Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

Sometimes when you make a cookie, you want to poke a whole in it and fill it with caramel. Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies are exactly what you need!

Cookies on a white cloth with pecans

Well, that’s the basic premise of these amazing caramel pecan thumbprint cookies. Thumbprint cookies open up a whole new world of delights in the cookie realm that almost border on candy levels.

Whether you enjoy them with tea, or as a holiday tradition, these classic cookies have a story even if their origins aren’t 100% clear.

Where do Thumbprint Cookies Come From?

Where indeed. Way before pecan thumbprint cookies could even have existed, the idea originated somewhere. It’s still up for debate whether these cookies are of Eastern European Jewish origin, or if they are from Scandinavia. Some courses say Sweden is the birthplace of the thumbprint cookie or “Hallongrotta” which translates to raspberry cave. But it’s also known as a Polish tea cake or a Polish Christmas cookie.

In both cases, attributing the cookie’s origins to none other than Poland. Although the precise location of the first thumbprint cookie is unclear, a Wikipedia search for “thumbprint cookie” curiously redirects to Hallongtotta, the
Swedish term. Since Wikipedia is never wrong, it seems the case is closed.

What we understand a little bit better is that wherever it came from it happened in the 1800’s. That’s fairly recent considering the earliest cookie in recorded history dates back to 7th century Persia. Even so, pinpointing the origins of thumbprint cookies within that hundred year window is difficult.

Possibly, the idea cropped up in multiple locations at around the same time and spread from their sources at varying speeds. Wherever they came from, they spread to the United States where the name thumbprint cookies began. In Australia they call the same thing a jam drop.

Caramel cookies on white table

Are you looking for a throwback cookie that gives you all the taste and feels? These Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies are calling your name. Not only are they tasty and sweet but they’re also so simple to make. 

What we love most about these tiny treats is that they’re perfect for a bite-sized sweet. How many times have you been craving something sweet but didn’t want an entire giant cookie or a full piece of cake? This is what makes these thumbprint cookies so good. They’re literally a simple size to pop one in your mouth as you’re passing by the kitchen. 

What Can You Put In a Thumbprint Cookie?

Jam is the most common topping for a thumbprint cookie. The Swedish variation specifically names raspberry jam, but this is the tradition with all of the earliest forms and the best known recipes today. That’s why they also go by the name jam drops. However, they are also popular as chocolate topped cookies.

Most notably, the Hershey’s Kiss made chocolate a very popular alternative to jam. Now, a thumbprint cookie can have just about any topper you want as long as it tastes good and fits well inside the thumb sized hole in the middle of the cookie.

200-300 years later we can make more complex forms of this cookie with more layers of flavor. Pecan thumbprint cookies are nutty and sweet, with a caramel filling to hold everything together.

Ingredients for caramel pecan cookies

Making Caramel for Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

The main selling point of a delicious thumbprint cookie is the sweet, sometimes gooey center. Whatever you fill it with is the star of the cookie. Even though the cookie dough itself can be changed it is always secondary to what goes in the middle.

In this case, the pecan rests on top of a delicious caramel sauce.

When the melted caramel firms up to hold the nut in the center, all three layers of goodness come together and one delicious treat is formed. For this recipe, I include specific instructions for how to make this caramel sauce on your own. However, you can also use store bought caramel to save time.

The most important thing is that rich caramel flavor timing the cookie and the pecan together while also physically binding the two ingredients. Any caramel can do this and you can just as easily melt down existing caramels or just buy caramel sauce to do the job. It all depends on how much time or resources you have.

Ingredients for thumbprint cookies

If you do make the caramel I have laid out in the recipe, take note that I use granulated sugar.

This is the best way to make caramel, although lots of other recipes call for brown sugar as a shortcut, because the darker color more closely resembles caramelized sugar in its final form.

Salted Caramel Cookies

We love all kinds of caramel. We ended up going with a very simple light creamy caramel for this cookie. If you want a darker caramel cook it longer.

