Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

Cookies, Desserts

I’m a huge window shopper. And the internet is the epicenter of window shopping for me. One of my favorite things to do is go to a few of my favorite stores (here and here) and put, like, thousands of dollars of clothes, bags, belts into a checkout cart. And then….I simply click out and move on with my day. It’s almost as if I get the pleasure of shopping without any of the guilt. I truly recommend everyone give it a whirl–it’ll make your mind clearer and your soul feel full.

I also do the same thing with food. A few hours before lunch when I’m a little hungry, I click over to Foodgawker and start clicking away, drooling and dreaming about my next meal, only to be disappointed with the lackluster options near my work. Ugh. But I think some of my most awesome food ideas come from straight starvation.

Like these cute little cookies…I wanted to make cookies for you guys; I started staring at Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Doughnuts and I got the brainiac idea that Salted Caramel Cookies would also be amazing. I think I was right.

The base of these cookies are a basic, shortbread cookie. I was actually a little surprised by them because instead of being just flaky and easily breakable, they’re in fact a little chewy and moist–totally fantastic. I whipped up some caramel, filled the little thumbprint with the stuff, topped it with some fancy schmancy sea salt, and voila! Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies.

Now, I do realize that caramel stresses people out. Actually, everytime I make it I stress out a little bit. But I have a few tips that have made my life easier.

#1- Get all your ingredients together before you start cooking your sugar. The process goes fast.

#2- Warm your heavy cream just a little, this will stop it from seizing once it hits the hot, cooked sugar.

#3 – Wear long sleeves. Hot sugar can burn the heck out of you so be careful.

If you keep those little tid-bits in mind, then you should be fan-freakintastic.

Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 16 cookies

Shortbread Cookie recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Caramel recipe taken from Salted Caramel Mousse by Trish Desseine

Print this recipe!


1 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


1/2 cup of granulated sugar

2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat square. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take out the fridge and cut into 1 1/4-inch squares.

Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Hold the cookie steady with one hand and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Note: I actually poked a hole using my knuckle (from my index finger) since I have nails. I also kind of molded them a little just to make sure they were purdy. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re just a little golden brown on the sides. Let them cool. While they’re cooling, make the caramel.

Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Do not stir. Cook over medium-high heat to a dark caramel, swirling as it begins to brown to distribute the sugar. While the sugar and water are going at it, heat up the cream in a saucepan or microwave just until warm.

Take off the heat and add your room temperature butter. Whisk the butter in, being sure it’s totally combined. Add your warmed cream and whisk vigorously.

By now your cookies should be cooled. Spoon a teaspoon of warm caramel into the indentations of your cookies and top with sea salt. You can eat right away (the caramel will be goopy and wonderful), or let sit for 2 hours so the caramel sets. Fancy and fantastic!

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  • Reply Danielle October 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I made these today and many of my cookies had large cracks around the side so when I spooned the carmel into the cookie, it leaked out. The flavor of the cookies are spectacular and I’d definitely make again, but would be certain to check for the cracks. In addition, my carmel is a golden yellow, not a beautiful brown color. Not sure what I did wrong…I thought I had the sugar mixture on the stove long enough. Anyway, I had the ingredients and wanted to give them a try. They do taste really good.

  • Reply Heather March 29, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I made these for Christmas and they were a HUGE hit. People were fighting over them at my Christmas Eve party to the point I had to hide some so my boyfriend could have a few on Christmas morning! Totally delicious! I do not have a sweet tooth ever, but I have become obsessed with salted caramel anything! The salt cuts the sweet so well. These came out perfect for me, I made the whole recipe for the shortbread. Love these!!

  • Reply Kelly December 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Used brown sugar instead of white for the caramel – put the brwon sugar, 1/8 c cream, and 2 1/2 tbsp butter on low until it’s melted, about 5 minutes. I put this in the “thumbprint” and cooked it with the cookie after I rolled it in nuts. Much faster and easier and it came out delicious……

  • Reply Cartier Lover Bangles September 3, 2011 at 8:55 am

    thank you for it!!!

