fudgy bourbon balls

I closed out 2014 somewhat exasperated (and quietly anxious and queasy because I was first trimester-ing this bunny) that I had so much I’d wanted to cook and tell you about that year but couldn’t fabricate the time. Then I added a new tiny wonderful human to the mix and needless to say, the song has not changed. So, I’m going retune it. It’s better to have too many ideas than too few, after all, I’m sure there will be a time when these kids don’t call (sob) and the apartment is finally clean and organized and there are no items left on my tumbling to-do list when I’ll maybe even miss the chaos the chaos of feeling like I was barely keeping afloat. Plus, seriously, this was such an unquestionably excellent year, from impending babies, actual babies, missing front teeth, a new weekly digest newsletter, and even crazy milestones, like the 1000th recipe on this site (my favorite cocktail, go make yourself one, I’ll wait). How could I want to change a thing?

Most Popular Smitten Kitchen Recipes of 2015: Savory

2015 sk most popular savory

  1. mushroom marsala pasta bake
  2. my ultimate chicken noodle soup
  3. obsessively good avocado cucumber salad
  4. tomato and fried provolone sandwich
  5. baked chickpeas with pita chips and yogurt
  6. oat and wheat sandwich bread
  7. oven-braised beef with tomatoes and garlic
  8. broccoli cheddar soup
  9. perfect corn muffins
  10. zucchini rice and cheese gratin
  11. spaghetti pangrattato with crispy eggs
  12. cornmeal-fried pork chops + smashed potatoes
  13. caramelized onion and gruyère biscuits
  14. takeout-style sesame noodles with cucumber
  15. herbed summer squash pasta bake
  16. fake shack burger

Most Popular Smitten Kitchen Recipes of 2015: Sweet

2015 sk most popular sweet recipes

  1. pecan pie
  2. salted chocolate chunk cookies
  3. the ‘i want chocolate cake’ cake
  4. key lime pie
  5. carrot graham layer cake
  6. butterscotch pudding
  7. salted peanut butter cookies
  8. liège waffles
  9. black bottom oatmeal pie
  10. pull-apart rugelach
  11. very blueberry scones
  12. cannoli pound cake
  13. crispy peach cobbler
  14. strawberry cornmeal griddle cakes
  15. the browniest cookies
  16. chocolate chunk granola bars

I’m excited about 2016. It’s the year (I’m writing it here, so you all better hold me to it), I’m going to start reading books again, and not just The New York Times, The New Yorker and every terrible thing anyone has ever linked to from Facebook. And it’s the I’m going to finally finish the next Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, the one that’s been bumping about in my head for way too long. What’s on your agenda? May I suggest you mull it over with some chocolate sprinkled pretties on hand?

my chocolate cookie options were sparse

My mother-in-law has often told me that her coworker makes the best rum balls for their holiday party. Yes, rum balls, that holiday party staple from the 1960s, things that we thought went the way of bellbottoms and turtlenecks under dinner jackets. I figured they were just a giddy little way for people who need their booze cloaked in layers of sugary dessert to hit the sauce, and thus were not my thing until she plopped one in my hand week and I had to hold myself back from eating three more. Guys, please let’s make these a thing again.

a roll in the sprinkly deep
plus some apple juice balls ;)

Of course, I ended up mashing her recipe up with one that had caught my eye from Melissa Clark. Clark uses chocolate cookie crumbs instead of the usual vanilla wafers and bourbon instead of rum, which I think we already knew I was going to. Her recipe uses honey instead of the usual corn syrup, but I couldn’t resist using molasses because the flavor is so grand against that chocolate and bourbon. As I’ve already sung the praises of black cocoa powder once this month, I’ll spare you, but I couldn’t resist slipping it in here because things are the pitch of Oreos are always more welcome than things that are not.

chocolate bourbon balls

The result is like a sip of bourbon, a brownie and a chocolate truffle ran away together, and rolled in the shimmery sprinkly deep, are 100% more dressed up for a party that I’ll manage to be by 8 p.m. tonight. Plus, they’re no-bake and keep exceptionally well (and even get better with age, should they be ignored long enough to actually rest, i.e. I suspect this theory has never been tested); I’m so taken with the brilliance of these retro treats, I’m wondering what else we should be reconsidering from the 1960s in the new year. Pillbox hats, definitely.

chocolate bourbon balls

More New Year’s Eve Party Snack Ideas: Over here.
More New Year’s Eve Cocktail Ideas: Over here.

Fudgy Bourbon Balls
Adapted from Melissa Clark

Makes about 42 with a 1 tablespoon scoop

2 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs or about 260 grams chocolate cookies
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and cooled
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tablespoons honey or molasses
Sprinkles, sanding or coarse sugar, additional chopped nuts, extra cookie crumbs or coconut to roll balls in

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the cookies, whole or already in crumbs, and pecans until the nuts are finely ground. In small dish, whisk together the bourbon, powdered sugar, cocoa and honey until smooth. Add to the food processor bowl and pulse until just combined.

Set aside at room temperature, uncovered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or up to 4 hours, to give the crumbs a chance to absorb the liquid and become more fudgy and easier to roll.

Scoop dough into about 1-inch or 1 tablespoon-sized balls and roll them in toppings of your choice. The balls can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge. If at room temperature, you can leave them covered for more moisture or uncovered if you like them with more of a crust. Balls will keep for as long as you can hide them from people.