How long do thumbprint cookies last?

If you store these cookies in the fridge, they’re going to last for about a week. (That is probably going to be much shorter of a time because they’re so darn delicious to eat!) 

You can freeze these cookies too for later if you want. Just make certain that you store them in a freezer-tight container so that they stay as fresh as possible and will still taste good once you unthaw them. (To unthaw, just remove from the freezer and let them soften.) 


caramel pecan cookies on white table and tray

Plain Pecans or Toasted Pecans

Pecans are among the tastiest nuts, which is why pecan thumbprint cookies work so well to begin with. I love how versatile they are. You can use pecans in any or all courses of a big meal, starting with salad and ending in any variety of delicious desserts.

Although pecans taste better than other nuts even in its raw form, nothing beats a roasted pecan. That’s because while
naturally sweet, roasting them helps to work out that sweetness and make it more pronounced. Simply put, roasted pecans have more flavor.

Toasted Pecans also have more flavor than raw pecans do. The terms toasted and roasted are often used interchangeably because the difference between the two is pretty subtle. Roasted foods are cooked through, whereas toasted foods are only browned on the surface.

This is as true of nuts as anything else you can cook. With pecans, the main difference between the two is basically cook time.

Of course roasting the pecans would result in a more robust flavor than simple toasting.

Thumbprint cookies with pecan on white table

Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies All-In-One Baking

If you’re like me and you know you need melted caramel and you want to also roast/toast your pecans, you might think baking everything together is a good plan. I hear you. It seems like a good idea.

After all many thumbprint cookie recipes do suggest baking your topping into the cookie. It makes sense, why not place a caramel into the thumbprint hole and allow it to melt while the pecan thumbprint cookies bake? Unfortunately this isn’t a good idea.

Trying to bake the cookie and melt the caramel simultaneously In one step doesn’t work. Much less adding pecans to the process. The reason is simple. The cookies have their own set of baking requirements (ie. time and temperature) that just aren’t conducive to the melting requirements of the caramel.

However you get your caramel, whether you make it or buy it, the only way to assemble these pecan thumbprint cookies is after they bake.

Caramel pecan thumbprint cookies in a white tray and white table

Other types of thumbprint cookies respond much better to the all-in-one baking approach, but these ones really
benefit from a step by step process.

Enjoy your tasty Pecan Caramel Thumbprint Cookies. Not only are they a super simple dessert but they’re going to be quite popular, too. Perfect for family dinners or a fun weekend treat! 


Butter Pecan Snowball Cookies

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cream Cheese Sprinkle Cookies

Almond Thumbprint Cookies

White Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Cookies on a white cloth with pecans

Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies

Sometimes when you make a cookie, you want to poke a whole in it and fill it with caramel. Caramel Pecan Thumbprint Cookies are exactly what you need!
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes


For The Cookies

  • 1 ½ all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For The Topping

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 20-24 pecans


For the cookies:

  • In a bowl, mix together flour and salt. Set aside.
  • In a larger bowl, mix together egg and sugar. Add butter and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Slowly add flour into wet ingredients and mix until cookie dough forms.
  • Cover bowl with plastic and chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.
  • Once the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Roll cookies into one-inch spheres, and place them on the lined baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart. (about 15 could fit on one pan, so it is suggested to bake in separate batches).
  • Using the back of a rounded teaspoon, lightly press a cavity in the center of each cookie.
  • Bake for 7 minutes and remove from oven.
  • Use the same teaspoon to press into each cavity even further (careful it’s hot!)
  • Place back into oven and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

For the topping:

  • In a small sauce pan, mix together sugar, salt, heavy cream and water.
  • Boil contents over high heat and then lower to medium. Stir for about 2 minutes or until thick.
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. Mix.
  • Carefully scoop the caramel into the center of each cookie and top with a pecan.
  • Allow to set for 3-4 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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