This decadent mini vegan turtles recipe is the PERFECT little pick-me-up! In just 30 minutes from start to finish, you’ll transform 3 simple nourishing ingredients into a delicious vegan dessert to enjoy with after dinner coffees or to give as a DIY holiday gift. A great holiday baking project with kids or any time you need a last minute dessert.

vegan turtles in black and white bowl with tree leaves

Growing up, there were always three different boxes of holiday candy at my house: Toffifee, Ovations and Turtles. All these years and countless plant-based recipes later, I’ve finally figured out how to recreate just one of them…and all it takes is dates, chocolate and pecans!

Plus, with one little tip, they’ll be even better than boxed chocolates ever could be!

Even if you are a novice cook, you just can’t mess these up. It’s a really easy vegan dessert that tastes decadent while also being nourishing so you can eat them all season long. And not gonna lie, the dietitian in me loves that they give me an excuse to eat more pecans, which is a delicious nut that honestly I don’t eat often! 

I’ve made vegan caramel a million different ways (including a pretty epic peanut butter version in Good For Your Gut Cookbook) but this by far is the simplest. All you do is blend dates! That’s it: no nut butters, almond meal or extra ingredients. 

If you’re looking for easy DIY holiday gifts or hosting gifts, these vegan mini turtles are a great option because you can whip them in just 30 minutes (including chilling time!) so you can make them and run out the door, delicious homemade treat in hand. I love a quick baking project, whether it’s my pecan snowball cookies, nourishing chocolate bark or this vegan turtles recipe.

dates, chocolate and pecans in bowls

Gather your ingredients for this vegan turtles recipe

Are you ready for how short this ingredient list is? To make these delicious little vegan desserts, all you need is pecans, chocolate and dates (plus salt!). Some tips…

  • Dates: you want very soft, caramel-like dates for the best results. Medjool and Deglet Noor dates work really well.
  • Pecans: I often use raw pecans because I always have them in my baking bin but if you have salted pecans on hand, they would be DELICIOUS! Then you can omit the extra salt in the recipe.
  • Chocolate: you can use any chocolate you have on hand, whether chocolate chips or chocolate bars. But if you want to make these turtles the most decadent treat ever??? Use a really good quality dark chocolate bar, whichever is your favourite! I love the Zimt Sea Salt bar, which is local to me, but the Lindt 85% dark chocolate bar is a great option that’s available everywhere.

FAQ: How do you soften dried dates?

For this recipe to work, you need those dates melt-in-your-mouth soft. If yours are looking a bit dry? Don’t compost them! Fix them fast by soaking in hot water.

Place your dates in a heatproof bowl. Cover them with either very hot tap water or just boiled water for 10 minutes. Then, drain and gently squeeze out excess water. You can make any dates extra soft using this fix!

How to make homemade turtle candy

This vegan turtles recipe couldn’t be simpler: just puree the dates, form a ball and add a pecan, then dunk in melted chocolate and chill.

  • Purée 2 c medjool dates with ¼ tsp salt in food processor until it forms a paste
  • Using damp hands (essential because the dates are really sticky), roll a 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ball of date paste and press onto a pecan half and place on a parchment lined baking sheet
  • Add a pinch of flaky salt on top, if desired. 
  • Fit a small pot with an inch of water with a heat proof bowl to make a double boiler over medium heat. Add 1 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (about 150g bar) and stir to melt. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  • Dip or drizzle bites with chocolate and place baking sheet in freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. 

Vegan Turtles Recipe Tips, Tricks + Suggestions

  • These mini vegan turtles will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 weeks – but I promise they won’t last that long. Want to freeze? Up to 3 months. 
  • Keeping your hands damp while you roll the date balls is essential as the date caramel is so sticky. If it starts to stick, just rinse off date residue and continue with damp hands.
  • Variation: you can pump up the date caramel with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract if you wish
  • Variation: make snickers-inspired bites by omitting the pecans and mixing in ½ cup salted roasted peanuts into the date caramel. Roll into balls and dip into the chocolate!

Even more easy vegan holiday desserts:

vegan turtles in black and white bowl

Easy Mini Vegan Turtles Recipe

This decadent mini vegan turtles recipe is the PERFECT little pick-me-up! In just 30 minutes from start to finish, you’ll transform 3 simple nourishing ingredients into a delicious vegan dessert to enjoy with after dinner coffees or to give as a DIY holiday gift.
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups pitted Medjool dates
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 24 pecan halves
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate (about 150g bar)
  • flaky salt, optional

Equipment

  • Food Processor

Instructions 

  • Prepare a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Puree Medjool dates with ¼ teaspoon (1 mL) salt in a food processor until a paste forms.
  • Using damp hands, roll about 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of date paste into a ball. Press onto a pecan half and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until all date paste is used up.
  • Add a flake or two of flaky salt to the top of the caramel ball, if desired.
  • Place 1 inch of water in a small pot over medium heat. Fit a small, heat proof bowl over top. Place chocolate chips into the bowl and stir often until melted, a couple of minutes. If steam is starting to escape from the pot, turn heat down to low.
  • Carefully remove bowl from heat at let cool a couple of minutes to thicken. Next step is your choice: you can either carefully dunk the tops of the pecan caramel balls into the chocolate and place back on the baking sheet OR spoon chocolate over the balls on the sheet. I dunk!
  • Place baking sheet into the freezer for 10 minutes to chill. Store turtles in an airtight container or food bag in the fridge (up to 3 weeks) or freezer (up to 3 months).