Chocolate Caramel Tart with Pretzel Crust
This chocolate caramel tart is layered with buttery pretzel crust, toasty peanuts, the best homemade caramel sauce, and rich chocolate ganache. It’s sweet, salty, chocolatey, decadent, and a great dessert for any occasion!
This was a very exciting week considering we celebrated both the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day. Now that I’m thinking about it, this would have been an excellent recipe to share for V-Day. But luckily, this is the kind of tart that you can enjoy pretty much any time of the year. So it all works out!
Speaking of, how did you spend Valentine’s Day? We had friends over to watch The Bachelor and eat lasagna. We also had some of this chocolate caramel tart and opened a bottle of wine and wore pajamas. It was great. 10/10 how I want to spend every Valentine’s Day from here on and until forever. I don’t know what it is about The Bachelor but there is absolutely no way I can watch it unless I’m surrounded by people who want to make fun of it. But, it’s the ultimate show for trash-talking while you eat just an absurd amount of decadent, delicious food.
Anyways, let’s chat about this tart because you’re going to want to make it ASAP. Maybe make it for your next Bachelor night and let me know how that goes!
Details on this chocolate caramel tart
I have no idea where the inspiration for this tart even started, it kind of just happened! All I know is that I wanted to make a dessert that fits any season. And, caramel + chocolate + pretzels + peanuts = absolute heaven. So, I decided to mix it all together in tart form and this is the result.
If you’re wondering what the tart tastes like, imagine if Snickers was a pie. But even better because pretzel crust is involved. The tart starts with a buttery pretzel crust made up of only three ingredients. Then, we layer chopped peanuts over the crust and drizzle in the best homemade caramel sauce. Lastly, it’s finished with a layer of chocolate ganache and some more chopped peanuts. I don’t even know how to describe it, this tart is just the absolute best.
The ingredient list
Even though this tart has three layers, the ingredient list is surprisingly short. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Pretzels – I use mini twists to make it easier to measure.
- Unsalted butter – for both the crust and filling.
- Brown sugar – to add a little sweetness to the crust. White sugar works too.
- White sugar – this will make up the base of our caramel.
- Vanilla extract – adds depth to the caramel but is also optional.
- Kosher salt – to balance out the sweetness in the caramel.
- Unsalted peanuts – these are also optional but one of my favorite things in this tart!
- Semi-sweet chocolate – I use 60% which is my favorite flavor-wise!
- Heavy cream – for both the ganache and the caramel.
How to make it
We’re going to make this chocolate caramel tart in three parts. But don’t get overwhelmed, everything is really simple and goes rather quickly! Let’s get started.
- Start by crushing the pretzels in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. (You can also do this by placing the pretzels in a plastic bag and using a rolling pin to break up the pretzels).
- Add the melted butter and brown sugar. Pulse the food processor a few more times until the mixture comes together. (Alternatively, mix everything together well in a medium bowl).
- Next, press the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake at 350°F for 9-10 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly.
- First, add the sugar and 1/2 cup of water to a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Stir over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Clip a candy thermometer to the side of your pot and let it cook undistrubed until the caramel is a dark amber color. The mixture should reach 350-360°F.
- Remove the caramel from the heat and quickly add the vanilla extract and butter, 2 Tablespoons at a time, until you have a smooth sauce. Careful, the mixture with splutter!
- Add the Kosher salt and heavy cream. Then, stir until smooth. Let the caramel cool for about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sprinkle the peanuts evenly over the pretzel crust. Pour the caramel on top and use a spatula to smooth it evenly if necessary.
- Next, pop the tart into the fridge and let it set for about an hour.
- Start by chopping up the chocolate. Place it in a small heatproof bowl.
- Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan just until the cream starts to simmer on the edges. Don’t let it boil!
- Next, pour the heavy cream over the chocolate. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes, and then stir until smooth.
- Pour the ganache over the tart and quickly spread it until smooth.
- Decorate the tart with chopped peanuts and pretzels. Let the ganach set, about 20 minutes. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
Homemade Caramel Tips
I know that making homemade caramel can be a bit overwhelming but it’s actually super easy! Here are some of my best tips for making perfect caramel sauce every time:
- Use a candy thermometer – a lot of recipes will tell you not to, but honestly, I kind of disagree. Using a thermometer is a foolproof way to ensure that your caramel comes out every time. If you don’t have one, you can still make caramel sauce, I just personally think this is the easiest way! I use this candy thermometer.
- Use medium-low heat – I know it can be tempting to crank up the heat but caramel sauce is a low-and-slow process. If the heat is too high, it will cook too quickly and burn.
- Don’t stir – yep, really! Stirring can cause the caramel to form crystals which will make the sauce grainy. Instead, gently swirl the pan every once in a while to even out hot spots and keep the syrup from burning.
- Avoid crystallization – use a wet pastry brush to brush any sugar crystals off the side of the pan after swirling. This will keep the caramel from getting grainy.
- Cook the syrup until it’s a dark amber color – while you should use a candy thermometer for an accurate temperature, you should also make sure the syrup is a dark coppery-amber color for the best flavor.
