Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Salty Chocolate Turtles

Salty Chocolate Turtles, another recipe inspired by the Larchmont Farmers Market, is a vegan adaptation of the classic chocolate turtles. (photos by Deborah Brooks)


Chocolate Turtles, sometimes referred to as nut patties or katydids, were a favorite candy of mine growing up. I can remember ogling the overflowing trays of chocolate-laced caramel/nut nirvana in those fancy touristy candy shops when we would travel as a family. I always chose milk chocolate with almonds when my folks agreed to splurge on this decadent confection.

I decided to reinvent this dairy-heavy candy to a dairy-free version after sampling a Barhi date at the Aziz Farm table at the Sunday Farmer’s market. The vendor insisted this variety tasted like caramel. Wow! He was right! They tasted just like caramel. I bought a box on the spot, knowing exactly what I was going to attempt to make.

Chocolate Turtles! The Barhi date would be the “caramel” base.


Barhi Dates Aziz Farm table at the Sunday Farmer’s market taste like caramel and make this a dairy-free version of a beloved classic.


I visualized the entire process in my head. I just hoped that it would turn out.

My next stop was for walnuts in the shell at Nicholas Family Farms. While pecans are the OG for turtles, with almonds and cashews often substituted, I wanted the freshness of local walnuts right off of the tree. Plus, the halved walnut would be the perfect size and shape for the turtle’s shell on the small Barhi dates.

The dates, pitted and flattened, are the caramel base for the turtles. The toasted walnut halves are the turtle’s shell. Melted dark chocolate enrobes the top with a sprinkling of sea salt crystals for a sweet-salty mouthful. All of these ingredients are considered super foods on every super food list. Unlike the fat and calorie laden candies I grew up eating, these turtles are a guilt free sweet pleasure. They won’t pull your fillings out either!

These bite size candies make a delicious snack or dessert. Made ahead, they are perfect for a dinner party as they can be preset on a serving plate. If you want to have an interactive dessert activity for kids or adults, you can have everyone assemble and dip the turtles. A bit messy perhaps, but loads of fun. I would suggest having the dates pitted and flattened and the walnuts already toasted and cooled and set on separate plates along with a cup of toothpicks and small bowls of salt crystals. Melt the chocolate with your guests already in the kitchen and then dip in!

While you could eat them fresh dipped like fondue, they are best with the chocolate dried and set, simply leave them on the counter for several hours. Make sure to wait at least 10 minutes before sprinkling on the salt, otherwise the salt melts into the chocolate. I found that out! To hasten the drying process, put them in the fridge.

If you’re wondering if they truly taste like traditional turtle candy, they totally fooled my younger son. Not only did he think there was caramel in them but marshmallow too! Now that’s a testimonial!


Salty Chocolate Turtles

20 Barhi dates
20 Walnut halves, toasted
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate wafers or chips
Sea salt crystals – I used both pink and white Hawaiian varieties
Decorative toothpicks (optional)

With a sharp paring knife, make a slit, lengthwise, down each side of the dates. Remove the pits with your fingers, pressing the flesh back together and then flattening the dates. Insert a decorative toothpick into one end of the dates. (optional) Carefully press a walnut half onto each one. If the walnut breaks, no worries, as it will be covered with chocolate. Place the skewered dates on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and set it near the stove.

Melt the chocolate. I prefer to use a double boiler for tempering the chocolate. Set a metal bowl that fits snugly over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add ¾ of the chocolate chips and allow to begin melting. Then stir vigorously until completely melted and smooth. Add the rest of the chips and stir up until melted in and smooth. The chocolate should have a nice sheen to it.

Turn the stove off but leave the bowl over the saucepan to keep the chocolate warm and melty as you top the turtles with their decadent coating. I used a teaspoon and drizzled until the nuts were covered. Allow the chocolate to cool about 10-15 minutes and then sprinkle each turtle with salt. Leave the tray on the counter several hours or in the fridge for faster setting.

Store leftovers at room temperature in a covered container.


Perfect for a dinner party as they can be preset on a serving plate or an interactive dessert activity for kids or adults, where everyone can assemble and dip the turtles. Pit and flatten the dates ahead of time with cooled walnuts set on separate plates, along with a cup of toothpicks and small bowls of salt crystals. Melt the chocolate with your guests already in the kitchen and then dip in!


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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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