Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Kentucky Bourbon Balls Recipe, Candy Recipe, Kentucky Bourbon Balls Candy Recipe

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

A Kentucky tradition, it’s hardly the holidays without Bourbon Balls. They are a delightful concoction of sugar, butter, pecans and bourbon which is then rolled and painstakingly dipped in chocolate before being topped with a lovely pecan half. They will make you say, “Ho, ho, ho!”   *wink*  

Ruth Hanly Booe created the Bourbon Ball in 1938 as a result of a comment by the Kentucky Governor who remarked that there was no better taste than a bite of chocolate followed by a sip of Bourbon. Her recipe was hailed by Gourmet and by Craig Claiborne, who wrote about it in The New York Times in the 1950’s. Since her candies are still produced in Frankfort, Kentucky by the company bearing her name, I’m sure the original recipe is top-secret.

This, however, is my version of them, and while they are certainly not an ‘easy’ candy to make, they are surely worth the effort. Now, an education in Bourbon. While Bourbon can be made anywhere, the only real Bourbon (in my mind) is made in Kentucky. There’s whiskey and there’s Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey and there is a difference. While there are plenty of makers of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, I’m rather partial to Maker’s Mark. It could be the wonderful full-bodied, smooth, oaky flavour; or it could be the cute little red wax top on the bottle. And I’m not telling which it is. *wink*

Anyway. Make these. They are delightfully rich, deliciously sweet, boozy, and coated in chocolate, people!


5.0 from 4 reviews
Kentucky Bourbon Balls
A Kentucky tradition, it's hardly the holidays without Bourbon Balls. They are a delightful concoction of sugar, butter, pecans and bourbon which is then rolled and painstakingly dipped in chocolate before being topped with a lovely pecan half. They will make you say, "Ho, ho, ho!"
Recipe type: Candy
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted (don't skip the sifting)
  • ⅓ cup Bourbon, or to taste (meaning you can add more)
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped fine
  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, cut in pieces (I use a mixture of 60% and 80% cacao, but chips work fine)
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  1. In the top of a small double boiler (you could use a sauce pan and suspend a bowl over the water, not touching it), melt the chocolate and the shortening together. (The shortening acts to thin the chocolate so it coats more easily.)
  2. In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter and confectioners' sugar.
  3. Add the Bourbon and continue mixing until smooth.
  4. Add the pecan pieces and mix until blended.
  5. Refrigerate until chilled (important - they have to be COLD to be rolled and dipped)
  6. Shape the butter sugar blend into small balls.
  7. Working rapidly, using a toothpick dip the balls one at a time in the chocolate and place on a parchment surface.
  8. Remove the toothpick and place a pecan half on the top of the spot where the toothpick was removed.
  9. Allow the chocolate to set.
  10. Move the balls into candy papers and store in an airtight container.


About P ~ The Saucy Southerner

I started cooking when I was ten years old. For me, the process of cooking, from inception of a dish, to the execution, to the washing of the pots is sheer delight. I am now retired from a business I still own, in partnership with my husband. I used to work six days a week and still cook every night. Now, I'm gardening, still cooking, always having fun and hoping to share my joy with you. Thank you for reading...and commenting! P~
This entry was posted in Candy, Holiday Cooking. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Kentucky Bourbon Balls

  1. Amanda says:

    I was looking forward to having these for Christmas. I’ve wasted four sticks of butter and four pounds of confectioners sugar trying to make this recipe twice. Can’t even get passed the first step. Doesn’t seem like there’s near enough butter to sugar to cream. It’s as powdery as can be and yes I sifted. So disappointed.

  2. Carol says:

    Does it have to be solid shorting? Can oil be used?

  3. Virginia says:

    I am about to make your Bourbon Ball recipe for a KY Derby party. The details and process all seem like what I want. I was wondering how far in advance you would suggest I can make these for them to still seem fresh on party day?

  4. elen says:

    Look really good! for the shortening problem what brand u use or what oil can be used
    to mix with the chocolate. pls respond to my emal.

