In our house, it is not Christmas until we have made our traditional Christmas cookies. My family has been making them ever since I can remember (and long before that). These Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas cookies are the ultimate holiday cookie. Buttery shortbread-style crust with a luscious caramel, chocolate and pecan topping. What isn’t there to love about these? The festive star-shape makes them a Christmas cookie you will want to make on repeat at your house every year.
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies: The History
When my mom was little, she would make Christmas cookies with my grandma. I don’t know if she just liked these cookies the best or if they won out over all the cookies my grandma made but for whatever reason (and good reason in my opinion) this was THE cookie. Originally many cookie cutters were used to cut out the dough for these cookies but the star-shape always turned out the best. From then on, my family made hundreds of these cookies every Christmas. Truth be told, I didn’t even know people made many different kinds of cookies. This chocolate caramel pecan cookie is the one cookie you will want this Christmas too!
Buttery Shortbread-Style Cookie Dough
This dough is a dream to work with. It rolls out beautifully (just add a tiny touch of flour to the rolling pin if needed) and is so easy for little fingers to cut and help shape. I always make a little extra dough (double the recipe) and pull out my cookie cutter collection so they can make whatever shapes they want. We bake them up and the kids love eating them plain or decorated. While they are occupied, I go to town rolling the dough and cutting the star-shaped ones to give away to friends and neighbors. I’ve found rolling the dough to about ¼ inch thickness and using a 3-3.5 inch star-shaped cookie cutter (affiliate link) works best for these cookies. This recipe will give you 24 beautiful star cookies.
The cookie bases bake for about 10-12 minutes depending if you use convection or regular on your oven. I’ve waxed poetic about convection ovens before, so you know my preference but I’ve made them for years before having a convection oven and in many different countries with different ovens and they always turn out amazing. Be careful on the time as you bake these because these cookies are really divine if you don’t over bake them. They will puff up just a little bit but keep their star-shape. If you let them go too long or have rolled them out too thin, the edges will start to brown just a bit and you will know they went a little too long in the oven. Still delicious, but much better without the browned edges.
Caramel, Chocolate and Pecans
The toppings are what really set this cookie apart. Caramels are melted down (I use the microwave but you could also do this on the stove if you watch very carefully) with butter and evaporated milk and then stirred with sifted powdered sugar and chopped pecans to give the most amazing caramel topping. The pecans help the caramel to set up to a little ball on top of the cookie which makes the perfect base for the thick chocolate topping. I love the richness the semi-sweet chocolate chips bring to this cookie and any extra topping we have from these cookies we save to eat on ice cream or…by the spoonful. It is so good. A whole pecan tops the cookie for a finished look.
Sift. Sift. Sift that Powdered Sugar
One note about sifting. Please, please, please sift your powdered sugar. One year when I was a college student, I was making these Christmas cookies (yes, I made these every year…even while I was in the midst of college finals, they are that nostalgic for me). I decided to forgo the sifting and it was a BIG MISTAKE. I had chunks of powdered sugar all throughout my caramel sauce. Even though I did everything I could to get those chunks combined, they just wouldn’t combine well. My caramel still tasted okay but it didn’t look very good with little white chunks throughout what should have been a smooth caramel. So learn from my mistake and get yourself a sifter if you don’t have one.
If you need to make these cookies gluten-free, good news. They are absolutely amazing gluten-free. My sister eats gluten-free and makes them every year with Cup4Cup flour (affiliate link). It is really hard to tell the difference between the gluten-free version and the regular version. Just sub the flour in the cookies for the Cup 4 Cup flour and they should turn out amazing.
A Cookie Job For Everyone
I make over 200 of these cookies every year for Christmas. This is our family tradition. We spend a few days doing the entire process. One day baking the cookies. One day making the toppings. One day assembling everything. When we finally get to the assembly portion, everyone has a job to do. My kids have now graduated to being able to help put on the caramel and chocolate toppings. The youngest in our crew is usually relegated to “pecan sorting” and putting nuts on top of the cookies. I love that these cookies have a job for everyone. We have such fun every year blasting Christmas carols, making cookies and sneaking a cookie or two.
Caroling and Cookies
The cookie bases freeze well (actually the whole cookie does) and it makes it easy for us to make plates of cookies to deliver to friends and neighbors. We love caroling, bringing along our Christmas card and a plate of these cookies. It’s a tradition that began when I was a kid and has continued on with my family and the families of my siblings. And after all the deliveries…we get to enjoy eating our star-shaped cookies. The funny part is that if you ask each of us, we all have a different way to eat the cookie. Some of us eat off all the star points first leaving the gooey middle. Others pull off the pecan and eat off all the topping first. I love having these fun traditions to look back on every year
I love all cookies. Chocolate chip, candy jar, gluten-free oat cookies, but these chocolate caramel pecan Christmas cookies are a standout favorite. Full of nostalgia, lots of butter, chocolate and caramel, they are the ultimate holiday dessert. Whether you are looking for cookies to give, cookies to eat or cookies to leave out for Santa, these chocolate caramel pecan cookies are the perfect indulgent holiday cookie. I wish I could bring you a plate! From my family to yours…Merry Christmas!
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Christmas Cookies
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons evaporated milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 8 oz caramel candy Kraft caramels are the ones we traditionally use
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 1 cup pecans finely chopped
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup evaporated milk
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar sifted
24 whole pecans
- Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer and large bowl, cream together the softened butter and powdered sugar until thick and creamy.
- Add vanilla extract, evaporated milk and salt. Mix well until completely incorporated and creamy.
- Add the flour and mix gently until combined. Be careful not to over-mix the dough, but you do want it to be fully incorporated.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees convection or 325 regular and place parchment paper on two large baking sheets.
- Separate the dough into two portions and roll the first ball of dough out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/4 inch thick.
- Use a star-shaped cookie cutter about 3-3.5 inches to cut out the stars from the dough. Transfer the cutouts to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes convection or 12 minutes regular until just baked. Watch the cookies so they don't brown. The bottoms of the cookies should still be light.
- Cool the cookies completely. At this point you can move forward with topping the cookies or freeze them to top later.
Caramel Pecan Topping
- Combine unwrapped caramels (or kraft caramel bits), evaporated milk and unsalted butter in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave in 1 minute increments, stirring with a spoon. Alternate stirring and microwaving until the caramels are completely melted and mixed together. This can take upwards of 10 minutes.
- Sift in the powdered sugar and stir until completely incorporated.
- Finely chop the pecans (I pulse them a few times in the blender) and add them to the caramel topping. Mix.
- Set the caramel aside while you make the chocolate topping. At this point you can also refrigerate the caramel for up to a week before using.
- To a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate, butter and evaporated milk. Microwave in 30 second increments. Alternate stirring and microwaving until the chocolate, butter and evaporated milk are melted and combined.
- Stir in the vanilla extract. Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl and mix until completely combined. Set aside the chocolate topping to assemble the cookies. You can also refrigerate the topping for up to a week before using.
- Lay out all the cookies on a flat counter space.
- Place a dollop of lightly warmed caramel topping on the center of each cookie (about 1 Tablespoon).
- Place a smaller dollop of lightly warmed chocolate topping on top of the caramel (about 1 teaspoon).
- Add a whole pecan on top of the chocolate quickly before the chocolate hardens.
- Let the cookies cool completely before moving to a cookie tray, sharing with friends and neighbors, freezing or setting out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Enjoy!
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