Similar to snickerdoodles and inspired by homemade caramel apples, caramel apple spice thumbprints are completely irresistible. These fall cookies are filled with homemade caramel and spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
Thumbprint cookies usually have a shortbread base or shortbread-like texture. Today’s thumbprints, however, are more like soft & thick snickerdoodles paired with apple spice and creamy caramel.
We call these “2-bite cookies” because they’re so petite and delicious that you can gobble them up in just 2 bites. They’re wonderful for any autumnal celebration or anytime you crave these warm and comforting flavors.
Tell Me About these Carmel Apple Spice Thumbprints
- Texture: You’ll enjoy a super soft cookie with a gooey caramel center.
- Flavor: Think of these as an elevated snickerdoodle cookie—one with apple pie spice and lots of buttery caramel. If you love snickerdoodles, you’ll also enjoy our pumpkin snickerdoodles and these white chocolate chai snickerdoodles. Or even snickerdoodle cake!
- Ease: This simple, straightforward cookie dough is really easy to prep. Don’t use store-bought caramel sauce here because it won’t properly set. Instead, use our simple 10-minute homemade salted caramel.
- Time: Prep time is about 30 minutes, but you’ll need to let the dough chill for 2 hours.
Some Key Ingredients in Caramel Apple Spice Thumbprints
- Flour: All-purpose flour serves as the base of these thumbprints. We use 2 and 1/2 cups to provide structure and shape.
- Apple pie spice: This is what makes these apple spice thumbprints…well, apple-spiced! Apple pie spice is pretty standard in our region, but if you don’t have access to store-bought apple pie spice, you can make your own with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. If you have leftover apple pie spice, use it in our apple cider donuts!
- Butter: 1 cup of butter adds flavor, structure, and buttery goodness in each bite. Make sure it’s properly softened to room temperature before beginning.
- Salted Caramel: We fill each thumbprint cookie with salted caramel. You can make this ahead of time or while the cookie dough chills. We reduce the salt in the salted caramel to 1/4 teaspoon so it’s regular caramel, not salted. (Don’t leave out the salt completely.) You can, of course, keep as regular salted caramel if you prefer. If you love the apple and salted caramel pairing here, you’ll also enjoy apple dessert pizza with caramel cream cheese frosting.
Recipe Testing: What Works & What Doesn’t
Here are the tips and tricks we learned while testing this recipe.
Indenting thumbprints. This is our #1 trick for indenting thumbprint cookies. Instead of your thumb, use the end of a rubber spatula or wooden spoon instead. This hack is helpful because you don’t dirty your thumbs, get dough under your nail, touch all the cookies again, AND you obtain a perfectly uniform indent for every cookie in the batch. We do the same thing with our chocolate peppermint thumbprints too.
- Hint: If you find that the indents have lost their shape after the initial 12 minutes in the oven, just grab the end of your spatula again and press down to make a deeper indent. Deeper indent = bigger pool of caramel. (Obviously a good thing!)
Chilling the cookie dough at THIS stage is important. You want to chill the cookie dough AFTER coating the dough balls in the sugar-spice mix and making indents. Why? In recipe testing, we found that chilling the dough before indenting made it a little too firm. Chilling the dough after indenting was much easier. And if you chill the cookies at this stage, they’ll hold their shape much better when baked.
Caramel Filling. You want to add the caramel AFTER you bake the chilled + shaped cookies. At this point, remove the thumbprints from the oven, fill with caramel. Bake for an additional 1-2 more minutes to help set. The caramel is super gooey right out of the oven, but will set into chewy texture after a couple hours. That makes these caramel apple spice thumbprint cookies convenient for packing, gifting, and/or traveling. And a little less messy for teeny hands and hungry tummies!
More Thumbprint Cookies
- Apricot Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies
- Peanut Butter Jam Thumbprints (using the same base dough as my favorite Peanut Butter Cookies)
- Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprints
- Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies
Caramel apple spice thumbprints are inspired by snickerdoodle cookies and filled with homemade caramel.
- 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice*
- 2 and 1/2 cups (313g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice*
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (16 Tbsp; 226g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- homemade salted caramel*
- Mix the topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Whisk the flour, apple pie spice, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat on high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl and beat again as needed to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on low until combined.
- Roll balls of dough, a little less than 1 Tablespoon each (about 1 inch balls), and then roll generously into apple pie spice/sugar mixture to coat. Place dough balls onto a large lined baking sheet. Using your thumb or the end of a spatula (see post above), make an indent into each cookie. If you find that the balls are cracking when you make an indent, use your hands to push back together.
- Chill the shaped cookies for at least 2-3 hours and up to 4 days. Cover them if chilling for longer than 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Remove chilled and shaped cookies from the refrigerator. Divide between both baking sheets, spacing the cookies about 2-3 inches apart.
- Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven, and spoon 1/2 teaspoon of caramel into each indentation. If the indents have lost their shape or have puffed up, use the end of a spatula to make an indent again. Place cookies back in the oven for 1-2 more minutes.
- Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Caramel will set after a couple hours.
- Make Ahead Instructions: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Store leftover caramel in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can make and shape the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, as noted in step 4. Baked and filled cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Glass Mixing Bowls | Whisk | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Baking Sheet | Silicone Baking Mat or Parchment Paper | Rubber Spatula | Cooling Rack
- Apple Pie Spice: Do you have apple pie spice where you live? If you don’t have access to store-bought apple pie spice, you can make your own with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
- Caramel Sauce: We reduce the salt in the salted caramel to 1/4 teaspoon so it’s a regular caramel, not salted. Don’t leave out the salt completely. You can, of course, keep as regular salted caramel instead. We prefer the sweet version with this cookie.
Keywords: Caramel Apple Spice Thumbprints