Bourbon Balls are perfect for adding a little warmth to your gatherings! These delightful treats are a fusion of rich chocolate and the bold, smooth notes of bourbon, creating a flavor that’s simply irresistible.
We all need a little bit of “easy” in our lives, and that’s just what these bourbon balls deliver. Whether you’re a kitchen master or just starting out, you’ll love how easy these no-bake wonders are to whip up. They’re the ideal mix of sophistication and simplicity, making them perfect for everything from holiday parties to a relaxing night at home. Plus, with their customizable nature, you can make them uniquely yours every time.
Why You’ll Love This Bourbon Balls Recipe
- No-bake delight. These bourbon balls are easy to make with no oven time. Perfect for a quick treat!
- Rich, boozy flavor. The bourbon adds a deep, rich flavor that’s irresistible.
- Perfect for parties and gifting. These little treats are a hit at gatherings and a wonderful addition to your cookie trays! They look quite fancy but are so easy to make.
- Customizable. It’s easy to adjust the recipe to suit your tastes, like adding nuts or different types of chocolate. (See my ideas for variations below.)
- Make-ahead magic. They taste even better after a day or two!
What Are Bourbon Balls?
For those of you unfamiliar with these little no-bake treats, let’s talk a little about what exactly they are.
Bourbon balls are a popular confectionary treat originating from the Southern United States. They are small, bite-sized sweets that combine the rich flavors of chocolate and nuts with the distinctive taste of bourbon whiskey.
They offer a unique blend of sweet and boozy flavors. Chocolate and sugar provide a rich sweetness, while the bourbon adds depth with its woody, caramel, and vanilla notes. The nuts contribute a crunchy texture and a nutty taste that complements the overall flavor. In essence, bourbon balls are a delightful combination of texture and flavor, offering a taste experience that’s both sophisticated and indulgent.
What You’ll Need
Let’s take a look at the ingredients in these bourbon balls. For ingredient quantities and full instructions, scroll down to the recipe card.
- Vanilla wafers – Grind these finely either by pulsing in a food processor or crushing in a zip-top bag. See my ideas for variations below for some other options to use instead of vanilla wafers.
- Pecans – For the best flavor, toast the pecans before chopping them.
- Confectioners’ sugar – Also labeled as powdered sugar.
- Cocoa powder – Be sure to use unsweetened cocoa powder, not the sweetened kind used for hot chocolate. Use a good quality cocoa powder for rich chocolate flavor.
- Bourbon – See the section below for tips for choosing a good bourbon for this recipe.
- Light corn syrup – This helps the bourbon balls hold together. You could also likely use honey or maple syrup.
- Granulated sugar – Use this and/or more confectioners’ sugar for rolling the balls.
What Kind of Bourbon Is Best for Bourbon Balls?
Choosing the right bourbon for bourbon balls is important because it significantly influences their flavor. Here’s a guide to selecting the best bourbon:
- Flavor profile: Choose a bourbon that has a smooth, rich flavor with a good balance of sweetness and spice. Bourbons with notes of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, and oak tend to complement the chocolate and nuts in the recipe well.
- Proof: Standard proof (around 80-90) bourbons are generally preferred, as higher proof bourbons can be overpowering.
- Quality: The quality of the bourbon will affect the taste of your bourbon balls, so choose one that tastes good to you. It doesn’t need to be top-shelf, but I recommend avoiding the cheapest options as they can be harsh and detract from the overall flavor.
- Popular choices: Some popular choices for bourbon balls include Maker’s Mark (for its smoothness and slight sweetness), Bulleit Bourbon (for a spicier kick), and Woodford Reserve (for its well-rounded, rich flavor). Each of these brings a unique character to the bourbon balls.
- Personal preference: Ultimately, the best bourbon is one that suits your personal taste. If you have a favorite bourbon, feel free to use that, as you’re more likely to enjoy the final result.
Remember, the bourbon doesn’t just add flavor; it’s also a key component of the treat’s character. It’s worth taking the time to choose one that will complement the other ingredients in your bourbon balls.
How to Make Bourbon Balls
You’ll have these bourbon balls mixed, shaped, and chilling in short order! Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Mix the dry ingredients. Place the cookie crumbs, chopped pecans, confectioners’ sugar, and cocoa powder in a large bowl, and stir until combined.
