Kentucky Bourbon Balls Recipe

Bourbon balls seem like a folk recipe that spontaneously sprang to life whenever people had leftover cookie crumbs and booze. Recipe developer Jessica Morone calls this confection "really delicious," adding that bourbon balls are "great for sharing at parties, or even giving as gifts." Another nice thing about this cookie, cake-like dessert is that, as Morone points out, "They are also super easy to make, since you don't have to bake them." 

As Morone notes of the recipe, "Since these aren't baked, the alcohol doesn't bake off, so these should only be served to adults." Not all adults drink, though, plus it can be tough keeping the kids out of anything chocolate-flavored. If this is a concern, you could always make this dessert with a non-alcoholic bourbon alternative. Don't be afraid of people judging you though, since Instacart reported that nonalcoholic spirit sales soared by over 200% as sobriety continues to gain ground. Keep reading to find out how to make this easy bourbon ball recipe. 

Assemble the ingredients for Kentucky bourbon balls

For the bourbon balls, you'll need bourbon of some sort. You'll also need chopped nuts, with pecans being the traditional option. Morone does say that other types of chopped nuts could be used, adding "You could also make a nut-free version by taking nuts out completely, and adding an extra cup of graham cracker crumbs."

Besides the nuts, the bulk of these confections comes from the graham cracker crumbs. Morone says she prefers graham cracker crumbs herself, although cookie crumbs from vanilla wafers or chocolate cookies could also work. You'll also need cocoa powder to give the balls some chocolate flavor, plus powdered sugar, corn syrup, and maple syrup to add additional sweetness, and help bind the other ingredients together. If you don't want maple-flavored bourbon balls, though, Morone suggests omitting the maple syrup, and doubling up on the corn syrup instead.

If you wish, you can roll the bourbon balls in granulated sugar, or other options like shredded coconut, sprinkles, chopped nuts, or melted chocolate. If you really want to get crazy, try swapping out some of the bourbon for sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of bitters to make Manhattan balls.

Toast and macerate the pecans

Set the oven to 325 F. While it's preheating, chop the pecans if necessary, then spread the nuts out over a sheet pan. Once the oven's hot enough, cook the nuts for 12 to 15 minutes, but keep a close eye on them. You want them lightly toasted, but nuts can burn before you know it.

When the pecans are toasted, mix them in a bowl with the bourbon. Use plastic wrap to cover the container, then let them sit, and macerate for 2 to 3 hours. At the end of this time period, drain the nuts, but reserve the bourbon. 

Shape the bourbon balls

Mix the nuts with the graham cracker crumbs, along with ¼ cup each of cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar. Now, stir the bourbon back in to the nut mixture, along with the maple and corn syrup. 

Roll the dough into balls about ¾-inch in diameter, or a heaping tablespoon's worth. If you're not great at estimating sizes, just know that you should get about 30 bourbon balls out of this recipe. The most important thing to be aware of, however, is that with bourbon balls, size does not matter at all. As they are not being cooked, you can have small ones, and large ones with no need to worry.

Coat and chill the bourbon balls

Mix the rest of the cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar together, and roll the bourbon balls in this mixture. If you want to add a little sparkle, you can optionally roll the balls in some granulated sugar. Once the balls are coated, stick them in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before you eat them.

Morone says the bourbon balls should last for a while in the refrigerator, but notes that "After 2 weeks, they will just be stale, and will not taste very good." If you don't think you'll be able to eat an entire batch in that amount of time, she does say that they can always be frozen.

Kentucky Bourbon Balls Recipe
5 from 460 ratings
Have a boozy ball with this traditional Kentucky confection — the perfect combination of chocolate and bourbon.
Prep Time
Cook Time
bourbon balls in box
Total time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, divided
  • ½ cup confectioners' sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
Optional Ingredients
  • Granulated sugar
  1. Heat the oven to 325 F. Spread the pecans over a baking sheet, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until lightly toasted.
  2. Combine the pecans and the bourbon, then cover the container with plastic wrap, and let the mixture sit for 2 to 3 hours. Drain the pecans, but reserve the bourbon.
  3. Combine the pecans with the graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup cocoa powder, and ¼ cup confectioners' sugar. Stir the bourbon, corn syrup, and maple syrup into the nut and crumb mixture.
  4. Roll the dough into balls approximately ¾-inch in diameter. Combine the remaining cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar, and roll each bourbon ball in this mixture. Optionally roll the bourbon balls in granulated sugar.
  5. Cover and chill the bourbon balls for at least 20 minutes before eating them. The bourbon balls should stay fresh in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.
Rate this recipe