Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls

Recipe Pin
4 hours
24 bourbon balls

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This ‘Southern all the way around’ recipe for Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls may well be the quintessential symbol of Christmas in the South.

This recipe comes to us courtesy of Southern Living Magazine!

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a fudgy pecan bourbon ball

Watch my short video below and get the ball(s) rollin’…

When I was very young, the fancy chocolate balls were ‘off limits’ to us kids. I knew that the adults had to have it wrong, because these sweetly decorated chocolates were VERY CLEARLY on the cookie trays my Grandparents had scattered between the kitchen and the living room. Never mind the fact that the same cookie trays were ‘just out of reach’ of little hands.

If I wanted a cookie, Grandma would help me to select one by bringing the tray down to my level. Well, it was working for my grandparents until I took liberties. Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls you could say, have always been on my foodie radar…

I remember being in the living room by myself. Who knows if it was really me or an alternate force of nature (hahaha) but somehow the table that Grandma kept her knitting needles and yarn on was pushed right in front of the big table where that cookie tray called home.

In mere minutes, there I was, chocolate smeared all over my hands as if to tell the sordid story, and a big old chocolate ball squarely in my mouth. What happened next would be talked about for the next three decades, and not exactly in a good way…

inside of a fudgy pecan bourbon ball

Every year for Christmas I make a few treats to give to our friends and family. And every year for more than fifteen years, Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls have graced my gift tins.

Whether rum, bourbon, or cognac, confections crafted with liquors are ever popular around holiday time. Oddly enough, the idea is not terribly old, the bourbon ball making its debut just a few short years ago in 1938. As Wikipedia explains it, “the bourbon ball is a Southern delicacy, invented by Ruth Hanly Booe, one half of a two-woman candy company named Rebecca Ruth Candy.”

Along with her partner, Rebecca Gooch, the pair founded their candy store in Frankfort, Kentucky right as Prohibition took hold. The store was already struggling, mainly because this was a woman-owned business…in the American South…when it was unfashionable and considered ‘spinster’ for a woman to be independent, let alone the owner of a company.

 a fudgy pecan bourbon ball

Leave it to a couple of smart southern women to invent a candy that folks continue to obsess over almost 100 years later. Way to go, Girls, way to go!

After the Great Depression hit the United States in 1929, chocolate was far from being a necessary commodity. Banks were simply not prioritizing lending capital to a constantly struggling boutique candy business like the Rebecca Ruth Candy Company. A struggling candy business that was, until the idea of adding booze to the chocolates, took hold.

In not so many years, Miss Hanly Booe perfected her recipe for Bourbon Balls. The candy was an instant hit. It is purported that by the time World War II approached, government directed rationing wouldn’t even stop the Rebecca Ruth Candy Company. Steadfast and loyal customers of the uniquely crafted confections saved their sugar rations to share with the company.

a plate of  a fudgy pecan bourbon ball

Bourbon balls differ greatly from confection method to confection method. I enjoy the one I am highlighting today because it’s reasonably priced to make two dozen, and coupled with all of the holiday baking I do, this one is easy and can be done in between task-involved recipes.

The best bourbon ball recipe, in my opinion, comes from the folks at Southern Living Magazine. I have several bourbon ball recipes, but theirs tops my favorites list. Why? I guess because I would describe it to you as eating like and tasting like a rich and creamy fudge. Something somewhere between a bourbon ball and a chocolate truffle. Nothing at all like what I popped into my mouth as a kid trying to get away with something and nobody knowing it.

These chocolate bourbon balls are real honest to goodness chocolate enhanced by a very small amount of bourbon, and made satiny smooth with the use of heavy cream. The crushed pecans are also an added sweet finish. This ‘Southern all the way around’ recipe may just be the quintessential symbol of Christmas in the South.

 a fudgy pecan bourbon balls

If you take the time to make these, not only would I love to know how you enjoyed them, but also what some of your personal favorite holiday baking recipes are. A recipe that came over maybe with a grandparent or great grandparent? Drop me a line!

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I begin to sort the bulk of recipes that will make up my holiday gifting tins. It’s a chore to say the least, but you know as well as I do that we all end up baking something or another for the holidays. Whether it be a cookie of some kind, cheesecake bars, Christstollen (German Christmas Stollen), or a dried fruit and nutmeat loaf, we pause when we come across a new recipe, giving them a once over. I do it, too.

 a fudgy pecan bourbon balls

All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC

Bourbon chocolate balls flank the muffin paper-filled stacks of cookies on the top layer of each tin, bars and fruit cake squares on the layer beneath. I consider the bourbon balls one of the most important commodities in each tin. In fifteen-ish years, this particular recipe has NEVER been removed from the final stack of recipes that will be baked for the gifts.

