Salted Caramel Cookies (Caramel Thumbprint Cookies)

These Salted Caramel Cookies are a delightful salty-sweet treat! Made with a simple sugar cookie base and filled with salted caramel, this easy thumbprint cookie recipe is easy to make and share during the holidays! Makes 36 cookies.

Love baking cookies during the holiday season? Don’t miss Orange Cranberry Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies, Peppermint Chocolate Crinkle Cookies and Cranberry Chocolate Potato Chip Cookies!

Close up of thumbprint cookies on a white tray with caramel

While I’m a food lover and I love to cook, not everything I make in my kitchen turns to gold.

Case in point: caramel.

I was inspired by a scoop of Salted Caramel Ice Cream years ago to make a Salted Caramel Cookie for the Sweetest Season.

The problem was that, I screw up caramel every time I make it.

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    In the past, I’ve undercooked my caramel, as well as overcooked it. It’s been impossible to eat because it’s soupy or crack-your-teeth hard.

    In fact, in developing this recipe, I burnt two different batches of caramel before I got it right. And I’m glad I did because these cookies are delightful.

    Other cookies that aren’t chocolate you might enjoy: No Bake Peppermint Bark Cookies | Caramel Corn Cookies | Potato Chip Cookies | Quebec Maple Pecan Drops | Lemon Tea Cakes

    Need dessert inspiration? Head on over to my Dessert Landing Page to feast your eyes on all kinds of goodness!

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    What you need to make these Caramel Cookies

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    Collage of seven images showing the process of making the batter for Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

    How to make Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

    Make The Thumbprint Cookie Recipe

    In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut oil, applesauce and granulated sugar. Cream them together until combined.

    Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix those into the batter before drizzling in the coconut cream and white vinegar. Stir those in, as well.

    In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle those slowly into the wet ingredients, stirring until just combined.

    When all the ingredients are incorporated, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for an hour. (If you chill it for longer, you run the risk of the coconut oil becoming too hard and making it impossible for you to scoop these thumbprint cookies.)

    How do you make caramel from scratch?

    A note on your saucepan, before we start: You want it to be at least 2 quarts, if not larger, because this caramel sauce is going to bubble up and double or triple in size when we add the coconut cream and almond milk.

    First, measure the sugar into a deep saucepan, and pour the water on top of it. You can stir these ingredients together as you turn on the heat to medium-low.

    When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil—and do not stir or touch it. THIS IS IMPORTANT!

    If you see sugar crystals stuck to the sides of your pan, use a wet pastry brush to wipe down the sides. Be very careful, as this boiling sugar is screaming hot.

    Boil the sugar for 5-8 minutes, when it starts to turn a light amber color. The sugar will boil and appear to not be doing much for a long while, but when color begins to appear, it will move fast, so please do not walk away from the stovetop.

    When the sugar is an amber color, turn off the heat because the sugar will continue cooking after the stovetop is turned off. (This is especially true if you’re using a heavy-bottomed saucepan that holds heat well. Learn from my mistakes in burnt caramel, friend!)

    Right after you turn off the heat, slowly pour in the coconut cream, stirring vigorously as you do. The caramel will bubble and expand, so be careful!

    When the bubbling slows down, stir in the almond milk and salt.

    Pour the mixture—which should be quite thin—into a jar to cool. Don’t fret about the texture: the caramel will thicken when it cools.

    Bake the Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

    When your thumbprint cookie dough has properly chilled and your caramel has been made, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

    Scoop the cookie dough rounds onto a prepared baking sheet. Press your thumb into the middle of each cookie to form an indentation for the caramel, which will be added later.

    Bake the thumbprint cookies in the preheated oven for 10 or so minutes, then remove from the oven. Use a kitchen tool, like the back of your cookie scoop or a muddler, to reform the thumbprints.

    Drizzle the caramel into each thumbprint. Sprinkle with sea salt, and bake for another 5 minutes.

    When done, let them cool off before enjoying with your favorite cookie beverage!

    Collage of two images showing salted caramel cookies before and after filling on a baking sheet

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long do these thumbprint cookies keep?

    Store these cookies in a sealed food storage container for up to 4 days. You can refrigerate them, though that’s not necessary.

    Can I make the caramel in advance?

    Yes! This caramel will keep in your refrigerator for up to a week, so feel free to make it early, store it in a mason jar and then dollop it into your cookies when you’re ready to bake those.

    Can I purchase pre-made caramel for these cookies?

    Which sugar is best for caramel?

    Granulated sugar is the sugar for caramel! If you use brown sugar, your sauce will technically be a butterscotch. (Fun fact.)

    Are Carmel and caramel the same thing?

    Oftentimes, you’ll hear people pronounce caramel and Carmel the same way. If we’re talking about kitchen related things, YES, they’re the same.

