Make Ahead

Fudgy Bourbon Balls

January  5, 2011
7 Ratings
  • Makes about 48 balls
Author Notes

I never had a rum ball until I met Merrill. And Merrill knows a good rum ball when she tastes one; she has taught me the finer points of rum ball-dom. A proper rum ball must be dense but moist, and ideally a little gooey. It must sing with booze but shouldn't be too sweet. It should look unpromising and deliver a bang.

It turns out that our friend Melissa Clark has just the recipe for such proper rum balls in her terrific new book In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite. I tasted them at a recent joint book signing I did with Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis (Baked Explorations), Melissa Vaughan and Michael Harlan Turkell (The New Brooklyn Cookbook), and Melissa. Barely a soul showed up, so we sat at the long signing table as if we were on a banquette at Balthazar, and dug into samples of the rum balls (a successful signing in my view).

What makes Melissa's rum balls peerless is that she uses Nabisco chocolate wafers, and a little honey to sweeten the "dough." —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • 2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (best made with Nabisco Famous wafers -- 1 package -- pulverized in a food processor)
  • 1 1/4 cups pecans
  • 1/2 cup good bourbon or rum
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus additional for rolling
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the cookie crumbs and pecans until the nuts are finely ground.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the bourbon or rum, 1 cup confectioners' sugar, the cocoa powder, and honey. Add the mixture to the food processor and pulse until just combined. Let the dough rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 4 hours or, lightly covered, overnight. This will dry it out a little.
  3. Use your fingers to roll the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll the balls in confectioners' sugar. Store the balls airtight if you like them moist, or uncovered if you like them to develop a crunchy sugar crust on the outside. Sprinkle with (or roll the balls in) additional confectioners' sugar just before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Taylor Stanton
    Taylor Stanton
  • Kimo Sunshine Pope
    Kimo Sunshine Pope
  • AntoniaJames
  • juicyrebound1
  • Chelsey Pierce
    Chelsey Pierce
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

