Dark Chocolate Date Turtles with Pretzel Shells
“Was it ever boring?” my daughter Isabelle asked recently. She was referring to child rearing, particularly when she and her sisters were tiny. “Yeah,” I admitted. “Sometimes.” Mostly though, it was just busy. I tried my best to keep things interesting, for them, and for me, too. We did what plenty of parents do to fill our days: turning bedrooms into forts, walking to neighborhood parks, painting on big sheets of craft paper in the backyard, visiting the library for stacks of books. And we cooked. The sound of the fridge opening and the “click click click” of the gas range was a siren song. They’d show up at the stove to ask what I was making and could they help. Sometimes it was cookies or kitchen crafts. Often, it was pulling together dinner. I thought of all this last week when I made these Dark Chocolate Date Turtles. “They’d have loved this,” I thought as I laid out the ingredients and went to work.
Not Just for Kids
Turns out we’re never too old to cook with our moms. It wasn’t long before two of my kids, now in their teens and early 20s, were in the kitchen, peering over my shoulder, swiping fingers through melted chocolate, and asking, “When will they be ready?” And for good reason. Dark Chocolate Date Turtles are fun, easy to make, and to me at least, as delicious as the more decadent turtles from which they are inspired.
What is a Chocolate Turtle?
A traditional chocolate turtle is a mound of homemade caramel covered in chocolate, which forms the shell of the turtle. Pecan halves serve as the feet, hands, and head. It’s a homemade candy often reserved for holidays and special occasions.
This version is a little different than the original. I swapped out the caramel and used whole Medjool dates instead, something I’d seen my friend Annie Fenn do over on Instagram. It makes sense, since dates have some of the same qualities as caramel: very sweet, chewy when refrigerated, with a warm caramel-like flavor. From there, I used peanuts instead of pecans, because I just love that salty peanut/chocolate combo. And I added a crunchy pretzel turtle shell to take it over the top.
The result is a homemade confection that’s easier to make than the original, with less added sugar and saturated fat. Dark Chocolate Date Truffles are still a sweet and still have calories, but are just a better-for-you option in my book.
So, whether you have little ones you’re trying to entertain, big kids who love to be in the kitchen, or are riding solo these days, this is a kitchen craft worth trying. And it’s not even a little bit boring. Just ask my children.
More Healthy (ish) Dark Chocolate Treats:
Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies
Chocolate-Dunked Tahini Cookies
Creamy Cashew Chocolate Pudding
Chocolate Cashew Fudge from Pamela Salzman
Mini Chocolate Olive Oil Cakes
Dark Chocolate Date Turtles with a Pretzel Shell
These tasty chocolate turtles depart from the more traditional candy in that juicy dates swap in for caramel, peanuts take the place of pecans, and a salted pretzel adds a pleasing crunch. The result is a sweet treat that is fun to make and delicious to eat. Be sure to store them in the fridge so they are good and chewy.
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil
- 6 large juicy medjool dates
- 6 small twist pretzels
- 15 roasted salted peanuts (I like the Blistered Peanuts from Trader Joe’s and Virginia Peanuts from Costco)
Put the chocolate chips and coconut oil into a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 30-second bursts, stirring after each one, until melted (about 90 seconds).
Split the side of a date open and remove the pit. Set the date on the counter, split side up. Press down and shape the date into a flat disc. Split the peanuts in half. Stick 4 halves into the edge of the date for legs and one for a head. Nestle the pretzel onto the top of the date for a shell. Spoon 2 to 3 teaspoons of the melted chocolate onto the pretzel, dribbling over the sides onto the date. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking pan and repeat with the remaining dates. Refrigerate until the chocolate hardens, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a covered container and store in the fridge.