Notes: I’m going to do a little Q&A with the comment section that lives in my head. :)

  • Can I make these with gluten-free cookies? Probably.
  • Can I make these without nuts? There are many nut-free rum ball recipes on the web to get you started, or, I’m sure you can fudge these a bit with extra crumbs to balance the missing nuts.
  • Can I make these without alcohol? Absolutely, in fact, I made 1/3 of these (the ones with colored sprinkles) with apple juice. Other liquids that might work, should you not have a 6 year-old who would be rather infuriated if sprinkle-covered balls of chocolate were given to everyone but him as your intended audience, coffee, strong black tea, a favorite juice, etc.
  • Nabisco Chocolate Wafers are impossible to find! Yes, they are. There’s always Amazon, but those prices are insane. A bodega in my neighborhood sells these Leibniz chocolate cookies, which I used instead, but of course any plain chocolate cookie will do. This sound insane, but for a homemade option, the cookie portion of these Oreos is unbelievably easy to make in the food processor and you could have them going into the oven 15 minutes from now, with the bonus of have a surplus of excellent chocolate sugar cookies when you’re done.
  • That’s a lot of booze, Deb! Yes, it is. My MIL’s uses more like 1/4 cup for a pleasant kick of spirits. This is more assertive, although my testers assured me, not unwelcome. Should you wish to halve it, you’ll want to hold back on the cookie crumbs to adjust. Start with half and add more until you get a good thick consistency.
  • Where’d you get those sprinkles? I showed exactly zero restraint on my most recent trip to NY Cake and Baking on 22nd Street. This was the result.
  • Can’t I just roll these in powdered sugar, as the original recipe suggests? In my opinion? No. The result was damp and slippery and would need to be re-rolled on the regular to keep a pretty finish. Go with something with more texture and it will hang on longer.

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173 comments on fudgy bourbon balls

  1. Brittany L.

    My favorites this year have been the salted peanut butter cookies, the gingerbread cake (an absolute hit this Christmas!), the pull apart rugelach, the pecan pie and the browniest cookies! I just realized I’ve baked far more of your new recipes in the latter half of this year. Oh well, it’s been a delicious journey, thank you consistently making me look like a baking goddess.

    Happy New Year to you and yours, Deb!

    PS I’m making th tangy brisket for dinner tonight and can barely contain myself!

  2. Kelsey

    My contribution to the Great Chocolate Wafer Scarcity debate- I use the chocolate cat cookies from Trader Joe’s in recipes that call for chocolate wafer cookies and they work like a charm. (Most recently in the chocolate silk pie from the SK cookbook!)

  3. Brittany L.

    How could I forget your kale stuffing and the fake shack. I live in Los Angeles and they’re FINALLY opening a couple Shake Shack’s here. Well, it doesn’t matter because I highly doubt it’ll taste anywhere near as good as the homemade ones with my favorite local butchers blend of ground beef.

    You truly spoil us Deb! Thanks again for all your meticulous recipe testing, my little home kitchen just wouldn’t smell the same without you :)

  4. Ellie

    Looking forward to another year cooking with you, Deb! I have to share a personal victory I’ve had as a result of following your blog. When I first started cooking, I used mostly my mother’s tried-and-true recipes and techniques (still do). In college, I started to follow your blog and your recipes have been a go-to for me ever since. This year, my mom started to follow your blog as well, and has loved your recipes. Thanks for a thousand ideas to contribute to family gatherings and a chance continue the tradition of sharing and handing down our favorites!

  5. I particularly love your pull-apart rugelach which is on my to-do list. My best friend’s birthday is coming up soon and I would love to make it for her party. I thought these will be fantastic for sharing.
    These bourbon balls are so pretty! I love your party food ideas especially! I wish you a fab 2016!

  6. frances

    I make these every year from a recipe my mom says her mom got maybe from 1958 bhg or some such. retro or not, people start asking around october if I’ll be making them soon. I use vanilla wafers… Honestly, I never even thought of chocolate ones, though it’s so obvious! Maybe it’s time for another batch. I doubt I’ll lack for testers.

  7. Maureen

    Brilliant! I make these almost every year, with bourbon, for my mother-in-law who is very fond of them. My recipe is from a baker in at The New York Hospital whose claim to fame was having baked a birthday cake for Marilyn Monroe. So retro, indeed.

    I will try them with chocolate biscuits and molasses. And fancy sprinkles. Oo la la.

  8. Michelle

    I have sadly only made 4 of your most popular 2015 recipes, but I’ve pinned most of them. May 2016 be the year that I try them all! Thank you for continuing to share your recipes. I love this site.

  9. My favourite this year were definitely the salted peanut butter cookies! I’ve been meaning to make a pie for ages and now and seeing as the pecan pie is on top of the sweets list, I’ll have to give that a try :D

  10. SallyT

    LOVE your Q&A (as opposed to FAQ) – I bet you anticipated MANY of the questions that people would have asked. HAPPY NY! I can’t believe how many of your recipes I’ve made…

  11. Meeghan

    I recently subbed HoneyMaid chocolate graham crackers for the chocolate wafer cookies in a chocolate cream pie for Christmas. Good results!

  12. Christine

    Happy New Year Deb! You are the only blogger whose recipes I trust to turn out perfectly every single time. Every time I bring something cooked from your website I get rave reviews. Thanks so much for hosting such an interesting, reliable, and delicious food blog!

  13. Lauren

    As “something from the ’60’s” myself ( not born in -I wish- but was a teenager in) I can say that there was a lot of stuff back then, the recently revived Date Bars, these Bourbon Balls… that were so tasty and easy to make that I think a reprise of some other goodies is well overdue.There were a number of savory things that hit their zenith then too. Hope your 2016 “rocks” because if you are happy, we are well fed and happy too.

  14. Sarah M.

    Deb, I still dream about that key lime pie (and the corresponding popsicles) and am counting down the days until it warms up just enough to make them again. We had your lentil soup with sausage for the first time last night (omg, YUM) and I’m making the tarte soleil to share with friends tonight. Thanks for keeping us well-fed this whole year; best wishes to you and your family in 2016!

