These salted caramel and pretzel cookies, made with buttery sugar cookie dough, pretzel pieces, and dulce de leche, have it all. Sweet, salty, chewy, and crunchy. Sorta like everything cookies. Need we say more?

Sweetly salty. Crunchily tender. Unexpectedly familiar. Simply complex. Notice the juxtaposition of opposing and seemingly contradictory forces at play here? That’s exactly why we’re more than a little dumbstruck by these salted caramel and pretzel cookies. They’re irresistible in an “opposites attract” sorta way.–Renee Schettler Rossi

What’s the best beer to pair with these cookies?

Above and beyond the aforementioned desirable traits of these cookies, we have one more reason why we admire these salted caramel and pretzel cookies. It’s the fact that their malty saltiness makes them a superb accompaniment to darker beers. We’re thinking anything from an amber on through a stout. (Natch, milk also makes an admirable accompaniment to these cookies.) Care to chime in with the results of your own studious sipping and curious crunching undertakings? Let us know in a comment below.

A salted caramel and pretzel cookie topped with flaked sea salt and pieces of pretzel.

Salted Caramel and Pretzel Cookies

5 / 3 votes
These salted caramel and pretzel cookies, made with buttery sugar cookie dough, pretzel pieces, and dulce de leche, have it all. Sweet, salty, chewy, and crunchy. Sorta like everything cookies. Need we say more?
CourseDessert
CuisineAmerican
Servings30 cookies
Calories73 kcal
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time2 hours

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 cups roughly broken skinny pretzel sticks
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade dulce de leche or thick caramel sauce*
  • Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Instructions 

  • Toss 1/4 cup whole or broken pretzels in a resealable plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into coarse crumbs.
  • In a stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, honey, vanilla, and salt. Add it to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour and coarse pretzel crumbs, and beat just until combined.
  • Dump the remaining broken pretzels in the resealable plastic bag and coarsely crush with the rolling pin. Spread the pretzel crumbs on a plate or rimmed baking sheet.
  • Drop tablespoonfuls of dough on the pretzel crumbs and roll the dough into balls, pressing so the pretzels adhere. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 325˚F (163°C) and position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Arrange the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Make a deep indentation in the center of each with your thumb. Bake, swapping the positions of the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Immediately upon removing the cookies from the oven, re-indent with the back of a teaspoon, if necessary. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes and then transfer them to racks to cool completely.
  • Fill each indentation with a spoonful of dulce de leche or caramel sauce and sprinkle with sea salt. Then go ahead and indulge. (These are best devoured the day they're baked, as it's a little tricky to keep the leftovers without the pretzels going soggy and the gooey stuff sticking to whatever you cover the cookies with, although honestly, somehow we don't think leftovers will be an issue.)

Notes

What You Need To Know About The Difference Between Dulce De Leche And Caramel

What, you may be pondering, is the difference between dulce de leche and caramel sauce? As the author of this salted caramel and pretzel cookies recipe explains, dulce de leche is like caramel sauce but thicker and richer because it’s made solely with sweetened condensed milk that’s slowly, slowly simmered down until a thickened, caramelized goo, whereas caramel sauce is made with only sugar. (Well, okay, some caramel sauces include other ingredients, including butter and cream, to make the technique of cooking it a little less tricky and the consuming of it all the more indulgent.) They’re each lovely and similar. Though different.

Adapted From

Sweet: Our Best Cupcakes, Cookies, Candy, and More

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 cookieCalories: 73 kcalCarbohydrates: 16 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 12 mgSodium: 88 mgPotassium: 17 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 6 gVitamin A: 21 IUVitamin C: 1 mgCalcium: 5 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2014 Food Network Magazine. Photo © 2014 Johnny Miller. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

What a fabulous cookie! Crunchy, salty, and sweet all in one mouthful. This salted caramel and pretzel cookies recipe was fairly easy to make and the finished product is delicious. I made my own dulce de leche, which added extra time to the recipe but was well worth it.

I topped half the cookies with fine sea salt and half with Maldon sea salt to see which I preferred, and I definitely liked the crunchy flakes better.

I made the dulce de leche from the crêpe recipe. Very delicious. The recipe went as written and was easy to follow. The dulce de leche was thick, and though I thought it might spread in the cookie, it didn’t; next time I would be a little more artistic with how I spread it in the cookie.

This salted caramel and pretzel cookies recipe has everything I was looking for in a cookie with the crunch and saltiness of the pretzels and the sweetness from the dulce de leche. The hardest part was getting the pretzels to stick to the dough. This isn’t a sweet cookie dough, but that’s great because the dulce de leche makes up for it.

My only problem with this cookie was the pretzels. They were crunchy the first day they were made, but had gotten soft by the second day. It didn’t make the cookie bad, it just didn’t have that crunch factor I liked the first day. I ended up using the whole 13.4-ounce can Nestle’s dulce de leche.

This salted caramel and pretzel cookies recipe combines the best of salty and sweet and is outstanding. The tiny bits of pretzel in every bite make these the perfect cookie for me.

They’re very, very sweet, even for those with a big sweet tooth, so next time I would use a bit less dulce de leche. Even now I’m forced to think up ways to eat my leftover dulce de leche—not a problem at all, as it’s good on so many things and can keep a long time in the refrigerator.

It’s not easy to get the thumbprint in the baked dough without breaking the cookies, but a bit of perseverance worked wonders. Despite my chilling the dough for 30 minutes, the cookies spread and flattened in the oven. Perhaps next time I’ll chill them even longer. I stored these flat with layers of parchment paper between them so the dulce de leche would not get onto the sides and bottoms of the cookies. These will definitely become a part of my baking repertoire, but because of the stickiness I would be careful about mixing them with other cookies on a Christmas cookie plate. But believe me, no one would turn down a plate of these.

These salted caramel and pretzel cookies were so good that some people came back and took seconds from the container when they thought no one was looking. The combination of sweet and salty really sells them. What I liked, other than the great sweet and salty aspect, is that they’re pretty much similar in method to every other thumbprint cookie.

The dough was hard to roll in the pretzel crumbs. The amount of pretzel that went into the actual cookie was small. This is where it would have been nice to have some amount (in ounces or grams) of pretzels rather than the cup measure. Bigger pieces of pretzel may end up being fewer ounces than very small pieces. The caramel set a bit on top but the cookies couldn’t really be layered or stacked because the top of the caramel never became very hard.

I used 3 1/4 ounces pretzels (weighed after breaking the pretzel sticks), although this probably could have been more if I’d broken the pieces more. I did need to re-indent the cookies, and I found that using a metal 1 teaspoon measure worked perfectly.

I would make this salted caramel and pretzel cookies recipe again. The flavor was good, and the cookies were very popular.

Originally published January 23, 2015




About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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2 Comments

  1. Hey I think these are going to pair well with some ANGRY ORCHARD hard cider.
    I really appreciate Kim’s comment on the pretzels going a bit soft. Something to keep in mind and has me thinking about storing any leftovers uncovered.

    1. Excellent pairing, Penny. And thanks, excellent point on the pretzels, we’re going to call that out in the recipe. Always appreciate your feedback!