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Imagine biting into a buttery, crumbly cookie, followed by the rich, gooey sweetness of salted caramel, topped with the crunch of pecans. That’s the experience these Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies offer. They’re not just cookies; they’re a journey through delightful textures and contrasting flavors, where the classic sweetness of caramel meets a hint of sea salt.

Perfect for holiday gatherings, a treat with your afternoon tea, or as a special dessert, these cookies are sure to impress. The beauty of this recipe lies in its simplicity and the joy it brings to both the baker and those who get to enjoy these little gems. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or trying your hand at baking for the first time, these cookies are a foolproof way to bring a touch of gourmet to your kitchen.

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Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies Recipe

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????✨ Indulge in these homemade Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies – a perfect blend of sweet and salty in every bite! ????

  • Total Time: 36 minutes
  • Yield: 20 cookies


Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

  1. Chopped Toasted Pecans: ½ cup (57g) – for that nutty crunch.
  2. Granulated Sugar: ⅔ cup (133g) – adds the perfect sweetness.
  3. Unsalted Butter: ¾ cup (170g), softened – for a rich, buttery base.
  4. Bourbon: 2 tablespoons (30g) – for a unique twist of flavor.
  5. Vanilla Extract: ½ teaspoon (2g) – enhances the overall aroma.
  6. Kosher Salt: ⅛ teaspoon – balances the sweetness.
  7. All-Purpose Flour: 1¾ cups (219g) – the foundation of your cookies.
  8. Turbinado Sugar: ¼ cup (50g) – for a delightful crunch.
  9. Salted Caramel Sauce: as needed (recipe follows) – for a gooey center.
  10. Optional Garnish: Flaked Sea Salt – adds a burst of flavor.

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe

  1. Granulated Sugar: 1 cup (200g)
  2. Unsalted Butter: ¼ cup (57g), cubed and softened
  3. Heavy Whipping Cream: ½ cup (120g), at room temperature
  4. Vanilla Extract: ½ teaspoon (2g)
  5. Kosher Salt: ¼ teaspoon


Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

  1. Pecan-Sugar Blend: Start by combining ½ cup chopped toasted pecans and ⅔ cup granulated sugar in a food processor. Process them until they’re well mixed.
  2. Creamy Base: In your stand mixer with a paddle attachment, whip the pecan-sugar mixture with ¾ cup softened unsalted butter. Aim for a fluffy texture, which should take about 2-3 minutes. Remember to scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  3. Flavor Infusion: On medium-low speed, add 2 tablespoons bourbon, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, and ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt to the mixture. Beat them until everything is nicely combined.
  4. The Dough: Gradually add 1¾ cups all-purpose flour while keeping the mixer on low speed. Continue mixing until the dough begins to form. Once ready, shape it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for about 2 hours until firm.
  5. Preparation: Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour ¼ cup turbinado sugar into a shallow bowl.
  6. Shaping: Form the dough into 1¼-inch balls, roll them in turbinado sugar, and place them on the prepared baking sheets. Chill them in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then, gently press the center of each ball with your thumb or the back of a spoon to create an indentation.
  7. Baking Time: Bake the cookies for 14-16 minutes until they’re lightly golden, with set tops and edges. Halfway through, rotate the pans for even baking. After baking, press down the centers again and let them cool on the pans for 10 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
  8. Final Touch: Spoon or pipe about 1 teaspoon of Salted Caramel Sauce into the center of each cookie. For an extra flavor kick, garnish with flaked sea salt if you like.

Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe

  1. Prepare Your Ingredients: Before you begin, ensure all your ingredients are measured and ready. This includes having the butter cubed and softened, and the heavy whipping cream at room temperature. This preparation is key, as the process of making caramel can be quick and requires immediate additions.
  2. Melting the Sugar: Place a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Pour in 1 cup of granulated sugar. Start stirring continuously with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon. The sugar will soon start to clump together and then gradually melt. This process should take about 4 to 5 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent the sugar from burning.
  3. Watching the Color: As you stir, the sugar will transform into a liquid with a light amber color. This is the caramelization process in action. It’s important to watch the color closely, as sugar can go from perfectly caramelized to burnt very quickly.
  4. Adding Butter: Once the sugar is completely melted and has a rich amber color, reduce the heat to low. Begin to add the ¼ cup of cubed, softened unsalted butter. Add a few cubes at a time, whisking constantly until each addition is fully incorporated before adding more. The mixture will bubble rapidly when the butter is added, so be cautious.
  5. Incorporating Cream: After all the butter has been mixed in, slowly drizzle in ½ cup of room-temperature heavy whipping cream while continuing to whisk. The mixture will again bubble and possibly splatter, so be careful during this step. Keep whisking until all the cream is fully incorporated.
  6. Boiling the Caramel: Once the cream is mixed in, allow the caramel to boil for about 1 minute. This helps to thicken the sauce and develop the flavor.
  7. Final Touches: Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt. This will enhance the caramel’s flavor and add a delightful salty-sweet contrast.
  8. Cooling the Sauce: Pour the caramel into a heat-resistant glass bowl or measuring cup. Let it cool at room temperature for about 2 hours. As it cools, the caramel will thicken.
  9. Adjusting Consistency: If the caramel is too runny after cooling, refrigerate it for 15 to 30 minutes to achieve a thicker consistency. Conversely, if it’s too thick, gently warm it to reach the desired fluidity.

  • Author: Valerie
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 16 minutes


  • Calories: 180 kcal

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Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies FAQS

Why are my thumbprint cookies falling apart?

Thumbprint cookies may fall apart if the dough is too dry or crumbly. This can happen due to insufficient moisture, such as not enough butter or eggs, or if the dough is overworked. To prevent this, ensure your dough has the right balance of wet and dry ingredients and is mixed just until it comes together. Also, letting the dough rest before shaping can help.

Why do my thumbprint cookies spread so much?

If your thumbprint cookies are spreading too much, it could be due to a few reasons. One common cause is too much butter or sugar in the dough, which can make them spread out during baking. Another reason could be an overly warm dough; chilling the dough before baking can help maintain its shape. Additionally, make sure your oven is properly preheated to the right temperature as a too-hot oven can cause cookies to spread quickly.

How do you keep thumbprint cookies from cracking?

To prevent thumbprint cookies from cracking, avoid overworking the dough as it can make it tough and prone to cracking. Also, make sure the dough is at room temperature before shaping, as cold dough is more likely to crack. Gently rolling the dough into balls and making a thumbprint without pressing too hard can also help. If the dough is too dry, consider adding a bit more moisture, like a small amount of milk or water.

Why are they called thumbprint cookies?

Thumbprint cookies get their name from the method used to create the indentation in the center of each cookie. Traditionally, bakers press their thumb (or a small spoon) into the dough ball to create a small well or imprint, which is then filled with jam, chocolate, or other fillings. This distinctive feature gives them their name and makes them easily recognizable.

Storage Tips:

  • Store the cooled caramel sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  • To use after refrigeration, gently warm the caramel to regain a pourable consistency.

Safety Note:

  • Be very careful when handling the hot caramel, as it can cause severe burns. Always use heat-resistant utensils and handle the saucepan with care.

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