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.
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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 —
Don’t miss these other favorite No-Bake Desserts perfect for the holidays.
How to Make the Best Bourbon Balls
- Pecans. Toasted pecans bring a nutty, tasty crunch that was meant to be paired with bourbon.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).
- Toast the Pecans. Keep a close on eye on them!
- Process. Pulse the cookie crumbs in a food processor. Add the chopped pecans and salt, then pulse again.
- Mix. Stir the remaining ingredients together in a separate bowl (no need for an electric mixer).
- 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.
- Form Balls. Portion the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined sheet pan.
- Coat Them. Roll the bourbon balls in the toppings of your choice. ENJOY!
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.
- 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!
What to Serve with Bourbon Balls
- Other Holiday Confections. If you’re in a candy making mood, box these old-fashioned bourbon balls with Chocolate Peppermint Covered Pretzels and Salted Caramel Truffles.
- Party Food. Setting out bourbon balls for a holiday get-together? Small bites like Whipped Feta Crostini and Cranberry Cream Cheese Appetizer Bites are also fantastic for a party!
- Holiday Cookies. I like to add some bourbon balls to holiday cookie platters stacked with Perfect Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies, Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Chocolate Meringue Cookies.
- Festive Cocktails. I mean, yes, there’s bourbon in the bourbon balls, but it’s not that much. You still have room for an Apple Cider Cocktail or Red Sangria!
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- 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.
- 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)
- 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!).
- 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.
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