Decadent Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bars (Gluten Free/Lactose Free)


December 21, 2017

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These turtle bars are the perfect mix of a candy bar meets a cookie. With the best combination of nutty caramel, and decadent chocolate you would never guess that these bars are both gluten and dairy free. 

Until I met my husband, I had no idea what turtle bars were, and I honestly thought it was the strangest thing when he would always ask me to make them. I remember vividly looking at him with the most bewildered look on my face saying “what on earth is a turtle?!?” since I was pretty positive he didn’t mean actual turtles…like the animal. Well little did I know that turtles are these absolutely delicious, melt in your mouth mix between a cookie and a candy bar, and they are out of this world amazing. 

Since they are my husbands favorite dessert to make around the holidays, it quickly became his “thing” in our house that he will make each year, and early on into our relationship was the one dessert he was determined to make gluten free/dairy free for me to be able to enjoy with him.

See this is the part about traditional meals or desserts that I love so very much. They have a story attached to them, that elicits memories, and traditions that go beyond what the food is itself. While yes these bars are both gluten free and lactose free that because that is a necessity for me, not because it makes them healthy. 

In fact there is pretty much nothing “healthy” about these bars other than the fact that like always I used very high-quality sourced ingredients, and that a healthy life includes indulgences just as much as it includes kale.

To make these bars both gluten free and dairy free, it actually is a pretty easy 1:1 sub for both the butter and the flour. So if you are reading this and you don’t need to be gluten/dairy free by all means use your regular all-purpose wheat flour (I still would recommend purchasing a high-quality source from a bakery or local coop) and regular organic butter.

I love Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Butter because it is organic, lactose free, and sourced from small farmers here in the USA. Not to mention it tastes amazing. But if you are vegan, I have also made this recipe using Earth Balance butter substitute as well. 

Lastly, instead of using brown sugar to make the caramel and sweeten the crust layer of this recipe we use an organic/fair trade certified turbinado sugar and organic fair trade certified molasses. Like all my recipes (even my baked goods) I am always very conscious about the sourcing of my ingredients, which is why we choose to use local/organic/fair trade certified goods as often as possible. 

This may not make this recipe necessarily healthier for you personally, but it does make the process of getting these ingredients into your home one that is so much more ethical, safer, and healthier for the laborers involved and the envronemt. 

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But now onto the recipe. I hope you make these for your friends and family this holiday season and enjoy them as much as my family does. 

Decadent Chocolate Caramel Turtle Bars (Gluten Free/lactose Free)

Crust Layer Ingredients

  • 2 cups gluten free baking flour

  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (if your flour doesn’t have it in it)

  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar

  • 2 tablespoons organic molasses

  • 1/2 cup softened Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Butter (alternatively you can also use Earth Balance to make these vegan friendly)

  • 1 cup pecan pieces

Caramel Layer

  • 2/3 cup Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Butter

  • 1/3 cup turbinado sugar

  • 2 tablespoons organic molasses

Chocolate Layer

  • 12 oz Dairy Free Chocolate Chips (I love both Equal Exchange and Enjoy Life)

  • Optional: Chopped Pecans/Walnuts


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

  • Using a food processor, mix all ingredients excluding pecans until fine crumbs form.

  • Next, line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper and press crust mixture into the pan.

  • Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the crust and place in the refrigerator.

  • Next, combine caramel ingredients in a small saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Stir continuously until the surface begins to boil.

  • Allow the caramel to boil for 1 minute, stirring consistently.

  • Remove from heat and pour hot caramel over chilled crust and pecan layer.

  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 18 – 20 minutes.

  • Remove from oven and pour chocolate chips evenly over the pan.

  • As the chocolate begins to melt, spread the chips evenly over the caramel layer. At this point you could also add additional chopped nuts if you would like.

  • Allow to cool completely and cut into small bars.

Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN

Megan Faletra, MS, MPH, RDN

Megan is a maternal-child health dietitian and mom of two. With nearly a decade of experience working in maternal-child nutrition both domestically and abroad, Megan is passionate about supporting mothers and their little ones through pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond.

Megan especially loves helping to nourish families with simple, delicious recipes that both children and adults will enjoy. All of the recipes at MADRE are gluten free, and focused on celebrating food culture, seasonality, and supporting the nutritional needs of growing children, mothers, and families.

Megan holds a MS in Nutrition and MPH in Global Health from Tufts University, and received her dietetic license (RDN) from Brigham and Women's Hospital. She has advanced training in pediatric nutrition and baby led weaning, and is currently working towards becoming a certified lactation consultant.

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Meet Meg

Mom of two girls under two, and registered dietitian specializing in prenatal, postpartum, and infant wellness. My passion for supporting moms and babies began more than a decade ago, but nothing made me more committed to helping moms and babies thrive than going through my own pregnancy and postpartum journey.

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