A few months ago I was brainstorming ideas of holiday cookie recipes.  One of the first cookies that comes to mind when I think of holiday cookies is the classic thumbprint cookie.  They are typically filled with some type of fruit jam or preserves, but I thought it would be fun to cross them with another classic holiday dessert, pecan pie.  Once they were baked I added a caramel drizzle because the naked cookies looked a little bit…we’ll say homely.  But when the glaze had set and I finally tasted one, I was in cookie heaven.

These are easily one of the best cookies I’ve made, and I’ve made a lot of cookies.  The cookie itself is so tender and almost flaky thanks to the butter and the cream cheese (I love cream cheese doughs!)  The pecans in the dough and in the topping add a warm, nutty note and the caramel is the perfect finishing touch.  These would be an ideal addition to any holiday cookie platter or in holiday goodie packages…that is if you can bear to part with them.  We didn’t share.  Oops!  The perfectionist in me prefers a perfectly round center well rather than an actual thumbprint, so I like to use a wine cork.  So, pecan pie thumbprints or pecan pie wine cork prints.  Your choice!

Note: This recipe was developed as part of my ongoing contribution to the Go Bold with Butter blog.  Head over to see my posts as well as more great recipes from the other awesome bloggers involved with the project!


For the dough:
1 cup (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
½ cup pecans, finely chopped
¼ tsp. salt
2½ cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:
¼ cup (2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp. vanilla extract (or bourbon)
Pinch of coarse salt
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

For the caramel drizzle:
4 oz. caramel candies, unwrapped
2 tbsp. heavy cream, plus more as needed


  • 01

    To make the dough, combine the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well blended, about 1 minute.  Mix in the sugars and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes more.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the pecans, salt, and flour just until fully incorporated.  Cover the bowl and transfer to the refrigerator.  Chill the dough for about 30-60 minutes.

  • 02

    While the dough is chilling, make the filling.  In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, corn syrup, egg yolk, vanilla, and salt.  Whisk just until blended.  Stir in the pecans.

  • 03

    Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  Scooping about 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls.  Place the dough balls on the baking sheets 2-3 inches apart.  Use your thumb (or a wine cork) to make a small round indentation in the center of each dough ball, about 1 inch in diameter.  Fill each indentation with some of the pecan filling mixture.

  • 04

    Bake the cookies, rotating the pans halfway through, until light golden and set, about 16-18 minutes total.  Cool briefly on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack set over wax paper or foil.  Let cool completely.

  • 05

    To make the caramel drizzle, combine the caramels and heavy cream in a small microwave safe bowl.  Heat in 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until the caramels are fully melted and the mixture is smooth.  If needed, add more cream 1 teaspoon at a time until you reach a drizzling consistency.  Drizzle the caramel over the cooled cookies on the wire rack.  If the caramel begins to harden, microwave for 10 more seconds and stir to rewarm.

  • Kristin

    These are definitely going on my list. They sound fabulous!

  • Kate

    I like the new Annie’s Original badge! Or maybe I’m just now noticing. It’s cute.

  • Lauren

    What? No homemade caramel drizzle? You know I’m waiting for you to start making your own butter ;)

  • These are so pretty Annie! Awesome original recipe!

  • annieseats

    I used homemade caramels to make my drizzle, but I generally try to make things accessible so that more readers feel they can make them :)

  • annieseats

    I’ve had it for a while now but yes, I love it!

  • Yummy! Needing some baking therapy today. I believe these cookies are just what the doctor ordered. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Annie!

  • These. Look. Amazing. I was just getting up the gumption to try and make pecan pie, but I’m so afraid of trying to cook a dense pie like that without burning the crust. You solved it for me!!

  • Lauren

    I am adding this to my list of Christmas baking, they look wonderful.

  • Liz N.

    Goodness! I am salivating looking at these, Annie. Like you, I’m a huge fan of cream cheese in doughs. I love the little hint of dairy piquant notes in them. How clever to use the wine cork for the pecan filling! Will be adding this to my baking list this holiday season. My daughter will love ‘stamping’ the centers with the wine cork.

  • These sound SO great! Thanks for sharing!

  • Wow, these cookies could be dangerous! Annie, do you recommend refrigerating them (because of the cream cheese in the dough) or are they ok at room temperature? I’m trying to determine if I could send them in the mail as gifts.

  • Gorgeous! Love this idea. Looking forward to making these. Happy Holidays!

  • annieseats

    Since the cream cheese is baked into the dough, I don’t consider that a reason to refrigerate. However, you’ll have to decide for yourself how to store/ship. I kept mine at room temp in an airtight container for several days and they were fine, so that may give you some insight. Enjoy!

  • Michelle

    Fantastic cookie idea!! Where are your cookie sheets from Annie?

  • I have my own version of pecan pie cookies coming up on my blog. Putting the filling in a thumbprint is genius though :)

  • Caroline L.

    You always get so creative & everything turns out so amazingly. This one looks wonderful!

  • annieseats

    The ones pictured here are from Williams Sonoma.

