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It’s not just the kiddos who deserve a treat this year! This twist on old fashioned Bourbon Balls, a classic Southern no bake candy made with finely ground pecans, crushed cookies, chocolate, and a heavy pour of bourbon, is everything nice.

Bourbon balls with toppings

Why You’ll Love This Old-Fashioned Bourbon Balls Recipe

  • A Tasty Homemade Holiday Treat. If you are looking for homemade holiday gift ideas this season, bourbon balls are sure to delight anyone with whom you share them. (Cookie Mix in a Jar is another fun present!) They’re the kind of grown-up indulgence (hello, Red Wine Truffles) that we all crave this time of year.
  • Practically Effortless. Kentucky bourbon balls are a cinch to make, a no-bake recipe that’s made by combining everything in a food processor and rolling the mixture into bite-sized balls. Even in the midst of holiday chaos, you can do this!
  • Long Storage Life. Because when you’ve got eleventy-billion Christmas Sugar Cookies and leftovers to polish off, it’s nice to get an edible gift you don’t have to force yourself to eat immediately. They’ll last for weeks in the refrigerator or at room temperature (not that we’ve ever had that problem).
  • A Balanced Bite. My issue with many bourbon balls is that they can be too sweet or too one-note; you get a punch in the mouth of bourbon and little else. I found my answer via a genius tip in The New York Times: Gingersnaps! The zip of the ginger (which I also adore in Gingerbread Muffins) was just the counterpoint the buttery bourbon needed.

5 Star Review

“Outstanding. I made as prescribed, but rolled in crushed pecans rather than sugar. They are divine.”

— Judi —
Chocolate bourbon balls with pecans

TIP!

Don’t miss these other favorite No-Bake Desserts perfect for the holidays.

How to Make the Best Bourbon Balls

The Ingredients

  • Pecans. Toasted pecans bring a nutty, tasty crunch that was meant to be paired with bourbon.

Substitution Tip

You can also make bourbon balls with walnuts if you prefer. If you enjoy pistachios, try Pistachio Chocolate Balls.

  • Gingersnap Cookies. Instead of the customary vanilla wafers, swap crushed gingersnap cookies. The lightly zingy ginger flavor is absolutely scrumptious with the chocolate and bourbon.

Substitution Tip

While I adore gingersnaps here, you can revert to old-fashioned vanilla wafers or chocolate wafer cookies in this recipe to create your own flavor combinations. Bourbon balls with graham crackers may also be worth trying.

  • Bourbon. Warm, cozy, boozy goodness that takes these balls from basic to breathtaking. It’s important to select a bourbon you enjoy the taste of because you will be able to taste it in this recipe (same goes for Maple Bourbon Bars).

Substitution Tip

If you need to make these into non-alcoholic bourbon balls, try using apple or orange juice instead. Apple cider would also be a fun and tasty option (though it will make the balls sweeter).

For rum balls, swap the bourbon for the same amount of spiced rum.

  • Confectioners’ Sugar. Adds a touch of sweetness and helps absorb liquid to create the perfect bourbon ball texture.
  • Cocoa Powder. For its rich chocolate touch.
  • Sweetener. Forget the light corn syrup! Molasses, maple syrup, or honey will add the ideal touch of natural sweetness and superior flavor. I love molasses most for its intensity, and it’s scrumptious with the gingersnaps (and in these Chocolate Ginger Cookies).

The Directions

Toasted pecans on a baking sheet
  1. Toast the Pecans. Keep a close on eye on them!
Crushed gingersnap cookies in a food processor
  1. Process. Pulse the cookie crumbs in a food processor. Add the chopped pecans and salt, then pulse again.
Chocolate being whisked in a bowl beside a bottle of bourbon
  1. Mix. Stir the remaining ingredients together in a separate bowl (no need for an electric mixer).
Batter in a food processor
  1. Combine. Pour the mixture into the food processor and pulse again. Let it hang out at room temperature to thicken, or pop it into the refrigerator to chill.
Easy batter on a baking sheet
  1. Form Balls. Portion the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined sheet pan.
Southern bourbon balls being rolled in sugar
  1. Coat Them. Roll the bourbon balls in the toppings of your choice. ENJOY!
Bourbon balls being rolled in chocolate sprinkles

Rolling Bourbon Balls

Once the balls are made, it’s time to roll them! You have options.

