Turtle Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies

As someone who is a fan of cheesecake, chocolate, nuts, and caramel, it’s no surprise that I would enjoy turtle cheesecake. Not the ubiquitous mass-produced kind, but the actual homemade variety.

Cheesecake is not that difficult to make, but it is time-consuming. So, for the holidays, I thought it might be a grand idea to take all of those delicious turtle cheesecake elements and condense them into cookies. Boy, was I right!

Turtle Cheesecake Thumbprint Cookies take that favorite classic dessert and turn it into sweet, rich cookies!

Honestly, the cookies are fabulous all on their own. But, in keeping with the turtle theme, we must have caramel! So, a little indentation is made in the top and filled with creamy caramel.

I love these cookies just as they are. But, if you want to add just a bit more fancy to them, drizzle with melted chocolate and sprinkle with chopped pecans. They’ll look absolutely gorgeous on your holiday cookie tray.

Turtle Cheesecake Cookies

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: about 5 dozen cookies

Turtle Cheesecake Cookies


    For the cookies:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • For the caramel topping:
  • 15 soft caramels, unwrapped (about 4 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream


To make the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking pans with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and cream cheese until combined. Add sugar and brown sugar, and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture. Mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.

Using a tablespoonful of dough, shape cookies into balls. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared pans. Flatten each ball slightly. Using your thumb or the back of a spoon, press a 1/4-inch indentation into the top of each cookie.

Bake cookies, one pan at a time, 12-15 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool on pans for 5 minutes. Then, transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the caramel topping:

Place caramels and cream in a heavy saucepan. Heat on the stovetop over low heat, stirring frequently, until caramels have melted and mixture is smooth.

Using about 1/2 teaspoon at a time, fill cookie indentations with caramel. Allow caramel to cool and set. If necessary, you may refrigerate the cookies to set the caramel.


This is a big-batch recipe, but it can easily be halved to make a smaller batch.


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  1. Melanie December 3, 2012 Reply

    I love turtle cheesecake but it’s true, too much work for this time of year. Thanks so much for coming up with this alternative. I have added these to my (ever growing) Christmas baking list.

  2. vanillasugarblog December 3, 2012 Reply

    I love love love love these!!!

  3. Cori December 3, 2012 Reply

    I’ll definitely make these!

  4. Kristin December 4, 2012 Reply

    I’m going to bake these tonight for an upcoming cookie exchange, do you think they are winners?

  5. jennifer December 4, 2012 Reply

    Absolutely, Kristin!

  6. Jess @ OnSugarMountain December 4, 2012 Reply

    Were these the cookie remnants I saw on Twitter?!? No, can’t be, I could’ve sworn those looked vanilla-esque, which means omg are there MORE cookies coming?!

    Sorry, I am sort of a serious lover of the cookie fest that happens every December. And I LOVE how decadent these are while still being easily manageable. Yum!

  7. jennifer December 4, 2012 Reply

    Different cookies, Jess! The others will be coming very soon.

  8. Kristin December 4, 2012 Reply

    Hi jennifer so I’m baking these as I message you…when I went to roll the batter into balls, the dough was too wet and sticky. Did I do something wrong? Any tips? Should I add flour? Thanks!

    • jennifer December 4, 2012 Reply

      Kristin, measuring flour can be a bit inaccurate, depending on how you measure. So, it’s possible that you need more flour. The dough is a bit sticky, but not so much that you should have difficulty rolling it into balls.

  9. Kristin December 5, 2012 Reply

    Thanks jennifer! I added more flour and put the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes. That really helped and they turned out great! My cookie exchange competition better watch out!

  10. Jota December 8, 2012 Reply

    So perfect and so delicious! Have to make these. 😉

  11. lunachick6 December 10, 2012 Reply

    I love to make truffles for my friends and families for the holidays, and Scharffen Berger is one of my very favorite chocolates to work with!

  12. Emily December 15, 2012 Reply

    Do you think these could be made into bars and drizzled with the caramel?

  13. jennifer December 15, 2012 Reply

    Emily, the dough is a bit sticky, but I think it might work. Let me know how it turns out if you try it.

  14. Stephanie @ Plain Chicken December 9, 2013 Reply

    YUM! I love all of these ingredients. Must try!

  15. Debra November 16, 2014 Reply

    I just made these this afternoon and the dough did turn out sticky. I think that’s just how they are but I greased my hands and had no problem rolling the dough into balls. It did make quite a few but that’s a good thing! Pretty tasty! These are definitely a keeper!

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