookie ball bit in half to show the inside

From there, it’s as easy as shaping the dough into balls – a perfect activity for kids! – letting them chill and then dipping them in the melted chocolate.

These Turtle Cookie Balls will store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to gift them out to everyone you love or indulge a little after a long day at work.

Think of the other combinations you could try too – chocolate sauce and peppermint chips, cherry sauce and lime zest – this cookie ball recipe is fully customizable!

Turtle cookie balls arranged on holiday gift boxes

If dipping these little beauties seems like it could get really messy, don’t worry. I’ve got a simple method for you that will save you from making a mess!

Place one of the frozen “dough” balls on a fork over the bowl of melted chocolate. Use a spoon to pour the chocolate over the cookie ball, letting the excess drip back into the bowl.

Use a toothpick to gently push the chocolate-covered cookie ball off of the fork and onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Don’t forget to sprinkle on the chopped pecans before the chocolate hardens!

Three turtle cookie balls on a blue and white plate
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By: Jamie
4.43 from 133 ratings
Prep: 30 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 21
Turtle Cookie Balls couldn’t be cuter as a make-ahead holiday treat. Homemade gifts are the best, and these babies prove it!


  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 70 vanilla wafer cookies finely crushed (about 2-1/3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping
  • 16 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate broken into pieces, melted
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans


  • Mix first 3 ingredients until blended.
  • Shape into 42 (1-inch) balls. Freeze for 10 minutes.
  • Dip balls in melted chocolate and place in a single layer in a shallow waxed paper-lined pan.
  • Sprinkle with nuts. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.


Serving: 2cookie balls, Calories: 270kcal, Carbohydrates: 28g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 12mg, Sodium: 126mg, Potassium: 161mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 16g, Vitamin A: 159IU, Vitamin C: 0.03mg, Calcium: 26mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

4.43 from 133 votes (133 ratings without comment)

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  1. Yvette says:

    I’ve made these a few times- ALWAYS a hit! I’ve had a request to make them with white chocolate for an all-white-themed baby shower. Will they turn out and taste the same with white chocolate?

    1. Jamie says:

      I am so happy to hear you enjoy this recipe! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your feedback! I haven’t tried them with white chocolate, but I think they would be tasty!

  2. Donna says:

    What can you substitute for vanilla wafers. Haven’t been able to get them during covid

    1. Jamie says:

      Any cookie similar in texture to Nilla Wafers will do!

  3. virginia larson says:

    looking for the holidays for something different.

  4. Dee says:

    Do you have to keep them refrigerated when finished or could you store in a cool place??

    1. Jamie says:

      Hello! You’ll need to keep the refrigerated due to the cream cheese in the recipe. Hope this helps!

  5. Terri says:

    These cookies are awesome, and easy to make I’m trying freezing them I will let you know how they turn

    1. Jamie says:

      So happy to hear you enjoyed the cookies, Terri! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your feedback!

  6. Liz says:

    Does it matter if the caramel used in the recipe is store bought or homemade? I usually make a small batch of salted caramel sauce and was wondering if I could use that instead?

    1. Jamie says:

      Hello! You could absolutely use homemade caramel sauce instead of store bought. Happy baking!

  7. Carla Fricke says:

    Do these cookies need to be refrigerated after you make them and have served some of them? Great recipe by the way? 

    1. Jamie says:

      Hello! Yes, you will need to refrigerate them due to the cream cheese in them. Hope this helps!

  8. Lynn says:

    Would these work with sugar cookies too?  I have so many in my freezer.  I would love to use them up!

    1. Jamie says:

      Hello! I haven’t attempted this recipe with sugar cookies, so I am not sure of the result but think it could work. If you happen to give it a try, I’d love to know how they turned out. Thanks so much for stopping by.