    I also wanted to share this recipe from the WSJ that you may have seen. I ate some that a friend had made and they were EXCEPTIONAL. It tasted like black cocoa powder was used (but it wasn’t!). Super chocolate-y, crunchy, though definitely a shortbread, and different from your brownie roll-out cookies.

  15. Martin

    The Leibniz cookies are named for the mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and you share surname with mathematician Grigori Perelman. And you made spheroid candy. This post is wonderfully mathematical.

  16. You are amazing. Your recipes are always reliable and we can count on you for quality. Thank you for a great 2015 and looking forward to reading more of your witty words and discovering more delicious recipes in 2016!

  17. Leah

    If anyone is really chomping at the bit to roll them in powdered sugar, try rolling them in granulated sugar first. Another cookie recipe (that I love!) calls for this treatment, and the powdered sugar both stays dry and sticks to the cookie without falling all over the place.

  18. Nicole R.

    My dad has made bourbon balls at Christmas every year for as long as I can remember (except, much to my chagrin, this year, so I might still make some). He makes a metric ton a few weeks before the holidays to give as gifts to everyone who’s ever smiled at him, so I can tell you that they do indeed age well. He always rolls them in powdered sugar and they stay looking great and do just fine but of course that’s his recipe, not yours. I like his but I may have to try the chocolate cookies…

  19. I didn’t realize rumballs weren’t a thing! My mum has always made them, and they’re always delicious. She does chocolate ones always, why bother with vanilla cookies?

  20. Pam

    OMG. I love rum balls. I will love chocolate bourbon balls. And sprinkles! The 1000th recipe on the site is awesome.

    P.S. That bunny is so damn adorable. She made me forgot about chocolate for moment.

  21. Debby

    You inspired me! So far this was really easy and still smells amazing. Win/win. I’m using chocolate Teddy Grahams and the sprinkles multi-pack from the grocery store… so far so good!

  22. Julie

    Love going to NY Cake & Baking. Need to go with a budget for how much I’m willing to spend or I’m in trouble. Your pull apart rugelach were by far the best sweet thing I made this year. I also got high praise for those from a Jewish friend ;)
    Love this blog, your “voice” and every recipe you do! Excited for your next book!!

  23. Erica

    I cannot believe that the Not Derby Pie Bars are not on the most popular list…my mom is still raving about those! :)

    Love the variety of sprinkles on the balls… Happy new year!

  24. KJ

    I save quite a few of your recipes and none of the ones you listed did I save. Of course I probably am an outlier, I still haven’t made Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks. Maybe this year. :)

  25. Alice

    When I was a young military wife in Georgia (in the 70’s), I made rum and bourbon ball every year and somehow not only had the discipline to let the age a mandatory month, but went in every day and used an eyedropper to a just a smidge more booze to each and every ball.

  26. Jessie

    I made these tonight and they are fabulous! I had to improvise a bit, and used chocolate graham crackers and a mix of whisky and cognac. No complaints here. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes, and happy new year!

  27. Happy New Year, Deb! Thank you for another amazing year of inspiring cooking and making me laugh – I love when those two things work together! :)

    I can’t wait for your second book. Book #1 is on the counter and heavily food-stained, as it should be.

  28. Susan

    Ok, I stopped reading after I clicked on this “bunny.” I was gob-smacked by cuteness overload and want to bake one of those, but… my oven doesn’t work anymore. Sigh. You shall just have to continue to post bunny pics so I can tousle those locks vicariously. That one lil’ moppet pic will keep me happy all day.

  29. Susan

    You can sometimes find the elusive Nabisco Chocolate Wafers by the ice cream aisle around the toppings and such in the supermarket. These look so awesome. Going to the market now….

  30. Jean

    These were a holiday staple in our house when I was growing up. I don’t think my mom cared if her child tasted bourbon once a year. (Not when the cough suppressant of choice was a spoonful of whiskey mixed with lemon and sugar!). I think it’s time to bring them back, definitely! Thanks for all your wonderful recipes, Deb!

  31. Susan Cavenagh

    We(my daughter and I) love your blog – just made your Lasagna for Christmas Eve, but this is really a Bourbon Ball comment: I will try the chocolate wafer variation. My mother in law made Bourbon Balls for years and used pound cake which she made herself. I buy it and let it stale – made 10 dozen for our church’s cookie walk recently. My husband “amends” the bourbon each day or so, as pound cake really soaks up the bourbon. I roll them in vanilla sugar and then wrap each one in a tiny, perky foil package. I make them every year, but am disappointed that not everyone loves them. My thanks for your recipes, as always.

  32. Amy Mac

    Oh dear Lord, now I’m going to have to make these immediately. Even though I put everyone in a delirious sugar coma this past week with that insane Gramercy Tavern gingerbread cake (a metric ton of Baker’s Joy and it didn’t stick — it was AMAZING!) and that puff pastry star of deliciousness (made with Nutella and dipped in salted bourbon caramel). Stop it, Deb. I’m not going to have any pants that fit pretty soon.

  33. Chelsea

    I make your salted chocolate chunk cookies weekly!! We always have the dough in the freezer and ready to go. They are my favorite thing ever. Happy New Year!

  34. SallyO

    Ah rum balls, my favorite Christmas treat. My mom had a friend back in the early 70s who made them every year. I couldn’t wait to go visit and get my share. When I got old enough to make them I found a recipe which has been kept for over 30 years. It’s old and has been re-written a dozen times on “fresh” recipe cards. It uses graham crackers as it’s cookie bas and cocoa for the chocolate part. I’m gonna have to try this now and compare to the way old school recipe I still make today. Thank you for a year’s worth of fab recipes and great stories, looking forward to next year. Also, that bunny, is no bunny. It is a perfect little ginger snap. Seriously, what gorgeous little girl, too cute for words!!

