This big batch of Kentucky Bourbon Balls works perfectly for a holiday crowd

Southern Kitchen

This is part of Southern Kitchen's 12 Days of Cookies and Cocktails series, which runs daily through Christmas Eve. Each day, we'll pair fun festive cocktails with classic cookie recipes. These Kentucky Bourbon Balls pair perfectly with... you guessed it... more bourbon, in a cocktail created by The Atomic Lounge in Birmingham, Alabama. Get the recipe.

About the recipe

A staple of distillery tours throughout Kentucky, these bourbon balls are easy to prepare and do not require much time to set up once formed. Since it’s being mixed with sugar, pecans and cookie crumbs, don’t waste your best bourbon in this recipe, where its nuances will be masked; this is an instance where budget-friendly bourbons are welcome.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a kitchen scale for the vanilla wafers. You’re looking for a total of 2 cups of processed vanilla wafer crumbs.

Serves: 25 balls

Hands on Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour


1 cup pecan pieces

8 ounces vanilla wafers

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup bourbon

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and let cool slightly. Turn off the oven.

Place vanilla wafers in a food processor and process until the wafers turn to fine crumbs; you should have about 2 cups. Add the pecans and pulse until finely chopped.

Transfer the wafer mixture to a large bowl and whisk in 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup of the cocoa powder and the salt until completely combined. Whisk in the bourbon, corn syrup and vanilla until smooth. 

On a large plate, sift together the remaining sugar and cocoa. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.

Form the wafer mixture into 1-inch balls and place on the prepared sheet. Once all of the balls have been formed, gently roll them around in the sugar mixture to coat completely, then return to the baking dish. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Serve.