  • Annie, those are such a cool idea! And my vote is for Wine Cork Print Cookies :)

  • Chris HyeThymeCafe

    What a great idea using the cork as a tamper!! I always keep a few random corks on hand for when I open a bottle of wine and that cork won’t go back in, or I pick up a vintage bottle somewhere and want to store something in it, etc. See, there’s another reason to keep a few handy. :)

  • What a fun idea! Going to try these cookies for sure.

  • These are too cool!! And btw, I found this on pinterest…from both Emeril and Martha Stewart. Talk about a compliment!! ;-)

  • Love the idea of using a cork instead of your thumb to depress the middle!

  • Elena

    Hi Annie! Do you recommend using a food processor to chop the ½ cup pecans, finely chopped used in the dough?

  • Jackie Harper

    I discovered pecan pie cookies a couple years ago on Land O’Lakes’ webpage and my mom makes them every Christmas now. She likes to make the cookie dough thumbprint ahead of time and freeze them. When it is cookie time, fill with the pecan mixture and bake!

  • kate c.

    I like your Annie’s original badge, too. Though you might want to put that in the text somewhere too, as those of us who first read through your posts on a reader don’t see the badge! That way there’s no mistaking where the recipe came from. These look tasty!

  • Denise Wesely

    Do you think these would freeze well and not become crumbly after defrosting? Would like to make in advance for Christmas tins to give as gifts.

  • Wow I just made these today and made the Shrimp Enchilada’s yesterday….both turned out sooooooo well! Thanks for the awesome recipes :)

  • Janet Luo

    I made these last night and they are delicious! Haven’t drizzled caramel over them yet, but they don’t even need it!

  • stacy mattila

    Oh great! Now I have to make ANOTHER cookie ;) You make everything look soo good and it tastes great too!

  • Whitney @ The Newlywed Chefs

    Sadly, I’m the only one in my family who likes pecan pie…wait a sec…that means more cookies for me! Right on!

  • Stephanie

    These sound wonderful! What a great idea!

  • Lauren Ochoa

    I love your technique. Thumbprint cookies are awesome but I tend to have a little bit of fingernail so the actual thumbprint technique is difficult, inconsistent and kind of gross. I made my own creation last night: salted caramel mocha thumbprints using the cork idea and they came out awesome. I adapted Martha Stewart’s chocolate thumbprint recipe to make it mocha and used your vanilla bean caramel sauce as the filling, finishing it off with a sprinkle of sea salt. It’s going to be a hit at my cookie swap this weekend! (Wish you lived in Florida so I could invite you:)

  • annieseats

    Um, yum! I would totally love to go to a cookie exchange with you :)

  • Elizabeth

    These looks amazing!! I absolutely love the caramel drizzle. And the idea of a wine cork in place of using your thumbs is brilliant!

  • Stephanie

    These look great! Cannot wait to make them for a cookie exchange! Where did you get the scoop, or what brand is it? I would like to try to make my cookies look just as evenly sized as yours :) Thanks!

  • annieseats

    The scoop is from Pampered Chef but there are many brands available and any of them do just fine. I actually didn’t use the scoop for the cookie portion itself but just for filling them. Hope that helps :)

  • Stephanie

    Thanks so much for your response!

  • Peppy

    One of the best cookies I’ve made in a long time. Thank you so much for the recipe and inspiration!

  • Vanessa F.

    Ack! I had trouble with these. Don’t get me wrong – they taste absolutely DIVINE, and I’m not even a pecan pie fan! However, when I put them in the oven and they started to spread a little, the filling began to spill out and pool all over my silpat. Yours are beautiful, and mine …. well ….. aren’t. I tried even less filling and still – not sure what else I can try. Don’t want to give up, yet, ’cause they are so yummy

  • annieseats

    Hmm, that’s frustrating! I have found with some types of cookies, they spread a bit more on the Silpat than on parchment, so maybe you could try that next time? Possibly chill before baking too to help them firm up. As for the filling, my only suggestion was to try using a little less. I suppose you could try reducing one of the liquid components – maybe a little less butter?

  • Vanessa F.

    I was wondering about the silpat factor; you might be onto something there. I tried chilling the second tray before baking them, and it didnt seem to make a difference. The only point I veered from your recipe was in using that pesky silpat. Thanks for your input!

  • MMMMM, best cookies ever! They were soooo easy to make.

  • Kaitlin

    Holy cow! I don’t like nuts, just making these to give away as part of Christmas gifts… and the dough is amazing. I also made your Chicken Parm tonight… nothing I’ve ever made from you has been anything less than wonderful. Thank you for all of your wonderful recipes.

  • annieseats

    Awesome! So glad you are enjoying the site :)

  • I made these for a work potluck today…have received many compliments and they got second place in the bake-off :)

  • Ann P.

    YEAAAH! Cream cheese dough! Great recipe, Annie! And I love the wine-cork imprints. Very creative and resourceful touch :)

  • Kaitlin

    Now that they’re made and even more tasty looking, I have the issue of wanting to try one but knowing I won’t like them!