  35. Marcia

    Should you be heading to the east end soon, all the local IGA supermarkets have Nabisco chocolate wafers in abundance. You can stockpile !

  36. Erin

    Deb: thank you for your wonderful content, year after year. You are always my first go-to for any cooking idea/inspiration/recipe, and I feel like we’re friends (even though you obviously have no idea who I am). Please know that you’re a part of most of my weekday dinners and all of my dinner parties:) Happy new year!

  37. What a treat to see a “rum ball revival” here… I have been making rum balls for decades now, they were a family holiday treat when I was young umpteen decades ago, and we ate them as children with no harm at all. My family recipe is slightly different in that it calls for melting chocolate, adding sour cream, and then mixing in the cookie crumbs and alcohol. When growing up it was always vanilla wafers, and Meyers Dark Rum, and rolling the finished balls in cocoa powder. Recently I have branched out and tried making whiskey balls with our local McMenamins Hogshead whiskey. At times I have used either graham cracker, or other plain cookies for the cookie portion of the recipe, and for the last several years I have also used Pamela’s gluten free shortbread, so all my friends can enjoy them. Their pecan shortbread works particularly well

  38. ellabee

    Bourbon balls never went away here. The shiny sprinkles are very uptown and New Year’s Eve!

    Other recs for bringing back from the sixties: tomato aspic (not vegetable-flavored jello, not with sliced stuffed olives or other foolishness, but cloudy, tomato-y, and fairly soft — perfect with deviled eggs and ham biscuits).

  39. Trudy

    Hi! We ate your Kale and Carmelized Onion Dressing for Christmas and it was amazing! It’s my new favorite and I want to print it out, but I have been unable to access the recipe for the last few days. I get an error message that tells me to check back later. Hope it’s not gone forever. Thank you for sharing such delicious recipes and Happy New Year!

  40. Mels

    From the lists above I’ve made the corn muffins, I want chocolate cake, rugelach, and the browniest cookies. All were amazing! I’ve made lots of other recipes from Smitten too, including ones from the cookbook and am always pleased with the outcome! Thanks for all you do Deb and looking forward to 2016!

    P.S. These bourbon balls are getting make this week, albeit sans alcohol, but I am sure they will still be delicious. Going to try chai tea in them instead I think!

  41. Mary

    Where do you buy Choc Liebnez cookies. My husband’s favorite and cannot find them anymore.
    Made your tarte de soleil with nutella and chocolate. Impressive and fabulous

  42. Ha, when you list it out I realize how often you’re the default for me when I’m looking to try a new recipe. Plus that cannoli cake has become the basis for every pound cake I make now.

    And yay for your second cookbook! I started a cookbook club in November and 17 of us are cooking out of your first cookbook next weekend. It should be quite the feast :-)

  43. Amanda

    Interesting. I’d never heard of a rum ball. My great aunt Sally makes bourbon balls, which are not particularly solid, which is to say that they are a thing of beauty. I’d never gotten the recipe, though, so these are tempting.

  44. Christine

    These balls *snicker* look fantastic!

    Also, for reading – kindle hooked up on my iphone in combination with borrowing e-books from my public library (holla Philadelphia! I’m sure New York’s is even better) changed my reading life. Also, I last year I set myself a reading goal on Goodreads and after reducing it to be more reasonable – 35 instead of 50, due to some life things that were going on, I used it to keep me motivated.

  45. Lillie

    Love the post, Deb! Are there any other types of nuts that would work for this recipe? (My boyfriend is not a huge fan of pecans.) Thanks!

  46. deb

    Other nuts — Yes, you could use walnuts, almonds or any other nut you like.

    The platter — It’s from Emile Henry. Looks like this but in white.

    Christina — Wow, thank you!

    Mary — I don’t know where you are but I bought them at a bodega on 9th and 2nd Avenue. However, it was only when I was throwing away the packaging I saw that they’d expired in 2014. NYC bodegas always keep it classy.

    Debbi — Sure, it’s her coworker’s recipe, not hers, not this terribly matters but it means I know less about the origin. 1 cup crushed vanilla wafers + 1 powdered sugar + 1 tablespoon cocoa + 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans + 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup and granulated sugar to roll them in. As you can see, I’m very good at following recipes. :)

    Downtime this past weekend — Unfortunately, we had a lot of it. Our server’s database center had ongoing DDOS attacks and it was very frustrating for everyone. It seems to be (hopefully) all cleared up now. Thanks for your patience, in the meanwhile.

  47. ruthy in vt

    These look gorgeous! Now NY Cake is added to my list of places to go. We are visiting in mid February and staying in the West 20’s. Any suggestions of delicious places to eat in that general area? Bonus points if a) it’s an appealing place to take an almost-2-year-old who doesn’t sit quietly in her high chair and/or b) the take-out option is just as good. Thanks!

  48. Linda

    Deb, please please…. we need rum balls too. They are so hard to find and I would love a recipe to make some. :) Happy New Year!

  49. These are gorgeous! I’m sick with envy!!! I too made bourbon balls this year (before I saw your recipe!) because I love the 60’s (and 70’s) and I love to bake and cook, and I thought it would be fun to send homemade love gifts this year. They were delicious (I also used a rum balls recipe and subbed out rye, cuz hi, rye!), but now I must try yours. Holiday treats redux! Tight pants be d*mned! Anyway, just wanted to say that Famous chocolate wafers also work great for the chocolate cookie portion of the recipe AND they’re awesome and remind me of the desserts my mom used to make in the 70s.

  50. Carol

    I’m wondering if I could substitute the golden syrup I bought for your AMAZING pecan pie for the molasses. I have always made bourbon balls with the original Joy of Cooking recipe. They’re good but these sound even better!

  51. Kate

    Sorry, question from an (ignorant) Canadian here. Is icing sugar the same as powdered sugar? Or is it caster sugar? These look stunning.

