Bourbon Balls

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Bourbon Balls offer up a powerful punch while packaged in a small bite. These no-bake treats are a favored gift and a perfect nibble for parties.

Hands On Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
53 mins
Yield:
3 dozen

Bourbon balls are an old-fashioned treat made up of six simple ingredients. And while these no-bake cookies are easy to make, they certainly have a storied past.

Bourbon balls are said to have been first invented in 1938 by Rebecca Ruth Candy Company based in Frankfort, Kentucky, and they've been a longtime favorite ever since.

Now, there are several versions of bourbon balls. Some are rolled in sugar or sprinkles, while others are dipped in chocolate. This classic, no-frills version uses a coating of powdered sugar for a touch of sweetness, while letting the flavor from the bourbon, toasted pecans, and cocoa powder shine through. Each bite offers a soft texture with just a hint of crunch from the toasted pecans.

Make a batch or two to keep in the fridge for a quick treat, or prep plenty of batches ahead of time. These timeless bourbon balls make the perfect gift or addition to any Christmas cookie platter.

Ingredients for Bourbon Balls

Bourbon balls are made with a mixture of dry and wet ingredients. Finely crushed vanilla wafers serve as the base, with powdered sugar, unsweetened cocoa, and chopped toasted pecans adding great flavor. Bourbon and light corn syrup moisten the dry mixture to make a soft dough.

ingredients for bourbon balls overhead
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

How to Make Bourbon Balls

Bourbon balls are quick and easy to make. They also are ready nearly as soon as you finish them so you can sneak a treat before you pack these bites up.

Step 1. Combine dry ingredients

First, get started by crushing the vanilla wafers, either by pulsing them in a food processor or putting them in an airtight plastic bag and rolling them with a rolling pin. Once the vanilla wafers are crushed, transfer them to a large mixing bowl with the powdered sugar, cocoa, and pecans, and stir until combined.

dry ingredients for bourbon balls overhead
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Step 2. Make the dough

Pour the bourbon and corn syrup into a small bowl, and stir until combined. Then, mix the bourbon mixture into the dry mixture until a soft dough forms.

ingredients for bourbon balls overhead
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox
dough for bourbon balls
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Step 3. Roll the balls

To assemble the bourbon balls, scoop small sections of dough and form them into 1-inch balls.

forming bourbon balls
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

Roll each bourbon ball in powdered sugar before placing them on a platter or in an airtight container. Cover the bourbon balls, and allow them to chill for at least 30 minutes.

bourbon balls rolled in powdered sugar
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

What's the Best Bourbon for Bourbon Balls?

This recipe calls for ½ cup of bourbon, and the flavor definitely comes through in the finished product. It's important to choose decent quality bourbon for making bourbon balls. While you won't necessarily taste specific nuanced flavors of a high-end bourbon, you will still be able to taste some of its flavor.

How to Store Bourbon Balls

Once the balls have been formed and rolled in powdered sugar, they should be stored in the fridge. Chilling bourbon balls helps to develop their flavor and improve their texture. They can still be left out at room temperature in an airtight container after the initial chilling time, but for best results, keep them in the fridge. Store them in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Why Are My Bourbon Balls Dry?

Bourbon balls are made up of a careful ratio of dry to wet ingredients. A heavy pour of bourbon adds flavor, but it also moistens the mixture to make it easier to form into balls. The corn syrup adds moisture as well while also acting like glue to hold the mixture together.

If the mixture seems to be on the drier side, add a tiny bit more corn syrup. If the mixture feels too dry while forming the bourbon balls, lightly wet your hands with water to make the rolling process simpler.

Editorial contributions by Molly Allen.

Ingredients

  • 1 (11-oz.) package vanilla wafers, finely crushed

  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

  • ¾ cup powdered sugar

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

  • ½ cup bourbon

  • 2 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup

  • Powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Stir together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl until well blended.

  2. In a separate bowl, stir together bourbon and corn syrup until well blended. Stir bourbon mixture into the wafer mixture. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in powdered sugar. Place finished bourbon balls in a lidded container, cover, and chill at least 30 minutes. Store chilled in a container up to 2 weeks.

    Bourbon Balls
    Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox
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