- Mix the liquid ingredients. Stir together the bourbon and corn syrup in a small bowl.
- Finish mixing. Add the bourbon mixture to the vanilla wafer mixture, and stir until combined.
- Prep your tools. Place the granulated sugar (or confectioners’ sugar if that’s what you’re using) in a shallow bowl. Have a half sheet pan or plate ready for placing your bourbon balls.
- Portion and roll. Using a tablespoon of the mixture at a time, roll into balls. Then roll each ball in sugar until thoroughly coated. Place the bourbon balls on the pan or plate you set aside.
- Chill. Cover and refrigerate until firm. This should take about an hour, although the flavor will be better if left overnight.
Tips for Success
Besides their amazing flavor, the best thing about bourbon balls is how easy they are to make. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind to help make sure yours turn out perfectly.
- Choose a good bourbon. The flavor of the bourbon is key. A smoother, aged bourbon tends to work best for a balanced taste. (See my notes in the ingredients section above for more detailed information.)
- Toast the nuts. This extra step can really elevate the flavor profile of your bourbon balls. Here’s how to toast pecans.
- Gather your ingredients and tools. This is always a good idea, but I find it especially helpful when you’re ready to shape and coat the bourbon balls. It can be a bit messy, so having everything set up for the task will be a big help.
- Use a cookie scoop. That will ensure all your bourbon balls are uniformly sized. A tablespoon-size scoop (#60) works nicely.
There are so many ways to make changes to this bourbon balls recipe when you want something a bit different. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Change the cookies. Vanilla wafers are the classic choice for bourbon balls, but you can use a different crispy cookie. Gingersnaps and Biscoff are both tasty choices.
- Use different nuts. I tend to use pecans frequently in my recipes, but you can use almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or another nut. Or go nut-free with pepitas or sunflower seeds.
- Try a different liquor. Swap bourbon for rum, brandy, or whiskey for a different twist on the classic flavor.
- Spice it up. Add a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, or even cayenne pepper for a warm, spicy kick.
- Change the coating. The granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar you see here aren’t the only options for coating the bourbon balls. Try a mixture of sugar and cocoa powder, just cocoa powder, cinnamon-sugar, small chocolate sprinkles, shredded toasted coconut, or ground nuts.
- Dip in chocolate. For a more decadent twist, forego the sugar coating in favor of dipping the bourbon balls in melted dark chocolate or white chocolate. Garnish with chopped nuts, sprinkles, or other toppings.
Not only do bourbon balls make a great addition to a dessert tray, but they also can be served in some other fun ways.
- Pair with coffee or tea. The bitterness of coffee or the subtlety of tea can complement the rich, boozy flavors beautifully.
- Ice cream accompaniment. Place a bourbon ball or two atop a scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream for a decadent dessert.
- Cheese board addition. Add bourbon balls to a cheese board for a sweet contrast. They pair well with creamy cheeses like Brie or sharp ones like aged Cheddar.
- Serve with fruit. Pair with fresh fruit like strawberries or cherries to add a fresh, slightly tart contrast to the rich, sweet flavor.
How to Store
After your bourbon balls have completely set, place them in an airtight container. Place a sheet of parchment paper between layers to keep them looking their best. They can be stored at room temperature up to a week. For longer storage or if you kitchen is warm or humid, store them in the refrigerator. Bring them to room temperature before serving.
Can These Bourbon Balls Be Frozen?
Yes, you can freeze bourbon balls. Place them in an airtight, freezer-safe container after they’ve set. They should keep in the freezer up to 3 months. Thaw before serving.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can substitute the bourbon with non-alcoholic options like apple juice, grape juice, or a non-alcoholic bourbon alternative for a similar flavor profile.
Bourbon balls typically need about an hour in the refrigerator to set properly, but they develop even better flavor if left overnight.
Since the bourbon isn’t cooked out, it retains its alcohol content, so it’s not recommended for children.
Sure, just use gluten-free vanilla wafers or a similar gluten-free cookie for the base.
Dampening your hands slightly with water or coating them with a bit of confectioners’ sugar can help prevent sticking.
Yes, rum, brandy, or whiskey can be used as substitutes for bourbon.