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Add a fun and festive Christmas cookie to your holiday tray! My Grandmother was famous for her no bake Bourbon Balls, which are made with vanilla wafers and just a few other simple ingredients. Every Southern hostess needs this easy recipe!
I’m so excited to share one of my grandmother’s classic Southern recipes — just in time for the holiday season! Trust me: if you set these Kentucky Bourbon Balls out at a Christmas party, they will be the first treat to disappear!
How to Make Bourbon Balls with Vanilla Wafers:
My grandmother wasn’t a huge baker, so I can assure you that this particular recipe is incredibly easy! You’ll need just 5 ingredients: vanilla wafers, walnuts, sweetened condensed milk, bourbon, and powdered sugar. With a list like that, you can’t go wrong!
And since these are no bake bourbon balls, we’re really just combining the ingredients and rolling them into balls! I told you this was simple…
Do Bourbon Balls have alcohol?
Um, yes. And it’s not subtle! You definitely want to use a high quality Kentucky bourbon that you would actually sip on, because the taste of the bourbon comes through in these cookies (and yes, even non-bourbon drinkers like me LOVE them)! We typically go with either Woodford Reserve or Makers Mark Bourbon Balls!
How long can Bourbon Balls be stored?
Here’s the great thing! They last for a LONG time! Unlike other Christmas cookies that get dry, hard, or stale after just a few days on the counter, you can easily prepare a batch of these cookies at least 1-2 weeks in advance and they will stay fresh in the refrigerator.
They will keep in your freezer for at least 1 month.
How to store the cookies:
Make sure that you keep the balls chilled in an airtight container. If you have deep containers, you can store them in layers, separating them with wax paper or parchment.
They’re fine to leave out on a holiday cookie tray for a party, but they tend to get soft if they’re left out for too long. I prefer to keep the balls in my refrigerator, only taking them out when I’m ready to serve them.
To freeze the balls, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then again in foil.
I recommend rolling the cookies in another coating of powdered sugar, just before serving. They’ll look fresh and new again!
You might also like these Christmas cookies:
- Old-Fashioned Williamsburg Gingerbread Cookies
- 3-Ingredient Scottish Shortbread Cookies
- Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies
- No Bake Haystack Cookies
- Great Grandma’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
My Grandmother's Bourbon Balls
- 3 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers I used an entire 11 ounce box
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 cup bourbon
- Powdered sugar, for rolling
- Combine wafer crumbs and nuts in a large bowl. Add condensed milk and bourbon. Blend well. Chill for about 1 hour.
- Pour about 1 cup of powdered sugar into a shallow dish.
- Dip the palms of your hands into the powdered sugar and shape the “dough” by teaspoonfuls into round balls. Roll in powdered sugar.
- Store bourbon balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Made these for three holiday parties and they were a hit at all three! Will use this recipe over and over again. Thanks so much! Very easy , my speed, and I used Jim Beam Bourbon…delicious!
used to make rum balls for xmas… not anymore…these are the new “go to” balls. bless your heart.
That’s great, Bradley! I’m so glad that you love them, too!
I lost my grandma’s recipe for bourbon balls. She used Jack Daniel’s. Loved them! I’ll use this recipe, but I’ll stick with Jack!!! Happy Holidays Y’all!
Sounds perfect, Nina. I hope that these treats bring back great memories! 🙂
Mine turned out very soft, wouldn’t keep their shape. I double checked ingredient amounts, all correct according to the recipe, it just didn’t work for me.
They taste great but they are not holding their shape. I chilled the dough for an hour and that did not help. I even went back to the recipe to double check the amounts and make sure I didn’t omit something. Not sure what the problem is.
Hi, Tricia! Did you measure the finely chopped walnuts after chopping? That’s what you want to do. If you measure out a cup of walnuts before you chop them into fine pieces, it will not be enough nuts. That could be the issue. Otherwise, I have no idea why they wouldn’t hold their shape if all of the other measurements were correct.
These were fantastic! Better and easier than my husbands bourbon balls. I’ll be making these from now on.
Thank you, Marlene!
Hey Blair I followed this recipe and when I was pouring in the sweetened condensed milk it got so soupy that I stopped and only used 1/2 of the can. Is it supposed to be like that? I put it in the fridge for later?…maybe it’ll firm up? Help!
Hi, Theresa! They’re soft before chilling, but the mixture definitely shouldn’t be soupy. Did you use an entire 11 ounce box of Nilla wafers crushed into fine crumbs, along with the cup of finely chopped nuts? So long as you used the proper measurements they should come together perfectly once cool. Otherwise, I have no idea what could have gone wrong. Sorry I can’t be more helpful…I just haven’t had that issue.
Hey Blair, I was just reading the comments about “soupy” and “soft” and was going to ask you anyway about the chopped nuts. You say to use 1c. chopped nuts but to be clear I want to know if it’s 1 cup of chopped or if it’s 1 cup of nuts, chopped. I bought a bag of nuts that is the equivalent of 1 1/2 cups and when I had chopped them super fine I had about two cups. I’m sure it will make a difference so I thought I’d ask. Thank You for sharing your family’s recipe!
Hi, Dorothy! That’s a good point, and it will definitely make a difference! I wonder if some folks measure 1 cup before chopping! In this case, it’s 1 cup of the finely chopped nuts measured after chopping.
I wonder also what ‘vanilla wafers’ people are using!?!? I’m glad I read the comments because I’m Australian and if I was to use vanilla wafers they are so different to nilla wafers. Nilla wafers is like a butter biscuit where wafers in Australia are a very thin crisp airy type biscuit with vanilla frosting sandwich in between layers and would result in a different outcome lol. I’m going to bake some nilla biscuits and try your recipe cause I don’t think I can purchase them here.
Hi, Rebecca! I always use a brand here in the States called “Nilla Wafers.” I had no idea that vanilla wafers are something different in Australia. I’m sure that has caused some confusion. Thank you for clarifying!
I made a batch for a co-worker’s birthday and she loved them! I did add a rounded tablespoon of cocoa powder and a little cinnamon to the dough and I used Wild Turkey for the bourbon (to me it’s smoother). I’m going to try the potato pancakes next ! Thanks for sharing your delicious recipes with us !
Yay! So glad they were a hit, Daisy. Thank you!