  52. I totally hacked these with the ladyfingers that were going bad in my cabinet and they came out — interesting. Not very chocolately (no surprise) and not very sticky. I did mostly figure out how to shape them with a half-spherical half-teaspon, a finicky job. But since I didn’t follow the recipe, flaws are not your fault, and I did enjoy fiddling with them. I’ll try again some time with cookies that are less stiff and dry.

  53. Liz

    In the early 80’s I worked in a bakery. All week long any extra pastries of any kind were thrown on a sheet on top of the ovens to dry. On Saturday before the Farmer’s Market where we would set up a booth all of these would be ground up fine, then mixed with rum extract (seeing as you need a license to sell alcohol) and real high quality buttercream made from scratch, then rolled as you described. We sold a ton of these and used up waste. They sold better after we raised the price, thus goes psychology.

  54. Jay

    Thanks for this delicious looking recipe. I’m looking forward to trying it. However, I have to say I loved your Q&A section! Especially since as I was reading the recipe I felt reluctant to ask what could be substituted for the alcohol and there was the answer in your Q&A section! Made me laugh. Thanks again.

  55. Katherine

    I made these with brandy instead of the bourbon, but didn’t otherwise mess with the recipe. My goodness they are boozy!

    For other Australians playing at home, I used choc ripple biscuits for the biscuit crumbs and they work a treat.

  56. Megan

    Do you think these would freeze well? I’d like to make in advance of a party and freeze them. I can’t see why it wouldn’t work…..

    1. deb

      Megan — I can’t think of any reason they wouldn’t freeze well. Not positive how well the sprinkles will stay on, but can always reroll if needed.

  57. Anna

    My personal favorite from 2015 was the crispy broccoli. I’ve made many of your recipes, but probably none more frequently than that one, which goes with everything!

  58. Gretchen

    Can confirm, these (or at least, my very similar rum balls) can be frozen. They’ll also keep in the fridge, but the sprinkles will get wonky in the fridge-condensation in your container, so hold off on rolling until day-of. So yeah, I’ve been making rum balls since at least the 1980s and they’re never not popular. I use Oreos as the cookie crumbs, dark rum, pecans or walnuts, and less sugar and liquid sweetener/binder (dark Karo syrup). I also dip them in chocolate confectioner’s coating.

    For the teetotalers, I have even had these without alcohol of any kind, which is fine too.

  59. Franci

    These freeze marvelously and get better with age. Of course, they rarely last that long. Try using Amaretto instead of rum. Amazing!

  60. Emily

    I just made these using almond meal and coffee-flavored rum. Mmmmmmmm! However since I used almond meal I kinda eyeballed the amount – I think I needed more, as they were a little too wet. Any chance you could add weights for the nuts at some point? Regardless, AMAZING!

  61. EmilyR123

    These fudgy bourbon ball look absolutely delicious! They seem like one of those desserts that could be for any situation and holiday. How do you usually decorate these to jazz them up?

  62. RA

    I can attest that these freeze well, and even better, defrost nicely! I defrosted mine in the fridge overnight, then kept at room temp during the day before serving, and they were great! Some of the turbinado sugar I used to roll them fell off, but the warmth of the bourbon held on, and the balls kept their shape. Love it!

  63. Sarah

    I made these for a friend’s birthday party this weekend and they were a huge hit! Only we know how easy they were, too (ok, everyone knows; I can’t keep a recipe this good to myself)! So fun to be able to decorate dessert in the theme colors for the party; I don’t usually go for that sort of thing, but in this case it was beautiful (and addictively tasty!).

  64. C

    bourbon question: Recently I tried a recipe for maple-bourbon poached salmon twice. The first time, I discovered I didn’t have any bourbon, then I tried it again with an inexpensive bourbon. I actually preferred the first — later, with the bourbon, there was a bitter edge and no compensating advantage. Do you think results would differ with a pricier bottle, or perhaps bourbon doesn’t suit me? When I tried a little straight, I didn’t taste anything other than alcohol.

    1. deb

      I feel like the words maple-bourbon poached may often sound better than they taste, especially because salmon isn’t going to bake very long so you’re not going to be left with a lingering oak-y scent of aged bourbon, but sharply alcoholic bourbon itself. It only sometimes works. Sure, Knob Creek is more harsh than Basil Haydens (some bourbon freaks are going to yell at me now) but I wouldn’t pay up just to make the recipe work. I do like a little bourbon the way you’d use vanilla in a cake or cookie or something that it seems to meld with better.

      1. C

        Interesting, thanks. It was a pretty small quantity, and on the stovetop (fairly brief, but not baked). Maybe I’ll just leave the bourbon out if I make it again, though.

  65. Deb, what are your favorite no-bake recipes? I am searching your site for inspiration as you’re a favorite for baking recipes, but I recently moved abroad to an apartment with no oven (the horror!) and am feeling a serious baking withdrawal.

    These look like good options, and there’s always the rice-krispy-treat and cake-in-a-mug-in-the-microwave genres. Any other tips/faves??

  66. Rebecca

    How do you think these would survive in a care package? They seem pretty structurally sturdy but I’m worried about melting or other unforeseen troubles that might occur during a mail trip. Maybe wrapping each in wax paper?

  67. Allison

    What quality alcohol do you use? I have a bottle of cheap whiskey I use for your jacked-up banana bread, and nicer whiskeys for drinking. Can I get away with using the cheap one, or will that ruin the fudgy balls?

  68. Manisha

    I am planning to give these as gifts. If I roll them in cocoa powder at keep them at room temperature, I find only traces of cocoa powder left after some time, and the balls become sticky. Is there some way of retaining the coating of cocoa powder? Will refrigerating them help? Thanks!