53 Reviews

Taylor S. December 20, 2022
I made this as part of my holiday cookie and candy assortment (11 kinds) and these are absolutely delicious. I have never made bourbon balls before but think this will now be a staple recipe. Don't toast the nuts beforehand - I thought about doing it but the flavors are intense (in the best way) that I think the effort would be wasted. If you're looking for a bourbon ball with bite, this is the one! They freeze ahead beautifully as well.
Kimo S. December 13, 2020
I made the dough last night and felt it was the correct texture; I left them to dry and now they won’t hold together suggestions to rebound? The taste great but are the texture of dry sand
Amanda H. December 14, 2020
Hi Kimo -- I'd add a tablespoon more rum to the dough to see if that helps hold it together. You may need a little more but I'd start with a tablespoon. Hope this helps!
Kimo S. December 15, 2020
I added 2 tablespoons of bourbon, perfect! I used chocolate graham crackers which I think were drier than the cookies
Amanda H. December 15, 2020
Yay! So glad it worked out!
catalinalacruz December 14, 2021
The same thing happened to me. I mixed the dough, then got distracted by something else for a couple of hours. It was then too dry to hold together. A few more tablespoons moistened it sufficiently to hold together nicely in balls. It's important to store in an airtight container, as Amanda directs.
Suzy Q. October 3, 2018
Having read all the reviews & I need person mentioned that these are fresh for only a week. Another said she makes them around Halloween for Xmas? How much time in advance can these be made to give as gifts at Xmas? And how should they be stored, freezer?
Also, has anyone tried using TJ's GF Ginger cookies or will they not work well? Either way, they sound delectable? Thx
Sinamen78 November 24, 2020
I have made rum balls inthe past , kept them in a tin in a cool closet or garage for weeks. There is really nothing in them that will spoil. They also can be frozen.
AntoniaJames December 15, 2015
Scrumptious when made with molasses instead of honey. Also, it's not worth toasting the nuts, given the strength of the other flavors here (even when using honey).
One more tip: Trader Joe's chocolate cat cookies work really well, providing a more cost-effective (and convenient for some of us) alternative. ;o)
Julia R. December 9, 2014
Could you sub in maple syrup instead of honey on these? I always think of maple going well with bourbon...
Amanda H. December 9, 2014
Agree that the flavors would be great together -- my only concern is that maple syrup is a bit looser than honey and you might end up with a wetter mixture. Still, it seems worth trying and if the mixture is too wet, then perhaps add some more cookie crumbs. Let me know how it goes!
richard P. December 6, 2014
I have been making a version of these for years. The trick is to hide them in the frig so they can sit for a few days. I did not use the chocolate cookies, could not locate so vanilla wafers worked perfectly as in the past.
Ariel January 8, 2015
If you simply remove the filling from Oreos (also another Nabisco product) then you will have a fantastic ( and often less stale) substitute for the "Famous Wafers."....Cheers!
juicyrebound1 January 8, 2014
These just kept disappearing. The trick is to age them age at least 4 days before diving in, to let the heat of the alcohol subside. Jes' like Mama used to make! Also use decent booze, it makes a difference.
Chelsey P. October 10, 2013
is there any why to replace the bourbon?
Amanda H. October 10, 2013
Are you looking for a non-alcoholic substitute?
Chelsey P. October 12, 2013
Amanda H. October 12, 2013
Tea or coffee would work well.
Chelsey P. October 13, 2013
Amanda H. October 13, 2013
I was also thinking about something like a light ginger syrup or spiced syrup, with a ratio of sugar to water that's more like 1 to 4.
Noelle P. September 20, 2013
Any thoughts on the best way to make these gluten free? Thanks! Bourbon and chocolate are my fav two things. I might add a wee bit of salt flakes on top. Yum!
regan December 27, 2013
I use gf ginger snaps or chocolate wafers from Whole Foods and they turn out perfect!
Suzanne M. May 8, 2013
Toasting the pecans adds to the flavor. I didn't have enough vanilla wafers so used some graham crackers and shortbread cookies from my pantry. After refrigerating the balls, I dipped them in white chocolate and added another whole toasted pecan on top. Needless to say, they where a hit at my Kentucky Derby party!
Muse April 25, 2013
Have had these made by a friend of mine, and all I can say is Wow! They are SO delicious you can't stop/don't want to stop eating them! Will definitely make them myself!
Ellie.F March 19, 2013
jus needed to know what else can i substitute other than bourbon or rum?
Plus can i used like oreo cookies if i dont have wafers??
Spork December 24, 2012
Made this with Kahlua for the alcohol, delicious!
olygirl December 17, 2012
Made these last night...Excited to give (what's left) to my friends for holiday treats. One question though, how long do they keep and how best to store them? If I were to make extra tonight, would they still be good for a new years party?
DAVILCHICK December 17, 2012
I can't imagine them not all being eaten by then but maybe that's just me. ;)
Amanda H. December 17, 2012
They might dry out a little if you make them tonight, but they're good for about a week, if kept wrapped tightly and packed in an airtight container in the fridge.
Bogey12 December 3, 2012
Have made this great recipe as it directs. If I change to use molasses, do I still use 1.5 Tbsp? And does the molasses work best when you use bourbon or is rum equally good?
DAVILCHICK November 30, 2012
I just made these a day ahead of the dinner party I plan to serve them at but was wondering if I'm supposed to refrigerate or just keep them in an air tight container but at room temp.
Amanda H. November 30, 2012
I'd chill them, then bring them to room temp before serving.
DAVILCHICK December 1, 2012
Thank you!! And as long as I'm here, my husband and I couldn't help but TASTE one before serving to our guests. They are TO DIE for. I used rum and because it's only Dec 1st I'll be making all the variations. I'll try the bourbon next...I love the idea of the raspberries...I'm going to experiment with Grand Marnier and Creme de Minthe (unless you would advise othersie). Great hostess gift this season!! Thanks!!
Bonnie C. January 13, 2012
I decided to play with this after making them the normal way... I added some muddled fresh raspberries and just added a little less rum to balance out the wet dry ratio...I love them!
MrShayne December 29, 2011
I made the rum version for our family Thanksgiving get-together and they were too stout for most people. I followed the recipe to the T. Even found the Nabisco chocolate wafers. Overall they had a great flavor but the half cup of rum was just way too much. I would make them again but only use 1/4 cup of alcohol. It was totally disappointing to watch people take a bite then throw the rest in the trash.
DAVILCHICK December 28, 2012
I made the first batch with dark rum and I found it too burn-y too. For the second batch I used white rum but it didn't give the balls any flavor so I slowly added the dark rum (to taste) and that got the party started. I found the Bourbon amount to be perfect though.
knitnbead December 28, 2011
I made these with a combination of leftover cookies (yeah, right) from Christmas, OK, there were some in my freezer that I did not gift. These came out just great. Yum...Hiccup!
Anniebfirst December 28, 2011
Love the recipe - it looks delicious. But any suggestions for a gluten-free substitute for the wafers?
Jessica E. December 28, 2011
Check whole foods for the gluten free graham crackers. They were perfect for pie crusts I imagine they will translate perfectly!