I have said it before, that when there are few ingredients that make up a recipe, QUALITY COUNTS. Be sure to purchase the best quality for all of your recipes that you can get your hands on. For these Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls, I am using Ghirardelli Chocolate, and Blanton’s Bourbon.

a bottle of Blanton's Bourbon and a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate

How Do You Make Bourbon Balls?

So… bourbon pecan balls are four ingredients folks. FOUR. They NEED to be the best you can get your hands on. The amount of bourbon required is minimal, but it should be smooth and fragrant and something you want to drink. Cooking the bourbon before any other ingredients are incorporated burns off a wee bit of the alcohol. Beyond heating the bourbon, this is the extent of the cooking in this recipe.

The heavy cream should be just that – heavy cream. Grab an OUTSTANDING brand of chocolate. Something that is at least 60% cacao dark chocolate. Milk chocolate will work, but do purchase GOOD CHOCOLATE.

Lastly, the pecans. You’ll need less than a cup. When you shop, if chopped and/or pecan pieces are more economical than pecan halves, buy those. Just as long as they are meant for baking and are unsalted. The chocolate mixture is chilled before being rolled in the chopped pecans, so have plastic film on hand also. It becomes necessary while the chocolate is cooling down.

a fudgy pecan bourbon balls

All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC

Get My Recipes for These Thoughtful (but sooo easy!) Cookies, Bars, and Cakes Just by Clicking on Each Highlighted Link Below

a fudgy pecan bourbon ball

Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls

Jenny DeRemer
This 'Southern all the way around' recipe for Fudgy Pecan Bourbon Balls may just be the quintessential symbol of Christmas in the South.
3.79 from 23 votes
Servings: 24 bourbon balls
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Chill 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 24 bourbon balls
Calories 95 kcal



  • Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring bourbon just to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat until it begins to steam. Add the heavy cream and bring to a simmer once again. Remove from heat, and pour cream mixture over chocolate. Let stand 1 minute.
  • Stir vigorously until cream and chocolate are thoroughly blended. Let mixture cool 15 minutes. Cover the surface of the chocolate with plastic wrap, and chill until firm, about 2 hours. (If you cannot make the truffles immediately, the mixture will keep, covered, in the fridge up to 1 week.)
    plastic wrap over chocolate
  • Place chopped pecans on a shallow plate. A pie plate works great for this step. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Working quickly and using a small warmed teaspoon (dipped into hot water and then dried), scoop chilled chocolate mixture by 2-teaspoon portions, and shape each into a ball. Place each ball on the bed of chopped pecans. Once the plate is filled, wash hands and roll balls in pecans to completely cover. Transfer balls to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chocolate mixture and pecans until you have finished the chocolate.
  • ** NOTE: I roll twice; I roll and chill, then roll again. I want my bourbon balls well-coated in chopped pecans.
  • Chill balls until firm, about 1 hour. (Or freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.) Enjoy them now, gift them, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.

Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.


Serving: 1Bourbon BallCalories: 95kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 1gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 12mgPotassium: 76mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 73IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 34mgIron: 1mg
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Recipe Rating


  1. I followed the recipe to a T. The truffle mixture is very soft even after an overnight in the frig. How can I thicken the mixture?

    1. Hi Nancy! This may seem silly, but I need to ask in order to assess; ‘soft like cake frosting’ or ‘soft to where it’s runny like half-melted ice cream?’ It is correct if it is closer to cake frosting or even room-temperature peanut butter. Anything looser than that may be difficult to roll. If it’s too difficult to roll, there are several remedies, but I like this one the best. Load the mixture into a plastic zipper bag and snip a corner tip. A small snip so you can control the amount you are about to squeeze out. Pipe small mounds about a tablespoon in size onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, then “dust” with VERY FINELY CRUSHED pecans. Freeze for 15 minutes or until firm to the touch with just a small amount of ‘give.’ Once firm, use a narrow or off-set spatula to remove each mound from the parchment into individual paper wrappers as I show in my photos. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

      I will email you personally about this, too, so look to read from me shortly. I want to see the method through along with you 🙂 Jenny

  2. So, I found this recipe a few years ago and have made it a lot of times since then. I used a mix of milk and semi-sweet chocolate and use a wheated bourbon like Makers cask strength or Makers 101. The high proof bourbon and mix of chocolate works well together and I’ve made these as gifts for coworkers and friends with a lot now making special requests for more.5 stars