  • Coarse Sanding Sugar or Turbinado Sugar. This is my favorite. It’s simple and perfect.
  • Melted Chocolate. For chocolate bourbon balls, roll your balls in melted chocolate, using a fork or toothpick to lift the balls out of the chocolate. I recommend chopped bar-style dark chocolate, not chocolate chips which do not melt as smoothly. Thin the chocolate with a little coconut oil or vegetable oil to help it set. For decoration, add a pecan before the chocolate sets.
  • Chocolate Sprinkles. A coating of chocolate sprinkles is fun, festive, and tasty. Serving the balls for a birthday? Try using rainbow sprinkles instead.
  • Crushed Pecans. Coat the balls in crushed pecans for an extra touch of nuttiness.
  • Cinnamon Sugar. A coating of cinnamon sugar is perfect for cinnamon lovers.
Bourbon balls with chocolate and sugar

Storage Tips

  • To Store. While bourbon balls do not need to be refrigerated, you may store them chilled if desired. Bourbon balls will last for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Storing them uncovered will result in a more defined “crust”, and storing them covered will keep them moist.
  • To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw and enjoy as desired. I’ve even nibbled on them frozen too!
Authentic Kentucky bourbon balls recipe with sugar and chocolate

What to Serve with Bourbon Balls

  • Food Processor. For the smoothest bourbon ball batter.
  • Baking Sheet. Ideal for baking the pecans for this easy bourbon balls recipe.
  • Cookie Scoop. This is great for making perfectly-portioned balls.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t Let the Pecans Burn. It can happen fast! If your oven tends to run hot, I recommend checking the nuts at the six minute mark to see if they’re done. You really can’t use pecans in a recipe if they’ve burned, and they’re expensive, so it’s a good idea to watch them closely.
  • Troubleshooting Sticky Bourbon Balls. If your bourbon ball dough feels sticky and will not roll into balls, it may need to rest a bit longer for any excess moisture to absorb. If the dough is still too sticky, try adding additional ground gingersnaps or wafers to the recipe and rest again.
  • Troubleshooting Dry Bourbon Balls. If your bourbon ball dough seems dry or crumbly, add additional sweetener (molasses, honey, or maple syrup) to the mixture until it resembles a soft, pliable dough. Let rest, as directed, then shape into balls.
  • Mail Them If You Please. Bourbon balls are a fantastic recipe for gifting and mailing. Make sure to use an airtight storage container or ziptop bag to keep them fresh during transfer.
  • Pick a Good Bourbon. It doesn’t need to be top shelf but use something you’d enjoy in an Apple Cider Cocktail to make your bourbon balls. Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, or Bulleit are all good options.
No bake bourbon balls with toppings

Bourbon Balls

4.77 from 43 votes
How to make old fashioned bourbon balls with pecans, gingersnaps, and chocolate. Perfect for holidays, gifting, and cocktail parties. No Bake!

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Total: 28 minutes

Servings: 42 balls

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 cups raw pecans
  • 2 1/2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 50 small cookies such as Nabisco; leftover gingersnaps work too!) or vanilla wafer crumbs or chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup bourbon (I love Maker's Mark or Buffalo Trace for bourbon balls but any good bourbon here will work nicely; see notes for a non-alcholic version)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses, honey, or pure maple syrup (I like molasses for the intense flavor)
  • For rolling: Crushed cookie crumbs, sprinkles, sanding or coarse sugar, finely chopped nuts (I don't recommend powdered sugar, as it becomes soggy)

Instructions
 

  • Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the pecans in a single layer. Bake until the pecans are toasted and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Immediate transfer to a cutting board to cool.
  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse together the cookie crumbs (if you are starting with whole cookies, make the crumbs now, then double-check to make sure you have 2 1/2 cups).
  • .Add the cooled nuts and salt. Continue to pulse, until the nuts are finely ground but not completely pulverized (you want them in small bits but for them to still have a little bit of texture).
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the bourbon, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and molasses until smooth.
  • Add to the food processor bowl and pulse until just combined.
  • Scoop the mixture into a bowl and give it a few stirs if the ingredients are not evenly combined. Press it into a mass. Let rest at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the crumbs to absorb some of the liquid.
  • Arrange anything you'd like to roll the balls in a shallow dish (a low bowl works too).
  • Portion the dough by tablespoonfuls (I like to use a tablespoon scoop like this) and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in toppings of your choice, then transfer to a storage container (or enjoy IMMEDIATELY!).