  • Reply Heidi T August 26, 2011 at 6:41 am

    My roommate and I absolutely loved these cookies! The caramel had a slight burn taste the first time we made them but that almost made the flavor even better, by some standards. I’ve been making the caramel sauce alone and putting on on ice cream, etc., ever since (this recipe gave me the confidence!).

    I do have one question: anyone know how long these cookies are good to eat once they are baked? I want to make some as a gift but I’ll only be able to bake them a week in advance due to extenuating circumstances. Will they still be wonderfully delicious after that time?

    • Reply Adrianna August 26, 2011 at 6:46 am

      Yay! So glad you loved them. A week might be tough. I remember eating them up to 3-4 days after and them being totally delicious. Not sure if they’ll work 7 days after you make them, but you can chance it. It’d definitely keep them in an air-tight container and hope for the best. 😉

  • Reply Jen January 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I loved this idea, however my end result was unfortunate. The cookie dough itself tasted fine, but the finished cookie tasted flat, like it was missing something, and I’m not sure what. Maybe not enough salt? I don’t know. Also didn’t help that I burned the caramel too.
    I was sad – these look so pretty and yummy. I might have to try again.

  • Reply Lynn December 20, 2010 at 3:23 am

    YUM!!! Had to redo the caramel, but it was worth it.

    GREAT recipe! Thank you!

  • Reply Kristen December 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I made these for a cookie swap today and they taste delicious! When I baked the first batch, I followed the recipe directions-and my cookie did not keep it’s shape at all through the baking process. So my next batches I just left them in balls, baked them for 10 minutes (until they were done) and then used a spoon to imprint them when I took them out of the oven. That worked perfectly, and left a perfect little cup for the caramel.

  • Reply Rachel December 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I made these but the dough wouldn’t hold the thumbprint during the baking process. In fact they went completely flat. What did I do? Is there some sort of trick that I missed?

    • Reply MrsDragon December 19, 2010 at 12:05 pm

      I think it has to do with how chilled the dough is. About half of mine held their imprints another 25% vaguely kept the imprint and 25% were totally flat. Since all of the dough was made at once, that’s the only difference I could think of.

      If anyone knows otherwise, I’d be interested to hear their thoughts!

      • Reply EMRussell February 21, 2011 at 11:44 am

        I had the same problem and actually put the thumb-prints into them after they came out of the oven, while they were still warm.

  • Reply Shelly December 16, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I made 2 batches of these. But the dough for the cookie itself turned out too crumbly to use each time – it wouldn’t hold any shape at all, let alone let me make an indention for the carmel.

    The first time I added an egg and about 1/8 c of shortening, which worked the best, but the thumbprint didn’t stay through the baking process. However after baking I was able to put it back in. The second batch same thing, but I only added the shortening. This one I couldn’t get the thumbprint at all, had to put the next one in mini-muffin tins to get them to hold any sort of cup shape. Both time they tasted delicious especially contrasted with the carmel.

    Any thoughts as to what went wrong?

    • Reply Erica December 18, 2010 at 9:40 am

      Not sure what went wrong, but mine were soooo crubmly as well! I rolled them into balls and baked them that way and then about 3 minutes before they were done I imprinted them…it seemed to work and they were DELICIOUS!

  • Reply Tania December 15, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Hi there,
    Love the look of this recipe- I think I’m going to make it for a cookie swap later this week! Wondered if you’d recommend doubling the recipe, or if you think its better to make two separate batches? Thanks!

    • Reply Adrianna December 15, 2010 at 9:49 am

      Hi! Yes, doubling the cookie recipe should work just fine! Just take note that when you first make the caramel it’ll be a little goopy so if you’re traveling with them I’d give it some time for the caramel to set. Yay! Tell me how it turns out!

      • Reply Tania December 16, 2010 at 9:22 am

        Made them last night- it worked great! OMG these are delish… will be posting about them later this week. You get full credit!

        • Reply Adrianna December 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

          Yay! So good to hear! Some people have had some problems with the recipe. It can be a little fickle. 🙂

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