  69. witloof

    I made these this morning. I also live in NYC and have been finding it more and more challenging to track down those filling free Oreo lids of goodness. Thought I’d share this conversation I had with the employee at the Union Square Food Emporium:
    Me: “Hi! I’m looking for Nabisco Famous Wafers.”
    Food Emporium employee: “Nah, we don’t carry the famous ones. Only the regular.”
    {After I recovered, I described the box, and he confirmed that they were on the shelf…}

  70. Kathy

    I just made these chocolate bourbon balls and they taste delicious. Unfortunately I can not get any of the toppings to stick to the balls. They must be a tiny bit too dry. Short of remaking them, can you help me find a solution?

    1. Peter

      I just made these, and had the same dryness problem. I didn’t think to check the comments to see Deb’s suggestion of moistening your hands, so I pulsed in an extra tablespoon of bourbon, which also did the trick.

  71. PDX Jamie

    Kept the chilled unformed mess in a bowl toward the back of the fridge (where the air is much colder) for about a week, as the last week of the Christmas season hit, and the ensuing mayhem swayed me into putting off shaping the mess into balls for later. Guess what? After letting it thaw about 15 minutes, the week-old mix was just fine for rolling into balls. I did have to knead it all, to dampen the flaky dried crust that was exposed to the refrigerator air, and then I was able to roll it into balls. Very forgiving stuff!

    I was taken aback by the amount of bourbon, I will say that, but I have decided that is what makes the cocoa coating so essential. Once I had dredged the balls in dark cocoa powder (yes, the powder became damp, but the flavor was definitely there), the powder toned down the bourbon bite quite a bit. Instead of tasting straight-up bourbon, I now bit into chocolate, and then a minute later, tasted the bourbon. DO NOT skip dredging the balls in cocoa powder (or some other tasty concoction of your choice) if using the full amount of bourbon. This makes them much more edible for people like me (lol). Next time I might halve the bourbon, as Deb has already suggested for…again, people like me. Right now, though, we are loving on these. Consuming a couple of these every night with some hot cocoa is becoming something of a bedtime routine, although 6 balls did go to my husband’s coworker for her birthday this morning. This recipe makes a LOT. Not a problem for us. AWYEAH.

  72. Allison

    I love these. I made them whenever I had a baking itch during the 5 months my apartment was without gas. There was consensus that they are best rolled in coconut. Sprinkles were pretty, but not as good.

    Hey Deb, how did 2016 end up compared to your resolutions and expectations? I read more books (along with The New York Times and The New Yorker), but I’m still clicking on too many Facebook articles. My writing project (a research article) is coming along well, but that credit mostly lies in 2017, so, doesn’t count. Your turn!

    You asked us to hold you to it, so, here it is:
    “I’m excited about 2016. It’s the year (I’m writing it here, so you all better hold me to it), I’m going to start reading books again, and not just The New York Times, The New Yorker and every terrible thing anyone has ever linked to from Facebook. And it’s the I’m going to finally finish the next Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, the one that’s been bumping about in my head for way too long.”

    1. deb

      Thank you for the feedback, and for asking. It’s funny to look back at this and think “That’s adorable that I had such high ambitions for a year I started with a 5 month-old.” I generally vote for making fewer plans and being pleased with whatever gets done. I did not excel at book-reading; I read a couple nonfiction and then I started this 1000+ page Hitler bio near the end of the year and I’m still trudging through it. However, many cool things happened: a 1st birthday, a 7th birthday, a surprise trip to Mexico City, a family vacation in Prague, a fun quick weekend in Toronto, this site turning 10, this site finally getting redesigned and yes, I finished (well, mostly) that cookbook! More news on it soon, I hope. I guess all in all, not the worst year by far. :)

  73. JILL Q

    I made mine with half fireball whiskey, half regular whiskey. They didn’t want to stick together too well. I think my food processor was a little too small and they were under mixed but it was still definitely delicious after I smooshed them.

  74. Bought your new cookbook today..a bit pricey in Calgary but so worth it..the pictures are amazing. .I am vegetarian thanks for all the to die for recipes. Deb you have gone it again…

  75. Alice J Carlan

    Back in the day when I would make both rum ball AND bourbon balls, I used to open the containers every couple of days as they aged and, using an eyedropper, would add 3 or four more drops of the booze of choice. Let me tell you, after they had aged 4-6 weeks they were especially fine.

  76. Chamila Purbhoo

    hello. I read in comments that some sprinkles do not stick. I wanted to know if it happened to many or just a few. Also deb, let us know if these balls can be rolled in cocoa. I saw an unanswered query on this.

    Thanks from sunny island in the Indian Ocean where we make our own local rum.

  77. Tonia

    I have tried lots of Smitten Kitchen recipes, which have all been fantastic and quite well received by my family, but this is the first time I’m commenting because I love, love, love these bourbon balls! I saw one person in the comments used Teddy Grahams and wanted to offer another alternative: chocolate animal crackers. Even after a lengthy food processing, I thought they might still be too grainy, but after soaking in the liquid for a couple hours, the rolled balls came out with that wonderful fudgy texture. As always, Deb, thank you for adding to my cooking/baking/snarfing arsenal!

  78. Rebecca

    Made these for a work potluck where rum balls are usually a big hit. Everyone LOVED them. They do pack a solid punch and everyone was amazed there was only 1/2 a cup in the whole recipe but they were an overwhelming hit. You’ll be lucky if you can keep people from eating handfulls of them…I saw one guy eat one and then put 7 more on his plate (not leaving much behind for others…greedy!!). Well done, Deb – these are fabulous.

    I will note that the recipe is pretty loose/liquid when I rolled them into balls and I was worried they’d be too soft — but after spending the night in the fridge they were a perfect “truffle-esque” texture. I rolled mine in shredded unsweetened coconut, ground up pecans, and ground up cookies.