Video

Notes

  • TO STORE: Store bourbon balls in an airtight storage container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If you are storing the balls at room temperature: cover the container if you prefer your balls more moist. For more of a crust, leave them uncovered.
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw and enjoy as desired.
  • LESS BOOZY VARIATION: Reduce the alcohol to 1/4 or 1/3 cup. If the mixture is too dry, you can splash in apple juice or orange juice to make up for the moisture difference.
  • BOURBON BALLS WITHOUT ALCOHOL: Substitute orange juice or apple juice. Apple cider would also be fun to try.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 42); without rolling ingredientsCalories: 73kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 1gFat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gPotassium: 54mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 2IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 10mgIron: 1mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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4.77 from 43 votes (28 ratings without comment)

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40 Comments

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    1. Hi Tressa! While I haven’t tested it myself, I think you could omit the pecans and add some extra cookies, especially if the mixture seems too wet. If you decide to play around with it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

        1. Hi Loran! I’ve only tested the recipe as written but you could definitely try. I imagine the seeds would need to be crushed finely when rolling to balls in them. Flavor wise I am not sure how it will turn out. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  1. Erin – I love these and have made them for years as a staple! Can’t wait to use ginger snaps – genius!
    Have you ever made these nut free? My son has a nut allergy!
    Thanks for any suggestions5 stars

    1. Hi Christina! While I haven’t tried it myself, I think you could omit the pecans — I’d add some extra gingersnaps to compensate if the mixture seems too wet. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  2. Absolutely AMAZING. We made these with Maker’s Mark and everyone went crazy for them. So easy and even better the next day. If you are looking for the best bourbon balls, this recipe is the one!5 stars

  3. These were delicious! Just the right amount of bourbon flavor. Not overpowering but just the right mix of flavors! I love how quick and easy the recipe was as well.5 stars

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed – easy to do – purchased every medium sized tin I could find at several stores. Packaged them 6 to a tin in little paper cups/holders – tossed in a card and gifted them. Everyone loved them. Jimmie5 stars

  5. Looking forward to serving the beautiful balls at Christmas! I started with the 1/2 cup of bourbon as calls for in the recipe and knew it would be too strong for my liking and guests. I remade the wet mixture with 1/4 cup of bourbon, realized the dough was too dry and added 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice which honestly was probably the better choice and made the dough more moist (I could have probably used a little less OJ). You get a faint smell and taste of the bourbon with a fragrant note of orange. I used pretzel sticks as “toothpicks” then did a heavy drizzle of chocolate topping them with gingersnap cookie pieces and chopped pecans. They are too gorgeous to eat!

  6. enjoyed the gingersnap molasses bourbon balls. shared with friends and we are making the second batch. mixing with rum this time. used Ghiradelli 86% cacoa midnight reverie dark chocolate, confectioners on another set and crushed pecans. scrumptous, new expectation for holiday treats. thank you for the recipe.
    also Publix has their own gingersnaps half the cost of other gingersnap cookies.5 stars

  7. We love these at Christmas –I do them pretty much as you have except use vanilla waffers and add a pinch of ginger and some cinnamon –and use swerve powdered sugar in them and swerve granulated on the outside–( sometimes mixed with cinnamon too) which seems to work fine. They get better and better as they age–Great recipe. Second year making them with your recipe.
    Thank You!5 stars

  8. I made these and am looking forward to making them again next month. So delicious and so pretty, rolled in all different color sprinkles on a Christmas platter. I wish I could upload the photo!5 stars

    1. I’m sorry to hear that Michelle! I know it’s disappointing to try a new recipe and it have not turn out the way you expected. It’s been a hit for myself (and others) so I wished it would be been a hit for you too.

  9. Proportions are spot on, but I found the Gingersnaps to be a little overpowering/dominating. (Just my personal taste, not a criticism). Going to try and 1/2 and 1/2 mix of Nilla Wafers and Gingersnaps to see how that works. Overall great recipe that allows for all sorts of substitutions for personal preferences.5 stars

  10. I made a batch as is and then a second batch with pecan sandies instead of ginger snaps. WE liked the pecan sandies better. I make these every year but my recipe was too moist in the past so I checked out yours. Love it! Thanks!5 stars

  11. These taste delicious; however, none of the roll-ons stuck! I would like to know how they look so perfect in the photo. I was mailing them out, so I was very disappointed they did not look better.3 stars

    1. Glad you enjoyed the taste, Linda. I’m sorry to hear you had trouble. The dough is moist so it was easy for me to roll them into the various toppings.