  5. Sara says:

    I just made these today. They were a pain in the butt. Delicious but difficult. I think it needs less sugar. I’ll rate this recipe 5 for taste but 2 for being easy.

  6. Betty says:

    Could coconut shortening or coconut oil be used for the shortening? I am Kentucky bred and born girl, and love bourbon balls. Thanks for the recipe and they are worth it no matter what. Betty

  7. Sue says:

    this recipe doesn’t say how many this makes?

  8. Steve Nance says:

    So easy. I do not measure the powdered sugar, just go by feel. I even use the whisk attachment on the Kitchen Aid, not the paddle. If it gets too stiff, I add bit of heavy cream. Jim Beam Honey Bourbon works awesome. The shortening is the secret ingredient for perfect melting of chocolate chips. Don’t cheap out on off brand chips though. Small melon baller for scoop and drop onto Teflon sheeted sheet pan, then freeze. A pair of metal tongs is the perfect dipping tool. Dents fill in quickly. Steve from Kevil

  9. C E says:

    Another trick I learned after making these for years is to not leave the sugar butter mixture in the fridge overnight. Even covered it dries out and crumbles when you put a toothpick in it to dip. I have sped things up by using the freezer instead of the fridge–leave out the pecans ….put the bowl of butter/sugar/bourbon mixture in the freezer for no more than 2 hours….then you can dust your hands with flour and roll the filling into 1″ balls, placing them on a wax paper lined trsy as you go. Reutrn the tray of rolled balls to the freezer while you melt chocolate over double boiler. Remove only a few balls from freezer at a time and, working quickly, dip one ball at a time into chocolate (I rest a ball on a fork and drizzle chocokate over top with a spoon so the chocolate can drip off and coat evenly. Sometimes tou have to pass the vall vack and forth between two spoons first and the finish off with a fork to let excess chocolate drip off. Let chocolate coated ball slip off fork onto wax paper lined tray. Then put a half pecan on top before chocolate sets. Once i have a tray done it goes into the fridge. Once fully chilled, I store these in the freezer where they last for months. My husband loves to put one on a paper towel and into the microwave for 10 seconds before eating. Yum! Very time consuming, but effective and well worth it. I have never used the oil in the chocolate. I bet that makes the process easier–I am looking forward to trying this next time. .

  10. jo ann styles says:

    can you substitute something for the bourbon?

  11. Shermie Hagan says:

    Can you put the bourbon in the mixture instead of the pecans?

  12. Diana Gruette says:

    My ex M in L was from Kentucky & soaked her pecans in a bowl of J D overnight before making them….OMG delicious!!!

  13. Krystal says:

    I made this today but my mix didn’t set up. I could not get it to roll into a ball to dip even after placing in the freezer for a few hours. I followed the recipe but somewhere I must’ve went wrong. Any suggestions?

  14. Jo says:

    Ok I agree with the first gal!! And it wouldn’t let me give it one star! I just wasted butter, sugar and bourbon. 🙁 I followed this to the tee. It’s just a big crumbly mess. I knew something wasn’t right when the kitchen aid had problems mixing all the sugar in. I think it’s way too much. But now that I have this mess is there any fixing it or do I need a different recipe?

    • I have no idea what you did wrong. This recipe is one I use every year, without fail. If you used powdered sugar and butter, with the bourbon, it should cream beautifully. That said, if you have a “crumbly mess” you might want to add some cream (or half & half, or milk) a tablespoon at a time until it creams up for you. P~

  15. We have had a bourbon ball recipe in my family for many decades. However, we don’t use chopped pecans in the balls. Also can soak pecans in more bourbon as well but mine are usually strong enough without drunk pecans 😉😉

  16. Pingback: Throwing a Kentucky Derby Party

  17. bob says:

    I generally add finely ground vanilla wafers to my mix, also about 1 cup of makers
    mark which I soak fine ground pecans with. then I freeze mixture then roll out balls
    and then freeeze them before coating with chocolatete.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: