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.
Well, the first one or two are nice.
It gets naughty from there!
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 and Peppermint Chocolate Covered Pretzels are two other fun presents.)
They’re a cinch to make, can last for weeks in the refrigerator or at room temperature (not that we’ve ever had that problem), and are the kind of grown-up indulgence (hello, Red Wine Truffles) that we all crave this time of year.
This recipe avoids the pitfalls I’ve found with other homemade bourbon balls—aside from how hard it is to stop eating them anyway.
You’ve been warned.
5 Star Review
“Outstanding. I made as prescribed, but rolled in crushed pecans rather than sugar. They are divine.”— Judi —
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 and brought far more to the recipe than ho-hum vanilla wafers.
These are, without a doubt, the best bourbon balls I’ve ever eaten. I know they’ll lift your spirits too!
How Much Alcohol Is In a Bourbon Ball?
As their name suggests, classic bourbon balls do have alcohol. The amount can vary from recipe to recipe. Full disclosure: these are on the high end, which is exactly how we love them.
You can use less bourbon if you insist, but I don’t think you’ll want to.
If you’ll be serving these to kids or sharing them with friends who don’t drink, you can make bourbon balls without alcohol (see the recipe card below for suggestions).
How to Make Bourbon Balls
You can find as many recipes for authentic Kentucky bourbon balls as you can find cooks that make them.
At their core, bourbon balls are a no bake candy that contains a smooth bourbon pecan filling and chocolate. From there, it varies.
- Some recipes call for soaking the pecans in bourbon for an hour or overnight.
- Others include butter, shortening, or corn syrup.
- Still, others insist you roll the balls in chocolate, while others put chocolate IN the filling instead.
Today’s no bake bourbon balls are not only the best-tasting I’ve had; they are quite possibly the easiest.
Better yet, the ingredient list is simple, and you don’t need to prep anything ahead!
Don’t miss these other favorite No-Bake Desserts perfect for the holidays.
- 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.
- Pulse the cookie crumbs in a food processor. Add the chopped pecans and salt, then pulse again.
- Stir the remaining ingredients together in a separate bowl (no need for an electric mixer).
- 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.
- Portion the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined sheet pan.
- Roll them 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. 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.
- If rolling the bourbon balls in melted chocolate, use a fork or a toothpick to lift the balls out of the melted chocolate and allow excess to drip away before placing it on a baking sheet.
- 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!
Bourbon balls taste even better (and boozier!) the next day and can last for weeks in the refrigerator or room temperature. They’re great for mailing, gifting, and keeping on hand for “emergencies.”
What to Serve with Bourbon Balls
Apple Cider Cocktail
Hot Buttered Bourbon
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- Food Processor. For the smoothest bourbon ball batter.
- Baking Sheet. Ideal for baking the pecans for this Kentucky bourbon balls recipe.
- Cookie Scoop. This is great for making perfectly-portioned balls.
Cheers (with a mug of holiday Mulled Wine) to an easy dessert with some serious spirit!
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve enjoyed this as a Maker’s Mark bourbon balls recipe and Buffalo Trace bourbon balls recipe, but you can use any bourbon you enjoy the taste of (Bulleit is another good option).
Yes! 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.
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.
If your bourbon balls 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.
- 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 degrees 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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Dues to nut allergies I can’t make these with nuts. Any suggestions for a substitute?
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!
Would a type of seed work? Pumpkin seeds perhaps? Maybe with pumpkin spice?
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!
Tressa, try cocoa nibs? They have the crunchiness of a nut and a nice subtle chocolate/nutty flavor.
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 suggestions
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!
I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe, Chris! Thank you for taking the time to share your results!
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!
Leann, I am so thrilled to hear it, thank you for reporting back!
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.
HOORAY KELSEY! thank you for sharing!!
Outstanding. I made as prescribed, but rolled in crushed pecans rather than sugar. They are divine.
WHOO HOO! I am so pleased to hear that Judi, thank you for sharing!!
Hi. While my attempt tastes delicious, it is too wet to roll. I ran out of ginger snaps so completed the 2.5 cups of ginger snaps with crushed hemp seeds and ground flax. Maybe I added an extra splash of Jim Beam too. Anyhoo, any ideas for more solidification? Corn starch? Thank you!
Hi Emily! You could use vanilla wafer crumbs or chocolate wafer cookie crumbs instead. I hope you enjoy them!
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. Jimmie
I’m so happy that you enjoyed them, Jimmie! Thank you for sharing this kind review!
I am going to try them with Biscoff cookies! Sounds good with any cookie type!
I hope you enjoy the recipe, Anna!
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!
Hi Andrea! Hope you enjoy them!
I have the best smelling kitchen ever!
Hi Dawn! So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for this kind review!
i’ve followed recipe (used honey instead of molasses. But its too dry! it won’t roll into balls. what should I do?
Hi Bex! I’m sorry to hear you are having trouble with the recipe. It’s hard to know what went wrong without being in the kitchen with you. As you can see from the step by step pictures and video, they definitely should not be dry. Maybe try adding a little more honey to mixture, not sure if it will work, but you can try. Hope this helps!
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.
Hi Millicent! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Made these per the recipe, but I used Rye bourbon for a little more flavor
Hi Robin! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
Hey what should I do if my mixture is more like a batter? I let it sit in the fridge overnight and when I scoop them out they flatten and don’t stay uniform on the baking sheet :(
Hi Mary! 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.
Easy. Delicious. Paired with homemade bourbon cream for gifts.
Hi Mary! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!
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.
So happy to hear that! Thank you Frances!