Soft, chewy caramel infused with vanilla and butter, and then rolled in chopped pecans make these pecan caramel clusters an amazingly easy treat.
I grew up in the Chicago area and boxes from Fannie May Chocolates were always a welcome sight. I don't know what kind of witchcraft goes into their Pixies and Dixies, but it was worth duplicating the concept. Dixies are Fannie May's pecan caramel clusters without the chocolate coating that Pixies (turtles to the rest of the world) have. They take all the ooey, gooey goodness of Pixies and remove the chocolate for the weirdos that don't like chocolate. I, for one, never say no to chocolate, but these pecan caramel clusters were actually addictive.
Pecan Clusters are Delicious and Easy
The only thing better than the taste of these pecan caramel clusters is how easily and quickly they're made. This was one of those "I'm standing in my kitchen surveying random ingredients and have an epiphany" recipes. I always make, what I like to call, "poor man's turtles" at Christmas time. They're quick and my nieces and nephews can easily stack a Rolo on top of a pretzel. The problem is that the melting of the Rolos and the placement of the pecans is problematic with little kids. Stacking pecans on melting chocolate on a baking sheet that just got pulled out of a hot oven gets intense. The chocolate can also easily burn in the oven and then the caramel runs out.
Pecan caramel clusters are honestly a little more fool-proof than the rolos, even when the kids are making them.
5 Ingredients Are All You Need
Yes, you read that right. Pecan caramel clusters consist of 5 ingredients: chewy caramels, butter, vanilla bean paste (or extract), heavy cream, and pecans. I've tested this recipe using Kraft Chewy Caramels and Werther's Chewy Caramels. I preferred the Werther's chewy caramels because the end result had a bit more of a sheen and stayed softer. Vanilla is pretty flexible with this recipe, and I've tested with Pure Vanilla Bean paste and Mexican Vanilla. That is to say, any pure vanilla extract should be fine. The pecans are available pre chopped or halved, I used the pre chopped. Chop pecan halves well if that's what you're using.
How to Make the Pecan Caramel Clusters
The instructions for pecan caramel clusters are so easy, here they are in bullet points.
- Line a baking sheet or large dish with wax paper.
- Open all of the caramels and set them in a bowl. Chewy caramels are usually individually wrapped, so unwrap them all ahead of time.
- Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a saucepan that can fit all of the caramels and pecans.
- Add the chewy caramels to the melted butter and toss them around in the butter.
- Spray a wooden spoon with cooking spray and stir the melting caramels frequently.
- As the caramels finish melting, add vanilla and heavy cream. Remove the mixture from heat and stir so that ingredients combine smoothly.
- Stir the chopped pecan pieces into the warm caramel mixture.
- Spray a medium sized mixing bowl with cooking spray and spoon the warm caramel mixture into it.
- Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes so that cooling is faster.
- Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and spray a 1" or 1 ¼" cookie scoop with cooking spray.
- Scoop the pecan caramel mix and place rolled ball on the parchment paper. Let it sit for at least an hour at room temperature (20 minutes in the fridge) to set.
- After letting them set, serve the pecan caramel clusters at room temp enjoy! Pecan caramel clusters can be placed in mini cupcake liners to serve or without the liner on a plate.
Pecan Caramel Clusters
- 2 cups chopped pecans (one 8 oz bag)
- 11 oz Werther's chewy caramels (you can also use Kraft chewy caramels)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or Pure Vanilla Extract
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoon heavy cream
- Unwrap all chewy caramels and set aside.
- Melt butter in a saucepan over low/medium heat. Add chewy caramels and vanilla then stir. Add heavy cream to loosen it and continue stirring until mixture is well combined and smooth.
- Once caramel is melted down, and all ingredients are combined, remove from heat and add chopped pecans to the caramel and stir. Prepare a bowl or Tupperware container by coating it with cooking spray and then pour in caramel pecan mixture.
- Transfer to the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.
- Use a 1¼' cookie scoop to scoop the pecan caramel mixture (lightly coat your scoop in cooking spray to help prevent caramel from sticking).
- Place the rolled pecan clusters on baking sheet lined with wax paper and allow them to set.
- Serve at room temperature in a mini cupcake liner or without a liner on a plate after they've set.