    1. Rich, until people taste these, they don’t believe me about how good they are. I showed my dad your comment (he’s a bourbon guy!) regarding the Maker’s. Since he hates me using his Blantons, he’s going to hit Costco for Maker’s after Thanksgiving. I’m going to try your method mixing dark and milk chocolate, too 🙂 Thank you for leaving this comment, Rich! Jenny

    1. Roger, I am trying to think what questions I want to ask you first. I think I will begin with the specific ingredients you used. What Bourbon did you use? Bourbon is a powerful liquor and among the remarks it receives when flavor profiles are described, bitter is one of the attributes. Since there is no sugar in the recipe, using a smooth Bourbon, one that you’d also personally sip, is very important. The first time I assembled these I used Wild Turkey and it damn near killed me.

      All told, there is 3/4-cup liquid (1/4 cup bourbon and 1/2 cup heavy cream) for the 8 ounces of chocolate, so most definitely enough. Was your Bourbon and heavy cream mixture hot enough to melt the chocolate I wonder?

      Also, what chocolate did you use? 60% cacao dark chocolate is going to be bitter all on its own. It’s specifically paired with Bourbon though because of the buttery and caramel-like notes in a really great Bourbon.

      These little treats are not your average sweet chocolate confection, rather a true chocolate and Bourbon connoisseurs’ heaven. I do think they require a certain palette as not everybody is a huge fan of dark chocolate or even Bourbon.

      Sorry your experience assembling these was not successful, Roger. Jenny

  3. Hi Jenny! This is my first time on your website and I just HAD to say THANK YOU for posting this recipe for Bourbon Balls! I have been trying to find a recipe like the one my Aunt Pat made when I was a kid-just like you-trying to sneak a ball from the bowls that she had placed strategically around the house…in a high window…on the fireplace mantel…to keep us kids from getting our hands on them! One year I remember my siblings and I somehow getting our hands on them and the family swore that we were drunk!!!! Every.single.other.recipe that I’ve found has Nilla wafers as the base, and now I’ve found this! THANKS AGAIN, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!5 stars

    1. KayDee, thank you SO MUCH for your lovely comment! I woke to this message from you today and feel I am off to my best possible start due in part to your kind words! I’d have to say, it seems there was an entire generation ahead of us (our parents and grandparents) that made these Bourbon Balls as popular with our generation as they are – tell a child (you and I) they can’t have something and not only do they want it, but it also then becomes somewhat iconic, don’t you agree? MERRY CHRISTMAS KAYDEE! x – Jenny

  4. A couple pieces and a shot of that bourbon? Oh man – heaven!! Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party! Hope your weekend is fabulous.

    1. Oooohhhh! A dessert charcuterie platter! I just saw some inspiration for something like that, so maybe worth assembling in the coming days! Thanks for having me!!

    2. Hi Jenny! Thank you for this wonderful recipe! I’m wondering if rum could be substituted for the bourbon or do you have another recipe just for rum balls. I use to get them from a family business in MD until their grandmother passed away without leaving them the recipe. They were cake like and delicious and I would like to make a mix of the bourbon and rum balls. Thank you!

      1. Sherry, thanks for this GREAT question! I am glad for having the chance to address it. First, do not substitute rum in the Bourbon Ball recipe you are referencing. Why not? Not all liquors are created equal, so the supporting ingredients for each are very specific.

        There are two rum ball recipes I like. Below are the links. Why these two? Because you will often times see me recreate or modify recipes from Southern Living Magazine and also from The New York Times here on Not Entirely Average, I will happily steer you in both their directions! I TRUST THESE PUBLICATIONS. It’s that simple.

        The New York Times recipe for Gingerbread Rum Balls is a favorite here. The recipe calls for both rum AND bourbon and the confection is utterly divine. Southern Living Magazine tips a bow with their Rum Balls which incorporate vanilla wafers and chopped pecans. I find this method appealing as a northern gal documenting my attempts at Southern recipes and traditions. BOTH will make you smile upon first bite 🙂


        https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1019810-gingerbread-rum-balls (note!) NYT ONLY allows you to open the link ONE TIME before requiring you to join/pay. Be prepared to print, copy and paste, or hand write this recipe before clicking off of it, lest you will not be able to go back.

        Are you planning to gift the mixed confections for the holidays? If you prepare and package them, I would LOVE to see the pretty pictures of your labor!

        Good luck, and happy cooking 🙂 – Jenny