Food & Drink

Southern Classic: Bourbon Balls

Makes approximately 50

What’s not to love about bourbon, chocolate, and pecans?

Photo: Margaret Houston

Originally concocted by Ruth Hanly Booe, a Kentuckian who started a chocolate business in 1919, bourbon balls generally come in two forms: One that’s heavy on the chocolate and one that relies more on a cookie base. Dallas pastry chef Rhonda Ruckman counts herself firmly in the chocolate camp. “I wanted to use something different from the traditional vanilla wafers that are crushed and rolled up,” Ruckman says. “I’m an enormous fan of chocolate, so this is more like a truffle with shortbread crushed up into it.” After trying out her recipe, we have to say she has us convinced.

For the chocolate, Ruckman likes to use Valrhona Equatoriale bittersweet, but any good dark chocolate will work just fine. Add in the nuts, a little honey and vanilla, plus, of course, a healthy pour of Kentucky’s finest, and you have a decadent Southern treat worth stacking up for a party or stuffing into a stocking. Just make sure to snag a handful for yourself.


    • 2 cups pecan halves

    • 2 cups shortbread cookies, crushed into crumbs (about 10 oz.)

    • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. heavy cream

    • 4 tbsp. light corn syrup

    • 2 tbsp. honey

    • 9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (Ruckman likes Valrhona Equatoriale 55%)

    • 2 tbsp., plus 1 tsp. bourbon (Ruckman likes Evan Williams Single Barrel or Buffalo Trace)

    • 1 vanilla bean

    • 1/4 cup sugar


  1. Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees until fragrant. Set these aside and allow to cool.

  2. Chop one cup of the pecans into small pieces and add to the shortbread crumbs in a large bowl. Set aside.

  3. In a small sauce pot, heat together the cream, light corn syrup, and honey. Bring to a boil and pour over the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Let stand for one minute and mix to combine. Pour this mixture over the shortbread and pecans, and add the bourbon. Mix thoroughly.

  4. Chill mixture for one hour in the refrigerator.

  5. While mixture chills, slice a vanilla bean in half and scrape out the vanilla inside. Add to sugar and mix together. Chop the remaining pecans finely and add to the vanilla-sugar. Set aside.

  6. Form the chilled crumb mixture into small balls with a teaspoon and roll them through the pecan-vanilla-sugar. Enjoy immediately or store in a sealed container for up to 5 days.