Dark chocolate truffles with the delicious bite of authentic Kentucky bourbon. A great candy all year long and perfect for snacking during the Kentucky Derby.

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Kentucky bourbon balls coated in powdered chocolate sugar.

About Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Kentucky bourbon balls can be enjoyed all year long, but as for me, I prefer to make this classic candy in the spring.

That’s because bourbon makes me think of Kentucky (it’s where most of the world’s bourbon is made, after all) and then Kentucky makes me think of the Kentucky Derby (which just happens to come around in early May).

And because of Kentucky’s relationship with Bourbon, it’s become the “officially unofficial” flavor of the Derby. So as the weather beings to warm, I can’t seem to fight the urge to whip up boozy eats and treats with some of my favorite bourbons.

Besides, who could pass up the opportunity to have a whole batch of dark chocolate truffles in their posession, no matter the occasion or time of year?

Certainly not me!

Kentucky bourbon balls in a blue bowl.

What’s in Kentucky bourbon balls?

In order to whip up a batch of these boozy truffles, you’ll need to gather the following ingredients:

  • Powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder – Creates the sweet, chocolaty flavor of these truffles. These two ingredients are also used to create a simple coating for the bourbon balls.
  • Nilla wafers and pecans – Used to make the base filling of the bourbon balls.
  • Light corn syrup – For adding sweetness and for holding the filling together.
  • Bourbon – The namesake of this recipe! It’s what gives these little truffles a kick of authentic bourbon flavor, straight from Kentucky. Also keep in mind that these bourbon balls are not heated, so even though it’s only a small amount (1/4 cup bourbon divided over 24 truffles) the bourbon’s full alcohol content will be present.

Can you make bourbon balls without nuts?

This particular recipe includes crumbled pecans, which gives the bourbon balls a little density and texture. However, if pecans aren’t your thing, you can leave them out.

If making this recipe without pecans, start by substituting the pecans (one cup) for an equal amount of Nilla Wafers. This would mean you’d have three cups total of Nilla Wafers.

Next, be conservative when adding the liquid. When mixing, start off using only 1/2 of the light corn syrup and Kentucky bourbon that the recipe calls for. If the batter isn’t forming right, slowly add a little bit more.

Can whiskey be substituted for bourbon in bourbon balls?

While Kentucky bourbon has its own method and regional culture surrounding it, bourbon is ultimately a type of whiskey. So all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.

So if you have a non-bourbon whiskey that you absolutely love, then yes, you can totally substitute it for the bourbon in this recipe. They won’t “really” be Kentucky bourbon balls without specifically using bourbon, but the more important thing is that you enjoy the candy that you’re making.

You can also substitute the bourbon in this recipe for rum to make classic rum balls.

Can eating bourbon balls make you drunk?

While bourbon balls certainly contain enough alcohol to taste that it’s there, the likelihood of getting drunk off of them is very minimal. Only 1/4 cup of bourbon is used, which is then dispersed among 2-3 cups of other ingredients and then divided into 24 different candies.

You might get a buzz if you ate through all 24 candies really fast, but at that point, being tipsy might be the least of your concerns.

Bourbon ball with a bite mark.

How long can you store bourbon balls?

I recommend storing bourbon balls in a sealed container in the refrigerator, and they should be good for up to two weeks.

Can you freeze bourbon balls?

If stored in an air-tight container, bourbon balls can be frozen for up to two months.

Notes & tips for Kentucky bourbon balls

  • These bourbon truffles are coated in cocoa powder sweetened with powdered sugar, and if you’ve ever worked with cocoa powder before, you know it can be very messy. Cocoa powder has a way a special of blooming up and splashing everywhere. So when making these bourbon balls, be sure to work in an area that’s easy to clean and keep a lot of wet paper towels handy. Trust me, you’ll need them!

More Kentucky Derby favorites

How do you make Kentucky bourbon balls?

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – In a food processor, add Nilla Wafers and pecans, then crush to fine crumbs.

Step 2 – Transfer Nilla Wafer mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add powdered sugar and cocoa powder, then mix well.

