Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Kentucky bourbon balls

The Spruce


Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Chill Time: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 36 servings

Kentucky Bourbon Balls are a no-bake treat that dates back to the 1930s, when the candy factory Rebecca Ruth Candies commercialized them and saw how they quickly became a crowd favorite. Although the original recipe is still a secret, there are many versions that capture the beauty and flavor of these candies. They're commonly seen during the holidays, so give a try to our recipe. Make bigger batches and give them as gifts to family and friends, presented in decorative tins.

Our bourbon balls can be rolled in powdered sugar, granulated sugar, or finely chopped pecans. If you prefer to use less sugar, use just 3/4 cup of confectioners' sugar, and add an extra tablespoon of cocoa powder.


  • 1 cup fine vanilla wafer crumbs
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (toasted or raw)
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Thoroughly combine the vanilla wafer crumbs, chopped pecans, 1 cup confectioners' sugar, and the cocoa powder.

    Kentucky bourbon ball flour mix.
     The Spruce
  3. In a separate bowl, blend the bourbon and corn syrup.

    Bourbon and corn syrup.
    The Spruce 
  4. Stir the bourbon mixture into the dry mixture. Stir and mix well with the help of a wooden or stainless steel spoon.

    Kentucky Bourbon Balls
     The Spruce
  5. Cover the mixture and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 to 3 hours.

    Kentucky bourbon ball mixture.
     The Spruce
  6. Once the mixture is chilled and ready to be shaped, sift about 1/2 to 1 cup of confectioners' sugar into a wide, shallow bowl.

    Confectioner's sugar
     The Spruce
  7. Place a bowl of cold water next to your working area. Wet your hands with cold water and shape small bits of the dough into balls. Roll them in the confectioners' sugar.

    Shaping Kentucky bourbon balls.
     The Spruce
  8. Serve right away, or store in the refrigerator in tightly covered containers for up to 2 weeks.

    Kentucky Bourbon Balls
     The Spruce
  9. Enjoy!

Make-Ahead Treats

  • For best flavor, make these candies a few days in advance. Roll in confectioners' sugar again before serving.
  • For longer storage, the bourbon balls can also be frozen. Leave in the fridge overnight to thaw, and then at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours before rolling in the confectioners' sugar and serving. Alternatively, roll in a mixture of 50/50 semi-sweet cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar.

Other Delicious Flavors

Even if bourbon is the classic flavor to use for these treats, other flavors can be added to the basic mixture:

  • Replace the bourbon with a good quality rum or tequila. Or use flavored liqueurs like Frangelico, Baileys, Kahlúa, or any flavored alcohol of your liking.
  • Toast your pecans for a nuttier flavor. Spread pecan halves out in a dry skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. When lightly browned and fragrant, remove them to a plate to cool completely before chopping. Use toasted almonds, pistachios, or walnuts in place of the pecans to experiment with other nutty flavors.