  79. Magpie

    I live in the UK and have scoured three supermarkets for plain chocolate biscuits (cookies, Wafers, whatever) with no joy. Everything chocolate is either a sandwich cookie or has a coating. I won’t have time to make my own, any other suggestions about what I could use?

  80. Gail

    Regarding the Fudgy Bourbon Balls…..Can someone please tell me how any of those “toppings” can possibly stick to the balls? I followed the directions exactly. The balls were easy to roll, but they are dry, not sticky. None of the suggested toppings can stick to them, except for the cocoa powder. What am I missing here?

    1. Deborah

      Sometimes the age of your dry ingredients may impact the moisture in the recipe. I would add a bit more bourbon to make sure they turn out sticky. Also – when you measure out the powdered sugar, scoop spoonfuls into your measuring cut rather then scooping g out a cupful. The sugar may have been too backed resulting in dryer batter.

  81. Hi Deb,

    Can I use Lyle’s Golden Syrup (I prefer the British one over corn syrup) or treacle in this recipe? Or do I have to use blackstrap molasses?

      1. Jennifer

        Thank you. The chocolate Leibniz cookies were not easy to find. I tried it, and it seems to have worked. The real test will be when I take them to a party this weekend and the crumbs have had time to soak up the bourbon, and the bourbon time to do its thing. The chocolate Leibniz cookies were not easy to find.

    1. Emily

      I made them with chocolate tea biscuits and they are very dry. I’ve added an extra tablespoon of bourbon and the sprinkles still barely stick.

  82. Ashley

    Is there any reason why it wouldn’t work to make your chocolate wafer cookie recipe and just bake it as crumbs before using it to make these? As opposed to the whole rigamarole of slicing and baking only to blitz…..

    1. deb

      First, I’d use this wafer recipe instead of that one, because it’s even easier. (I roll it while still warm and then chill it briefly to cut shapes, but you can probably even skip that). But baking as crumbs can be peskier than it sounds because some will burn before others are fully crisp. A flat sheet is probably a safer bet.

  83. Melissa J

    I wasn’t able to achieve the fudgey texture after letting the mixture sit for three hours. So, I added 1/4 cup of fresh coffee to the mixture and the consistency was perfect for rolling into balls plus the flavor was intensified. Will likely make this a bourbon and coffee combo next time I make them. Freezing them for now until Xmas so fingers crossed they hold up until then. Did sneak one ball before freezing and it was a real struggle not to eat more, delicious!!

  84. Shauna

    I’m a little taken aback by these! As a lover of bourbon, chocolate, and smittenkitchen <3 I fully expected to love these, too. But they're so sweet and intense I can barely finish eating one before I want to dive for a cup of black coffee. Did I do something wrong (or did I just turn into someone who thinks desserts are — gasp! — "too sweet")??

  85. Laura Fields

    I made these and used chocolate Teddy Grahams. They fit my memory of the rum balls that I would sneak at weddings when I was a little girl perfectly. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    1. Liz

      Thank you for commenting -I couldn’t find a plain chocolate cookie and was panicking but then remembered your comment so I used teddy grahams as well. Great suggestion! I did need a little extra moisture but these turned out great! The box of teddy grahams yielded extra crumbs to roll in!

  86. Deb in Minneapolis

    I also used the chocolate Teddy Grahams and needed to add a little more bourbon to get the right consistency. I put a bourbon soaked dried cherry in the middle of each one and am calling them Manhattan balls.

  87. Amwildwood

    I made two batches. The first I used all pecans and eikhorn chocolate cookies. The second batch I used mostly hazelnuts and a little pecans with Annie’s chocolate bunny graham cookies. Both are outstanding. I used powdered sugar on one batch until I read the comment to try moistened hands to get the sprinkles to stick. The moistened hands definitely helped. I used dutch chocolate sprinkles.

  88. Do you think the cookie parts of an Oreo cookie would work as the chocolate cookie? I never really think of them as chocolate-y but since you mentioned making a homemade Oreo for the crumbs I thought I’d ask.

  89. Dee

    For any readers in Australia: I made these using Chocolate Ripple biscuits, and I had trouble. The mixture firmed up after chilling so I was able to roll them, and the texture is good, but they kind of seep oil after a day or so. The ones rolled in sparkly gold sugar are the worst for this. So, if I were making them again, I’d seek out a much drier biscuit for the chocolate wafer component. They still taste good but don’t look as appetising tucked in their little red paper cases when the bottom of each is kind of greasy.
    Never mind. All cooking is experimentation, and learning, and that’s the fun of it.

    1. Emma

      Hi, I’m in Oz too and I us3 Choc Ripples – family fave – and it worked fine! I used edible glitter which is very fine, and also Demerara sugar. Both worked well.

  90. margaretohora

    Deb. DEB! These do not disappoint!!! I was super skeptical that I’d enjoy cookie-crumb balls but these are magical. I used Kirkland-brand bourbon, Grandma’s unsulphured molasses, good quality walnuts, Maverick Chocolate Co. cocoa, and powdered sugar that was easily a year old (but good thing I held onto it, right?). Rolled them in cocoa powder and multicolored round nonpareils and left some fudgy. What a great way to see out 2018. Happy New Year!

  91. laurentheacupuncturist

    Made these last year, and back again! I used gluten free Stop & Shop “oreos”, scraping the cream out before processing them. Was a little short for the amount needed so threw in a few almond biscotti I had made. I don’t drink, but this opened the door to my new appreciation for bourbon! And yes, coconut flakes were a big hit, as well as gold chunky sprinkles. They taste better as they age. Off to buy more bourbon!