Step 3 – Add Kentucky bourbon and light corn syrup to bowl, then mix until dry ingredients are saturated. The dough will reduce in size by half by the time you’re finished stirring.

Step 4 – In a small bowl, mix more powdered sugar and cocoa powder until thoroughly combined, then set nearby.

Step 5 – Usina 1 teaspoon cookie scoop, scoop up dough and roll it into a ball in your hands. Drop the ball into the sugar-cocoa powdered mixer and toss to coat, then place the completed bourbon ball on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat this step until all the dough is used.

Step 6 – Chill bourbon balls in the freezer for 1 hour, then store in a sealed container with any remaining sugar-cocoa mixture. When ready to serve, give the sealed container a shake to re-coat the bourbon balls with more sugar-cocoa mixture. Keep bourbon balls refrigerated until ready to eat.

Step 7 – Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Details

Kentucky bourbon balls coated in powdered chocolate sugar.
5 from 6 votes

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

30 minutes prep + 1 hour Chill Time
103 kcal
Yields: 24 bourbon balls
Dark chocolate truffles with the delicious bite of authentic Kentucky bourbon. A great candy all year long and perfect for snacking during the Kentucky Derby.



  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa powder to a small bowl, then mix together thoroughly. Set both aside.
    1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • In a food processor, add Nilla Wafers and pecans and crush until completely crumbled. 
    2 cups Nilla Wafers, 1 cup pecans
  • Transfer crumbled pecan wafer mixture to a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder and 1/4 cup powdered sugar, then use a spatula to mix together until cocoa and wafer mixture are thoroughly combined. It's okay if there are still a few visible pieces of powdered sugar at this stage.
    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • Add light corn syrup and Kentucky bourbon to bowl, then mix to combine. Be patient; mixture will slowly incorporate the moisture and reduce half in size. Dough will be very thick. If needed, you can use your hands to knead the dough to finish mixing.
    1/4 cup bourbon, 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • Using a 1 teaspoon cookie scoop (or similiar size), scoop out dough and roll it between your hands to form a ball. Drop the ball in the small bowl of cocoa sugar mixture and roll to coats. Place finished candy ball on prepared baking sheet. Repeat this step until all dough has been used.
  • Place baking sheet in the freezer for 1 hour so that candy can set. While candy sets, place any remaining cocoa powder mixture into a sealable container.
  • Once bourbon balls have set, transfer them to the container with the cocoa sugar mixture. Seal the lid, then shake to give the candy a fresh coating of cocoa sugar.
  • For best results, keep candies refrigerated until ready to serve. Before serving, give the container another shake to refresh cocoa sugar coating.


Serving: 1bourbon ball | Calories: 103kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 40mg | Potassium: 54mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 3IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 6mg | Iron: 1mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating


    • Emma

    This was A great recipe. I ran into some issues as I was making them
    I didn’t have vanilla wafers so I did use what I had in my home and that was Ginger snaps, they blended well did everything as it was to follow instructions my pinch cane when I did not have any bourbon we do not drink but I did have my Little bottle of flavoring which was bourbon I added that to the syrup and it was coming along but needed something else to get it a little bit moist so what I had was condensed milk I opened it up and added that to be the quarter of a cup of bourbon mix it all well and begin to make the “bourbon balls “and they came out amazing sorry for some changes but every cook has that moment when you don’t have and you have to substitute haha I am taking them to a Christmas gathering

    • sherry

    can these be frozen before rolling in cocoa.

    • Kay

    I use the recipe in the Kentucky Hospitality Cookbook. The recipe calls for powdered sugar, bourbon, nuts and chocolate

    • Kim
    • 5 stars

    I use 3/4 cup bourbon for a real KICK!!

    • Jessica
    • 5 stars

    These look so GOOD! I’m totally making them for Preakness this year. Also, love the step-by-step photos.

    • Dini
    • 5 stars

    Ah, these look and sound so decadent! Dark chocolate truffles with a hint of booze is a combo that I can get behind any time of the year too! 🙂 Can’t wait to make these.