How to Make Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Have a boozy ball with this traditional Kentucky confection
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83% would make again
Bourbon Balls
Photo: Tasting Table

Every Kentucky host has his or her own take on the state's traditional bourbon ball. Some are enrobed in chocolate; others pop a halved nut on top. We opt for a no-frills presentation that doubles down on boozy flavor by soaking the nuts in bourbon, in addition to the generous helping that goes into the dough itself. Note: The balls are chilled rather than cooked and do pack a tipsy punch, so you may wish to warn younger or teetotalling guests of their contents.

To learn more, read "Derby Dancing."

Bourbon Balls

Recipe adapted from Kat Kinsman, Editor in Chief

Yield: 30 balls

Prep Time: 25 minutes, plus chilling time

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes, plus chilling time


1 cup pecans

¾ cup bourbon, divided

2 cups Nilla Wafers crumbs

½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, divided

½ cup confectioners' sugar, divided

¼ cup light corn syrup


1. In a small bowl, combine the pecans and ¼ cup of the bourbon. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until the pecans have absorbed some of the bourbon, 2 to 3 hours. Drain and reserve the bourbon.

2. Heat the oven to 325°. Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the nuts cool, then finely chop and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped pecans, remaining bourbon, Nilla Wafers crumbs, ¼ cup cocoa powder, ¼ cup confectioners' sugar and the corn syrup. Stir until smooth.

4. Using a heaping tablespoon portion, roll dough into ¾-inch balls.

5. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar and coat each ball in the cocoa sugar. Transfer the bourbon balls to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or until firm.

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