    However, if we’re talking about spelling… Carmel is a town in California. Caramel is a sweet treat that involves caramelized sugar combined with other ingredients, like heavy cream or a coconut cream.

    Can I make these thumbprint cookies with dairy?

    Yes, you can, but you’re going to have to do some major reworking of this original recipe.

    However, this cookie base is adapted from my All-Butter Tea Cake Cookies, which obviously involve butter, and you can find a dairy-filled caramel sauce in my Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce post.

    Collage of two images showing Thumbprint Cookies with salted caramel on a white serving platter side by side
    Close up of thumbprint cookies on a white tray with caramel

    Salted Caramel Cookies (Caramel Thumbprint Cookies)

    Erin Parker, The Speckled Palate
    These Salted Caramel Cookies are a delightful salty-sweet treat! Made with a simple sugar cookie base and filled with salted caramel, this easy thumbprint cookie recipe is easy to make and share during the holidays!
    5 from 1 vote
    Servings 36 cookies
    Calories 99 kcal
    Prep Time 15 minutes
    Cook Time 15 minutes
    Chill Time 1 hour
    Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes


    Thumbprint Cookie Dough

    • ¼ cup coconut oil
    • ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
    • ¾ cup granulated sugar
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 egg
    • 3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut cream
    • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
    • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

    Dairy-Free Caramel

    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • ¼ cup water
    • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut cream
    • ½ teaspoon sea salt
    • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk

    As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.


    Make the Thumbprint Cookie Dough

    • Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the coconut oil, applesauce and granulated sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
    • Add the egg and vanilla extract. Beat those into the batter until well-combined.
    • Pour in the coconut cream and white vinegar, and blend until incorporated.
    • Slowly sprinkle the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, blending until combined.
    • When all the ingredients are incorporated, cover the batter bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour. (Don't do this for longer, though, because the coconut oil will make these rock solid and challenging to work with.)

    Make the caramel

    • In a 2+ qt. saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Stir until combined, then don’t touch it!
    • Heat over medium heat, cooking until the sugar has darkened to a light amber color.
    • Pour in the coconut cream, and let the caramel bubble, whisking as the caramel bubbles to incorporate the ingredients.
    • Add the almond milk and salt, and stir until combined.
    • Pour into a mason jar or another storage container, and let cool, then chill until ready to use.

    Make the cookies

    • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
    • Scoop 1 tablespoon rounds of cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Press your thumb into the middle of the cookies, forming intentions for the caramel, which will be added later.
    • Bake the dough for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.
    • Use a kitchen instrument like the back of a cookie scooper or a muddler to re-press the thumbprints.
    • Drizzle in a ½ teaspoon of caramel into each thumbprint and sprinkle sea salt on top of each.
    • Bake for an additional 5 minutes.
    • Let cool on cooling racks and enjoy!


    Serving: 1cookieCalories: 99kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 1gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 87mgSugar: 10g
    Keyword baking recipe, Christmas recipe, cookie recipe, cookies, dairy free dessert, dairy free recipe, homemade cookie recipe
    Course Desserts & Sweet Treats
    Cuisine American
    Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

    Do you struggle with anything in particular in the kitchen?

    Want to join in on this celebration of butter, sugar, flour and holiday ingredients? We’ll be baking and sharing until Friday evening!

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    About the Author:

    Erin Parker is a Southern gal living in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She started The Speckled Palate to share what she was cooking as a newlywed… and over the years, it’s evolved to capture her love for hosting. Specifically, the EASIEST, lowest key entertaining because everyone deserves to see their people and connect over good food. Learn more about her

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    1. At least caramel is an honorable food fail. Mine are grilled cheese and rice. Seriously, I’ve been making a grilled cheese every other Friday ALL YEAR and they’re just now practically edible. Not even a fancy one — we’re taking light wheat bread and Kraft singles. I’m so bad at rice that I don’t even try it any more. Not even minute rice.

    2. “Foodie” is such an odd concept. I mean, who doesn’t like food? Shouldn’t everyone by definition be a foodie? I vote yes. 🙂 These cookies sound amazing–such a great vehicle for all that caramel you can eat!

    3. Awwwww…. I am still deathly afraid of caramel so I can totally relate! I get somewhat the same response from people too when I mention I have a food blog. What’s more interesting is the gasps and surprised looks I get when I tell people I ACTUALLY cook on an almost daily basis. What’s happening?! Isn’t that normal?

      Anyway, back to these cookies. Caramel filled cookies? I’m all for it! I almost did a thumbprint cookie for cookie week except with a Malaysian flair to it but just didn’t have time. Gah! I might still share it soon when I have the time to mess around in the kitchen.

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