- Use a heavy-bottomed pot – this will ensure that the heat is evenly distributed and you don’t end up with hot spots. Thin, metal pans are a sure way to end up with burnt caramel.
In a pinch, there are a few ingredient substitutions you can make for this chocolate caramel tart:
- Pretzels – if you prefer a sweeter crust, you can use graham crackers or another cookie instead of pretzels. Avoid anything too sweet (like Oreos) because the caramel-chocolate combo is already very sweet. You can also use a shortbread crust.
- Peanuts – you can also use hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts. Or, leave them out entirely if you’re not a fan of nuts!
- Chocolate – I highly recommend using a good-quality bar, but you can also use semi-sweet chips, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate. Just avoid anything over 70% or it’ll be too bitter.
Can I use an 8 or 10-inch tart pan?
Totally! Just keep in mind that an 8” pan will make the tart thicker and a 10” pan will make the layers thinner. Also, don’t use a tart pan with removable sides, because the crust is a bit crumbly and could fall apart. In a pinch, you could also use a pie plate! However, my favorite pan to use for this recipe is a regular, 9” tart pan.
A make ahead option
This chocolate caramel tart can be made a day in advance when stored in the fridge! The crust will stay nice and crunchy after a day but will get soggier over time. You can also store it at room temperature on the counter, just keep in mind that the caramel will get runny if the temperature is too warm.
Alternatively, you can make the crust 2-3 days in advance and keep it at room temperature until you’re ready to fill it. The caramel can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in the fridge. Let it warm to room temperature before filling the tart to make it easily spreadable. As for the ganache, that has to be made last minute. The ganache will harden after 10-20 minutes so it should be the last thing that you make.
Storing the tart
The tart can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days, just keep in mind that the crust will get softer over time. Just store the leftovers in an airtight container and place them in the fridge. I would recommend letting the leftovers warm up on the counter for 15-20 minutes before serving so that the caramel softens a bit and the ganache gets a little silkier.
Tips & tricks
- If the crust is too crumbly, add more melted butter 1 Tablespoon at a time until it comes together. You want the mixture to “clump” together when you press it.
- Be careful with adding extra salt. Although adding more salt to the caramel can be tempting, we already have plenty of salt thanks to the pretzels.
- Allow the caramel to set in the tart for at least 30 minutes, but preferably an hour. This will prevent the caramel and ganache from swirling together.
- Don’t let the ganache set for too long. Otherwise, it’ll get hard before you have the opportunity to spread it around!
- Let the tart warm up a bit before serving. I recommend 20 minutes or so. This will allow the caramel to soften (without becoming runny) and will ensure that the ganache is silky and smooth instead of hard.
More tarts & pies you’ll love
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Chocolate Caramel Tart with Pretzel Crust
- 4 c mini pretzel twists (for 1 1/2 c crumbs)
- 1/2 c unsalted butter, melted + more as needed
- 3 Tbs brown sugar
Peanut Caramel Filling
- 1 1/2 c sugar
- 1/2 c water
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 c unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/3 c heavy cream, room-temperature
- 1/3 c unsalted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- Chopped peanuts, pretzels, and/or flaky salt, for serving
- 9'' tart pan (8'' or 10'' will work too)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9'' tart pan with unsalted butter.
- Place the pretzels in a food processor.* Pulse the pretzels until you have fine crumbs. You should have 1 1/2 cups of crumbs total.
- Add the melted butter and brown sugar. Pulse until the mixture clumps and sticks together.**
- Using your fingers, press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom and sides of the pan. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool while you make the caramel.
Peanut Caramel Filling
- Combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, ensuring that the bottom of the thermometer is hitting the sugar-water mixture but not touching the bottom of the pan.
- Let the sugar-water mixture cook over medium-low heat, swirling the pan often until the mixture turns a dark amber color and the temperature reaches 350-360°F. Resist cranking the heat or stirring the mixture or it could crystallize!***
- Remove the pan from the heat, and quickly stir in the vanilla extract (the mixture will bubble and splatter). Add the butter one chunk at a time until combined. Next, add the Kosher salt and heavy cream, quickly stirring to combine everything. Let the caramel cool for about 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the chopped peanuts evenly over the top of the tart crust. Immediately pour in the caramel, using a rubber spatula to spread it evenly if necessary. Pop the tart in the fridge to set, at least 30 minutes but preferably at least 1 hour.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl.
- Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan just until it comes to a simmer. Don't let it boil! Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.
- Stir the mixture until you have a thick, glossy ganache. Quickly spread the chocolate ganache over the tart with a rubber spatula or offset spatula.
- Decorate the tart with chopped peanuts, pretzels, and/or flaky salt, as desired. Let the ganache set for 15-20 minutes. Slice and serve immediately, or pop the tart in the fridge until you're ready to serve. Let it warm up for 15-20 minutes at room temperature to allow the caramel and chocolate to soften before slicing. Enjoy!
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the day: Off and On by SALES