  92. Sarah

    I made these for gifts and let’s just say I was stingy giving them out. I put everything in the vitamix. I did the pecans and crackers first and almost made chocolate pecan butter. After adding the rest of the ingredients (plus a tsp of chocolate extract). I worried I made a mistake because the batter was thin. However, everything set after sitting out a few hours and these were easy to roll and dip into jimmies. They kind of ooze bourbon in their storage container but that doesn’t have me complaining!

    I used Nabisco chocolate cookies, chocolate extract from Beanilla, Vahlrona cocoa powder purchased from World Spice market, and pre-toasted pecans from Trader Joe’s.

    1. Sarah

      I forgot to add that I made a little drink with the remainders in the Vitamix. I added some milk and blended a bit to “help” clean out the container. That was so good. I can imagine it would be really good with almond milk.

  93. edenoh

    Hi Deb! How did you make a third with apple
    juice? I’m looking to do the same. Did you take a third of the dry ingredients and a third of the wet ingredients? Thanks!

  94. Lois

    Pretty good, boozy but impossible to get toppings to stick. Only the Navi’s o cookie crumbs and very fine sugar worked. Won’t bother with this again

  95. Barb

    I want to make these with gingersnaps b/c I already have them. Can you think of a substitute for the cocoa that would complement those flavors?

    1. Megan Elise

      I just omitted the cocoa to make vanilla ones, I think you can just skip it. Or maybe add some warm spices–ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove. Probably not 3T worth though, lol.

  96. Megan Elise

    I made two batches of these: for the first I used chocolate animal crackers and that worked marvelously. For the second, I used plain animal crackers, omitted the cocoa, and used 1.5 tablespoons of vanilla paste instead of the molasses. Also delightful. I had better luck coating them with nonpareil style sprinkles than jimmy style, the jimmies didn’t want to stick.

    Happy new year!

  97. Darla

    Made these and rolled in more cookie crumbles, pecans, and turbinado sugar. Definitely liked the cookie crumbles best. These are best made a few days ahead of time. The bourbon was sharp initially, but the flavors really blended after a couple days.

  98. Amy L

    A few commenters have raised Oreos generally, but just popping in to say that gluten free Oreos with the filling scooped out work great in this recipe! I made these with gf Oreos for a party where an attendee who couldn’t have either gluten or dairy. I rolled them in plain demerara sugar, and they were a huge hit with everyone.

  99. Natalie Timoshin

    How do you get the sprinkles to stick to the balls? When I tried it, nothing would stick, so I tried pressing harder and the balls just crumbled. Please advise, thank you.

  100. Kate Johnson

    I made these today. They are dry! Weren’t sticky enough to roll in anything. I was able to squeeze them into balls with effort and they taste ok. I believe I should have gone with weighing the crumbs and not measuring volume as crumbs were likely ground too fine(by me!) and I used too many, even though 2 1/2 cups were used. I’ll remember this next time.

  101. Chantal

    Hi, not a bourbon drinker (Scotch is my tipple of preference) and also in Canada. We have American bourbon here, any kind acceptable? thanks.

  102. Bought an Oreo cookie gingerbread kit on sale last year and stuck it in my freezer. The walls of the house are chocolate Oreo cookies sans icing. Used them for the crumbs and it worked beautifully.

  103. DV

    Hi! These are delicious but way too soft; they barely hold their shape. I made your homemade Oreo cookies, measured the bourbon correctly and they’ve been sitting out for 4 hours. Should I add more cookie crumbs? Would anything help firm them up? I’d like to give as gifts but they’re too mushy/messy.
    Thank you!

    1. Kirsten

      Mine came out great the first time with packaged famous wafers. I made them again using the SK/Alice Medrich chocolate wafer recipe. This time they’re greasy and “seep.” It has to be from the butter in the cookies which is odd since the cookies themselves were firm and delicious.

        1. Kirsten

          Thanks – That cookie recipe is delicious tho! Putting this batch in the fridge solved the issue and resulted in a secret stash for me.

  104. Elizabeth

    Making these tonight – I love all your recipes. Finding chocolate cookies was a bear- and though I have made your homemade Oreos – I didn’t have time for that tonight – so got knock of Oreos and scraped out the cream 😂 also just had one cup of pecans so walnuts I have left over from your Warm winter syrup are going into will be a very merry Christmas here – or at least so saturated in bourbon no one will notice otherwise 😂. Thanks for your fabulous recipes!

  105. biankat

    Made these today (along with the Raspberry Macaroons and the Chocolate Macaroons, both amazing). The recipe is easy enough – I used Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers. Let the dough set for 3ish hours. Now, it’s warm in the house due to the heater running all day. The dough was pretty greasy (from the nuts?), sometimes fussy to roll into a ball. For the decor, it was difficult to make the chocolate sprinkles stick. However, the non-pareils and coarse sugar were much more cooperative. I also rolled a small quantity in cocoa powder. It began ‘melting’/dissolving, so rolled them a second time and placed them in the fridge. The flavor is delicious! Almost like a boozy cookie dough. Letting them set in the fridge after decorating is definitely the way to go, IMO. You can pull them out just prior to serving to take the chill off. BTW – I used my tablespoon to scoop the portions out and it made 35 balls. Definitely not disappointed!

  106. JC

    GF option: I made these GF by using Mary’s Gone Kookies chocolate graham style cookies. I had to increase the amount of cookie crumbs a bit (I used the entire 5 oz. box). They are delicious! I geve them to my neighbors as part of a Christmas treat box, and several asked for the recipe.

  107. Wren

    We made these with gluten free Annie’s bunny grahams (we used the chocolate ones and saved the vanilla ones for eating). It needed extra liquid (combination of bourbon and honey/molasses) to hold together, probably because the cookies are dry. They eventually came together in balls and tasted great. Worth a try if you want to make them gluten free and can’t find gluten free chocolate cookies.