Sea Salt Gooey Caramel Turtles

Named because the intention is that they look like turtles, these sea salt gooey caramel treats are the perfect balance of intense sweet, salty, bitter, chewy and crunchy goodness. These plant based “candies” are an easy treat to make that require very little skill, but provide some delicious indulgence for a mini morsel of dessert.


Prep Time:

60 minutes

Cook Time:

10 minutes

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Sea Salt Gooey Caramel Turtles

Some of you may be wondering why on earth these are called turtles but I actually didn’t come up with this myself. Like any weird candy name, I believe these came out of somewhere in the US. 

But alas we are here making a wholesome version. Of course the name “turtle” comes from the fact that they are meant to look like turtles. Now since I only used four pecans instead of five, mine are more like pinwheels, but I’m rolling with the turtle term! Feel free to use five if you’d like a more authentic looking turtle (lol). 

A tray of candy dates with pecans

You may know that I don’t often use dates in recipes, because even though they are delicious and “natural”, they still contain sugar. So this is something to be mindful of, especially if you are managing your insulin, following a low carb or keto diet, or simply just because you are conscious of sugar consumption. 

That said, this is why these are a dessert and not a snack. I always like to save eating sugar for dessert instead of loading up my day with unnecessary sugar in snacks and meals.


except that I didn’t put five nuts on so they are HEADLESS turtles ok, pls don’t come for me I’m Australian #healthyrecipes #turtlerecipe #healthytreats

♬ Fire for You – Cannons
Plate of candy dates covered in chocolate and pecans

Why you’ll love these healthy date turtles   

  • They require only five simple ingredients that you likely have in your pantry already. 
  • They store in the fridge for ages. 
  • They don’t require much skill and the only cooking you have to do is roasting pecans (the easiest of cooking IMO). 
  • They are delicious! Intense salty sweet bitter crunch all in one morsel. 
  • They rely on the sweetness of dates, so you aren’t adding any sugar or sweetener

Ingredients for healthy plant based turtles

To make these you’ll need medjool dates, pecans, dark chocolate, almond butter and flakey sea salt.

ingredients on a table. Dark chocolate pieces in a pile, medjool dates on a plate, a teaspoon of sea salt, a bowl of pecans and a bowl of almond butter.

Make sure to choose extra gooey dates and good quality chocolate and salt – it will make all the difference!

How to make date turtles

First, dry roast the pecans in the oven to enhance the flavour and crunch. Then squish the dates using the bottom of a glass or any flat surface. Here we put them in the fridge or freezer, to make them a little easier to handle. This is especially important if they are really gooey dates.

Image of a glass pressing a date down on a chopping board to flatten it

Then it’s a simple job of assembly, pressing in the roasted pecans, spooning in the almond butter and topping with melted chocolate and sea salt.

How to melt dark chocolate

Melting chocolate is not as simple as it seems, because it can easily burn or separate. There are a few different ways of doing it. Purists will use a double boiler which is simply a bowl sitting over a pot of gently simmering water, on the lowest heat). This is a great option and I promise it is far less intimidating than it seems. This method allows the chocolate to melt without burning as there is no direct heat.

A tray of candied dates with pecans on top sit next to a bowl of sea salt with a teaspoon in it and a bowl of melted chocolate with a teaspoon in it.

The other method of melting chocolate is in the microwave. But to do this without burning the chocolate, there is a special process. First you have to break the chocolate into equal pieces and place in a ceramic bowl. Then you only put it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, and you stir between each. The first two sessions may feel like nothing has melted, but this is an important step. 

Then you want to make sure that you take it out just before it is completely melted, so there will still be a few small chunks of chocolate. Continue to stir and the residual heat of the bowl and the chocolate will melt the rest. This helps to prevent the chocolate from overheating. Once melted, I like to leave the bowl sitting for 4-5 minutes before I drizzle it. This helps to thicken it slightly.

A tray of candied dates with pecans sit on a tray with brown bake paper.

What Chocolate Is Sugar Free? 

Every time I post a chocolate recipe that uses real chocolate, especially because I’m known for sugar free recipes, there’s some confusion around using chocolate. I use 90% dark chocolate, which although contains some sugar, it’s so negligible that it barely counts. I consider 90% dark chocolate sugar free. You can also use 85% for a slightly less bitter option. Bonus that chocolate at this percentage is generally dairy-free too!   

A white plate holds 8 candied dates topped with pecans and chocolate.

Sea Salt Gooey Caramel Turtles

Wholesome plant based caramel candy using just dates, nuts and chocolate.



Prep time:

60 minutes

Cook time:

10 minutes

  • 2 cups pecans, whole 
  • 10 medjool dates 
  • 100g dark chocolate 
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • 1 tbsp flakey sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. 
  2. Place pecans on a large baking tray in a single layer. Place in the oven to roast for 8-10 minutes, tossing half way through. You may also want to flip the tray around if your oven is hotter in some parts than others. Watch carefully to ensure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven, transfer to a bowl or plate and allow them to cool. 
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the dates by removing the pip then squashing flat using the base of a drinking glass (or anything flat). Place the squashed date on a plate and chill in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the remaining ingredients. 
  4. To melt the chocolate, break it into even pieces and place in a small ceramic bowl. Melt in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each. You can remove it when there are still a few chunks, just continue to stir in the ceramic bowl so the heat of the bowl melts the remaining chocolate. 
  5. To assemble the turtles, press four or five pecans into the date, leaving some overhang, then dollop a teaspoon of almond butter in the centre and coat with melted chocolate. Repeat for all of them.  
  6. Place in the fridge to set for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with flakey sea salt.
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