Bourbon Pecan Butter Balls

This variation on a southern classic is lighter and less sweet than tradition usually dictates. My friend Skip Dye, who grew up in the South, says these are the best he has ever tasted, partly because the bourbon is not overwhelming.

The vanilla essence version can be eaten right away but the marvelous bourbon variety is even more delicious when allowed to mellow for at least a day. If you love the flavor of bourbon as much as Skip and I do, but find it too harsh to drink straight, these are for you.

Mellowing time: at least 24 hours; up to several weeks
room temperature volume ounces grams
Chocolate Oriolos or 1 recipe
packaged chocolate wafers* 9-ounce package 13.5 ounces 383 grams
pecan halves cups 5.25 ounces 150 grams
powdered sugar cups (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) 5 ounces 144 grams
cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed ½ cup (lightly spooned into the cup and leveled off) 1.66 ounces 46 grams
unsalted butter 4 tablespoons 2 ounces 57 grams
corn syrup ¼ liquid cup 3 ounces 82 grams
bourbon (or 3 to 4 tablespoons water + 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract) 3 to 4 tablespoons
sugar ¾ cup 5.25 ounces 150 grams

*Homemade cookies result in moister, softer and more delicious bourbon balls.


Use a food processor or blender to pulverize the cookies (in several batches) into fine crumbs. Empty them into a large bowl.

Food Processor Method

Process the pecans with the powdered sugar and cocoa until finely ground. Add the butter and corn syrup and process until combined. Add this mixture to the cookie crumbs.

Hand Method

Soften the butter and finely grate the nuts. Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa into the bowl with the cookie crumbs. Add the butter, nuts and corn syrup.

Both Methods

Add 3 tablespoons of the bourbon (or 3 tablespoons of the water and the vanilla) to the cookie crumb mixture. Mix well, adding the remaining tablespoon of liquid if the mixture is too dry to hold together.

Allow the mixture to sit for 30 minutes to absorb the liquid evenly. Add more liquid if necessary.

To roll, use 1 level tablespoon of the mixture and press and roll it between your palms to shape into a ball.

To coat the balls with sugar topping, place the sugar in a small bowl. Add one ball at a time and roll it around in the sugar. The coating is most attractive when the balls are dipped three times. Redip after the sugar starts to disappear.

Place in an airtight container, and allow the balls to mellow for 24 hours or up to several weeks before serving.