up close shot of a single healthy turtle bar

Healthy Turtle Bars

Healthy turtle bars are a soft cookie crust topped with healthy caramel sauce and chocolate making them the perfect holiday dessert.

healthy turtle bar slices laid out on a tan counter

There’s a small candy shop back in my hometown that was known for their turtle candies. The traditional candy made with walnuts topped with homemade caramel and a hefty dollop of chocolate.

I’ll be honest, I was never a huge fan of these candies back in the day. I just didn’t care for the walnuts. Give me the caramel and chocolate all day long though!

Of course, as I got older, I became a fan of these crunchy, chewy, chocolatey candies. So much so I recreated them last year in a super simple 3-ingredient homemade turtle. Even if you’re not a fan of turtle candies, the pictures alone are going to make you want some!

three healthy turtle bars stacked on top of each other

With my new-found love of turtle candies I thought why not turn these into a healthy bar?

I have to say, this was a fantastic idea on my part! {toot toot}

Turning these into a healthy version took some brain power, but I can confidently say that these bars are going to become a staple in your holiday cookie tray rotation.

Okay, I think I’ve talked these bars up enough. Let’s just get to how to actually make them!

How to make healthy turtle bars

Making the chewy cookie crust

Every good bar has to have a tasty crust to it. So I wanted to do a combination of a few of my faves.

Using a similar crust to these cherry cheesecake bars and gluten free rhubarb cheesecake bars, I came up with this delicious combo.

A food processor makes for quick work with this crust. Blending together cream cheese, walnuts, honey and almond flour brings the crust together beautifully.

healthy turtle bars cookie crust in a square pan

I love using almond flour lately. It makes for a nice light and crumbly crust. The honey adds the perfect amount of sweet stickiness to hold everything together.

Using walnuts in the crust really brings out that traditional turtle flavor, and the perfect savory note to balance out the honey.

How to make healthy caramel sauce

As an ode to this healthy caramel sauce I made back in 2018, it seemed like the perfect time to bring it back to life.

Dates have a natural caramel flavor to them. Blending until smooth, they create a thick healthy caramel sauce.

This caramel sauce has a little twist to it with the addition of tahini. If you’ve never heard of or tried tahini, it’s ground up sesame seeds. Similar to a nut butter.

homemade caramel sauce in a small food processor

I honestly don’t really like tahini on it’s own, but when it’s mixed into baked goods it adds a healthy fat and nutty flavor.

A food processor or blender is absolutely necessary for this step as it will help create the perfect smooth consistency of the caramel sauce.

Don’t try using a large food processor though. It will just push the dates around and not blend them properly.

This Ninja mini food processor is one of my faves! I’ve had it for years and it does such a fantastic job. I especially love it for chopping nuts (coming up in this recipe) and making really quick salad dressings.

Finishing up healthy turtle bars

You’ll see this in the recipe, but the cookie crust gets baked and cooled. Then topped with the healthy caramel sauce you’ve just finished. Now it’s time to finish off these healthy turtle bars.

how to make healthy turtle bars: cookie crust, crust covered with healthy caramel sauce, caramel sauce topped with chopped walnuts, chopped walnuts covered with melted chocolate in a square pan

Chopped walnuts {use that food processor for quick work} are sprinkled over the top of the caramel sauce.

Then pour melted dark chocolate over the top to finish them off. Using dark chocolate really helps to balance out the richness of both the cookie crust and the caramel sauce.

I found it best to stick the whole pan in the refrigerator after the chocolate has been poured.

This gives the bars a chance to cool and set, making cutting much easier.

Your new favorite healthy holiday treat

One bite of these bars and you’ll be singing your favorite Christmas tune!

I seriously couldn’t believe how good these bars were. Pretty sure I did a little happy dance after the first bite.

bite taken out of a healthy turtle bar

They also freeze beautifully. So if this year {2020…you all know what I mean by that} is looking a little different in cookie exchanges, you can freeze these bars to save for later.

Just cut them up and place in a freezer-safe container. When you’re ready to enjoy, just pull a few out of the freezer the night before.

Now time to go enjoy some healthy turtle bars!

Looking for more cookie tray worthy treats? Check these out:

Bourbon Caramel Oatmeal Cookies

Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies

Gluten Free Maple Pecan Cookies

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Healthy turtle bars recipe is ooey gooey and the perfect holiday dessert. Made without refined sugar, these chewy bars are gluten free and a perfect homemade dessert recipe. #healthyturtlebars #turtlebars #holidayrecipes #christmasdesserts #glutenfreedesserts #ooeygooey
Healthy Turtle Bars
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Chill time
10 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 
Healthy turtle bars are a soft cookie crust topped with healthy caramel sauce and chocolate making them the perfect holiday dessert.
Servings: 16 bars
Ingredients
Crust Ingredients:
  • 4 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup almond flour
Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
  • ½ cup tahini
  • ½ cup dates roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 4 Tbsp. milk
  • ¼ tsp. salt
Bar Ingredients:
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8” x 8” pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, add all of the crust ingredients, except the flour, and blend until smooth. Stir in the flour.
  3. Press the mixture into the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 20-22 minutes until crust is set. Remove and let cool completely.
  4. Meanwhile, wipe out the food processor* and add the tahini, dates, pure maple syrup, milk and salt. Process until completely smooth and thick.
  5. Once the crust has cooled completely, spread the caramel sauce in an even layer. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts.
  6. In a small bowl, melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil in the microwave. Pour melted chocolate over the top of the walnuts and place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set.
  7. Slice into 16 bars. Store in an airtight container on the counter.**
Recipe Notes

*Note: use a small food processor or blender to really chop and blend the dates into a smooth consistency.
**Note: these bars also freeze very well. Cut bars and place in a freezer-safe container. Remove the night before to thaw.

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