Sweet, soft, crunchy, gooey Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies are full of great flavor!
Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies
If you’re a fan of gooey, nutty desserts, then you’ll want to pay attention to these Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies. They’re a pretty perfect combination of flavors and textures. Honestly, I can’t get enough of them!
The cookies themselves are really good on their own. The brown sugar gives them a bit of a caramel flavor, making the caramel we’ll add later even more pronounced. The texture of the cookies is similar to a soft shortbread. The added pecans bring some crunch to the party, too.
Once the cookies are baked, we add a simple caramel filling made with just two ingredients. It can be made in either the microwave or on the stovetop. I tend to make it in the microwave just for the sake of convenience, but either way works just fine.
While I like this filling recipe for its simplicity, you can certainly substitute a store-bought thick caramel sauce or your favorite recipe. And if you have a little bit left over, then I feel confident you’ll find a good use for it.
I’ve been embracing smaller batches lately, so I love that this recipe makes about a dozen cookies. If you want more, it will scale nicely. But otherwise, it’s nice to embrace a small batch of cookies to enjoy with just a few of your favorite cookie lovers.
What You’ll Need
This recipe has a short list of ingredients consisting mostly of basic baking ingredients. Grab some pecans and the caramel ingredients, and you’re all set!
For the cookies:
- All-purpose flour – Measure by weight or use the spoon and sweep method.
- Baking soda
- Unsalted butter – Set out the butter about half an hour before you’ll be baking. Learn more: How to Soften Butter
- Brown sugar – I like light brown sugar for these cookies, but dark brown sugar should work, too, if you want the extra bold molasses flavor.
- Egg – Set out the egg along with the butter. You’ll use the yolk in the cookie dough and the white for coating the cookies. The egg will separate better when it’s cold, so do that first.
- Vanilla extract – Try almond extract for an extra nutty flavor.
- Pecans – Chop these finely so they’ll mix into the dough well.
For the caramel filling:
- Soft caramels – These soft, chewy caramels are often found with the candy.
- Heavy cream
Ideas for Variations
Caramel and pecans go together oh-so well in these cookies, but you’ll also find that they’re quite versatile. You can easily alter the recipe for some variety. Here are some of my favorite variations:
- Skip making the filling and use your favorite store-bought caramel sauce. Just be sure to avoid thin, runny caramels.
- Fill the pecan thumbprint cookies with your favorite fruit jam instead of caramel.
- Try different nuts. These would work well with almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or most any nut.
- Fill with chocolate ganache or your favorite chocolate frosting.
How to Make Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies
These cookies are easy to make and look so impressive! You’ll need several bowls, a hand or stand mixer, and a baking sheet.
Prepare for baking. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
Combine the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside while you mix the wet ingredients.
Mix the wet ingredients. Use your hand or stand mixer on medium speed to cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolk followed by the vanilla.
Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Add the flour mixture, and continue mixing just until the dough is combined.
Portion and coat the cookies. Roll the dough into balls, using a tablespoon of dough at a time. If you have a cookie scoop, it works well for getting equally sized cookies.
Coat the cookies. Coat each ball of cookie dough in the egg white and then the pecans. Place the cookies on the prepared pan. Leave about 2 inches between them so they have room to spread.
Shape the cookies. Press an indentation in the center of each ball of cookie dough. The end of a wooden spoon handle works well for this.
Bake. The cookies will need 12 to 14 minutes in the oven to bake. They should be golden brown and slightly more browned around the edges.
Cool the cookies. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes. If the cookies lost some of their indentations while baking, use the wooden spoon handle to reshape them. Then transfer the cookies from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the filling. Place the caramels and cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat at half-power in 30-second increments until the caramels have melted. You can also place the filling ingredients in a pan and heat on the stovetop on medium-low heat. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
Fill the thumbprints. Spoon the caramel filling into the indentations in the cookies. Allow the filling to set before serving.
Tips for Success
- Gather all cookie ingredients before beginning to bake. Honestly, you should always do this to make your baking life easier, but it’s especially beneficial here so you can go from mixing to coating to baking without any delay.
- Shape the indentations before and after baking. Making that indentation before baking will likely not be enough, so plan on reshaping a bit right after the cookies have baked. Be gentle, as they’ll be super soft at this point.
- Allow the caramel to set. Factor in enough time to let the caramel set in these thumbprint cookies. If you need to speed things along, put the filled cookies in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.
How to Store Leftovers
These cookies will keep best in the refrigerator. Place the cooled cookies in an airtight container. They should keep for up to 5 days. Bring them to room temperature on the counter before serving.
Can I Freeze Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies?
Yes! You can freeze either the unbaked dough or the baked cookies.
To freeze the dough, make the recipe through forming the cookies into balls. Place the portioned dough in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until frozen. Then place the frozen cookies in an airtight, freezer-safe bag or container. Thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator; then coat them and bake as normal.
To freeze the baked, filled cookies, first place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze to set the caramel. Next, wrap the cookies in plastic wrap and then place in a freezer-safe bag or container. Properly stored, the cookies should keep for up to 3 months. Thaw the cookies overnight in the refrigerator or on the countertop for about an hour.