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Bourbon Balls

It wouldn’t be The Kentucky Derby without some bourbon! These chocolate dipped Bourbon Balls are the perfect snack to pop in your mouth while you are cheering on your favorite horse and jockey!

overhead picture of bourbon balls on a brown plate

Bourbon Balls

Today kicks off Derby Week around the world. Or maybe just in Kentucky and the rest South! Either way, it’s a week of horses, Mint Juleps, Bourbon, and funky hats.

Brooks’ grandmother, Thelma Lou, has a great recipe for bourbon balls so I thought we could start off Derby Week with these drunken delights!

They are just like my buckeyes with bourbon but a little different filling in the center.

two people at the kentucky derby
Brooks and I had the pleasure of going to the Kentucky Derby in 2013 and it was such an amazing experience.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon Balls

Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, but it is quite expensive. I use Maker’s Mark or Jim Beam for these but feel free to use any bourbon that you like.

Some people prefer the cheaper versions of alcohol for cooking and baking but these bourbon balls are NO-BAKE!

Doesn’t matter, Brooks will kill me if I use one of his “nice” bottles that he collects to make a dessert.

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picture of inside of bourbon ball

Ingredients Needed

  • powdered sugar
  • butter
  • bourbon
  • pecans
  • lime juice

The center of the bourbon balls is a simple mixture of powdered sugar, bourbon, butter, pecans, and a hint of lime juice.

That’s Thelma Lou’s secret ingredient! This little bit of lime juice cuts through all the sugar and butter and evens the flavors out.

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How to make Bourbon Balls

First: Combine the powdered sugar and butter in a bowl until mixed.

Second: Add in your bourbon of choice and stir. Toss in your toasted pecans and lime juice. Mix until you have a consistent dough.

Third: Scoop into 1 inch balls, chill, and dip in chocolate or roll in toasted pecans. Serve responsibly!

For the full recipe and detailed instructions, please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of the post.

After mixing the filling and scooping into tiny balls, feel free to make patty shapes or any other one, a quick dip in dark chocolate seals in all the goodness.

There are quite a few recipes for bourbon, rum, or whiskey balls that don’t have a chocolate coating but I am certainly one for bucking tradition!

When I first started making these, I always dipped them in chocolate. Dark chocolate to be precise because they are sweet enough without adding milk chocolate to them.

I left some naked and rolled the others in leftover chopped pecans that I had hanging around. Once I tried them this way, I fell in love all over again.

Now I can’t decide if I prefer them with or without the chocolate.

I guess I will have to keep eating them until I make up my mind. Do you think that is a good idea? I do!

Derby Week Bourbon Balls with Bourbon Neat

How far in advance can I make them?

You can make these a few weeks in advance. If you are making these more than 1 week in advance I would wait to dip in the chocolate until closer to serving time.

Can I freeze them?

You can freeze the balls but only before you dip them in chocolate. If you are leaving them naked or rolling them in toasted pecans, you can freeze them for up to 3 months.

Can I substitute the bourbon?

Feel free to use rum, vodka, whiskey. To be true to Kentucky tradition, stick with bourbon:)

Bourbon balls are a quick and easy treat to put together, last for weeks, and make a great dessert for Derby Week while you are slamming down Mint Juleps!

close up of bourbon balls

Kentucky Derby Foods

Looking to host a Kentucky Derby Party? Here is a list of Derby party food ideas and some cute decorations!

Among them are my Derby Pie Bites, Derby Pie Brownies, Derby Pie Cheese Ball, and Derby Pie Dip!

kentucky derby food ideas collage

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

bourbon balls that are perfect for Derby Week
overhead shot of bourbon balls on a wood serving dish

No Bake Bourbon Balls

These boozy Bourbon Balls are made with 4 ingredients and are great for your Derby party or your holiday cookie exchange too!
4.32 from 22 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sweets, Desserts and Shooters
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 48 bourbon balls
Calories: 103kcal
Author: Jennifer Stewart


For the bourbon ball filling

  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1.5 sticks butter room temperature
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans toasted

For the chocolate coating


Make the bourbon balls

  • Mix together the butter and sugar.
  • Add the pecans and bourbon.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Scoop or roll into 1 inch balls, or whatever size you choose.
  • Chill for 10 minutes.

Dip your bourbon balls

  • While balls are chillin' melt your chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave.
  • Roll your bourbon balls in the chocolate so all sides are coated or drizzle the chocolate over the top.
  • If you don't want to use chocolate, feel free to roll the bourbon balls in chopped pecans.
  • Place on parchment paper and chill in the fridge until ready to eat!



  • Depending on the humidity level or your environment, you may need to add more powdered sugar to get the mixture to hold together.
  • Just add a little at a time (1/4 cup) until the mixture is easy to handle and just a little bit tacky.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 103kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 50mg | Sugar: 15g

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Recipe Rating

Jerri O'rorke

Sunday 19th of December 2021

These are the best. I have tried other recipes but this by far the easiest and best. I put finely chopped coconut in this recipe and I used Woodford Reserve bourbon. They froze well which made it easy to dip in chocolate without falling apart.


Tuesday 10th of November 2020

Do you think toasted coconut instead of pecans would work and sound good too. Trying to add some variety away from norms to holiday candy making and I do a maple pecan ball and think my usual coconut balls are boring so could jazz those up. Or I could switch to maple walnut I suppose and stick with pecan for these. Opinions?


Thursday 12th of November 2020

I think substituting the toasted coconut will be great! Just make sure that the volume is the same. Toasted coconut flakes tend to be smaller so chop them and measure them after. If you think that they are boring then jazz them up by trying different coatings and see what people gravitate toward. Rolling in toasted coconut, trying cinnamon chips/butterscotch chips, or graham cracker crumbs.


Tuesday 16th of April 2019

I would really love to try these. I noticed you mentioned lime juice, but there is no mention of it in the video or on the recipe card. How much is a “hint”?


Thursday 18th of April 2019

I put up to 2 teaspoons of lime juice in mine if the batter is tasting a little too sweet for me that day but it is totally optional. Thank you!

Diane Slonski

Saturday 11th of August 2018

Can't wait to try, thanks!! ****

Diane Slonski

Saturday 11th of August 2018

Can't wait to try, thanks!! ****