  • Sarah

    Hi Annie, first of all, thank you for all those wonderful recipes! I love your side and it is my daily highlight to check for new recipies and photos on your page during my lunchbreak :-) I’m going to bake these cookies for christmas but you don’t get corn syrup here. Do you think I could try to substitute it with golden syrup? Thanks for your help and merry Christmas from Berlin :-D Sarah

  • annieseats

    I haven’t used golden syrup myself, but from what I have read, I think that would work fine in this capacity. Enjoy!

  • Lia

    This recipe looks amazing! Do you know if these keep/travel well? We will be traveling for Christmas and I’d like to make these, but I’d have to make them this week (around Thursday) for us to have on Christmas day. Thoughts?

  • annieseats

    Mine kept very well. We ate them over at least a week.

  • annieseats

    Either that or a good knife will work well too. Enjoy!

  • Nancy

    Will homemade caramel sauce work as well if I set aside to thicken a bit?

  • annieseats

    It would depend on the particular recipe you used. Since most caramel sauces are meant to stay liquid, I don’t think they would harden if left to dry. At least mine wouldn’t really – it might dry slightly, but would still be very sticky when stacked, etc. You’ll have to experiment.

  • Heather Rieff

    made these over the weekend and they are amazing! Mine also ‘overflowed’ even though i used parchment paper and not a silpat…wish they looked as perfect as yours, but they tasted delicious anyway (I, too, cant bear to give them away).

  • Sarah

    Made these and they were great! We had a little overflowage problem as well. I think the recipe would benefit from approximate weight per cookie – I found that 2 tbsp of dough was too much, and I didn’t get enough cookies per batch. I think each cookie should be about 1.25 oz, or maybe a little less. Delicious, and a big hit with friends.

  • annieseats

    I didn’t weigh mine, I used a 2 tablespoon scoop. I like big cookies but of course, you can make them any size you like.

  • Burlap and Basil

    Goodness! These sound and look divine. I think I’ll have to make some. Caramel? Pecans? In a COOKIE?! Um, please and thank you.

  • Lyndee Pfaffenbach

    These are soooooo yummy! I’m addicted. After the first batch I had quite a bit of filling left over, so I made another. To stretch the filling a bit, I put coconut in them (I’m obsessed with coconut!!) and they were devine! Like a German chocolate frosting pie cookie. I love them both ways. Can’t wait to share them with family this weekend.

  • I, too, had trouble with these. The first tray I used 2 T. and they spread like crazy. Subsequent trays I made much smaller and chilled before baking and that helped a bit. I love all your recipes, pictures and posts and 99% have success, but not so much this time!! Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!

  • annieseats

    That sounds awesome! Great idea.

  • Sarah

    I would agree that chilling longer will help – my first batch straight out of the fridge was PERFECT, but subsequent batches the cookie flopped over just a bit and some of the runny part of the filling spilled out. I might even suggest shaping and then fridging the pan briefly.

  • Sarah

    This is my suggestion because we made a QUADRUPLE batch for a cookie swap, and it would have made portioning the dough a bit easier! ;) I had some leftover filling from the quad batch and made another single batch last night to use it up. This time, I weighed the bulk dough ahead of time. To get exactly 2 dozen from a recipe, my cookies were 38-42 g each (about 1.25 oz). With the quad batch we were making them ~1.5 oz each, and came up about a dozen short. Anyways, they turned out great again, so buttery and nutty. Can’t wait to take some to my parents’ house for Christmas!

  • Patricia Crocker

    I made this recipe yesterday and used golden syrup instead of corn syrup. The taste is wonderful but the eye appeal is not due to the cookie spreading out. I wondered if it is because I use King Arthur Flour exclusively? The cookie got raves from my husband and daughter and I will definitely make them again and try experimenting when I am not in the midst of the Christmas crazies. Thanks for the recipe.

  • annieseats

    No, the brand of flour should not make a difference. And for what it’s worth, I also used King Arthur flour.

  • Kristin

    These cookies are absolutely delicious. I also had a problem with the filling overflowing quite a bit, and had a lot of filling leftover. The taste, however, was spot on.

  • Was so excited about these, but just mediocre.

  • I had no trouble with them. The are THE BEST cookie I have ever made/eaten! They were well loved in the Christmas cookie baskets and I have shared the recipe over and over. KUDOS for a fantastic and easy recipe.

  • Vanessa F.

    Just wanted to give an update: I made them again and the results were much better. I put them in the freezer for abut 8-10 min before baking, and though not ideal, I think it helped. I still had a little bit of leaking in some, but not a big deal. Also, for those who want a bigger yield, I chopped up the pecans for the filling into smaller bits and it worked fine for a smaller cookie. And lastly, I like ’em better without the caramel drizzle :)

  • Amber

    I made these (and the cappuccino fudge recipe) for a church program tonight… Mine didn’t look near as beautiful, but both plates still came back empty with rave reviews. And I still had a bunch of filling leftover, so I think I might make some more tomorrow! Thanks for the wonderful recipes!
    Is there a trick to not get the cookie part to split while baking?

  • Brande75144

    I just made these and they are EXCELLENT!! had extra filling but that just means I get to make more cookies! We are going to enter these cookies in our local EXPO, I will let you know how it goes!