Rum balls are a classic no bake holiday treat! Made with just a few simple ingredients, they are rich, chocolatey, boozy, festive, and come together so quickly! A must on any holiday cookie platter.
Come December, there are copious amounts of butter and sugar in my kitchen! I love making homemade treats for my family to enjoy, and even more so, making them as holiday gifts. Many friends come to mind who would love to get a box of these rum balls, and I’m happy to oblige – they are so tasty and easy to make.
What makes rum balls so great:
Quick: the mixture comes together in mere minutes.
Easy: no special skills or elaborate tools needed.
Make-ahead: they can (and should!) be made ahead of time.
No bake: no oven needed for these gems.
Adaptable: the ingredients can easily be adjusted to suit your tastes.
Serves a lot: this recipe makes 50! Woot.
Tastes great: they are delicious, bite-sized boozy flavor bombs.
So pretty: perfect for holiday parties and gift giving.
Rum Balls Recipe
(For exact measurements, scroll down to the detailed, easy printable recipe card.) Ingredients you need:
- Pecans: toasting the nuts is optional, but highly recommended! It adds another layer of flavor.
- Cookies: we’re using Nilla wafers for this particular recipe.
- Rum: you’ll want a spiced dark rum. (See notes on rum below.)
- Honey: honey is the most flavorful choice, but you can use light corn syrup or agave nectar instead, if desired.
- Powdered Sugar: light, fluffy, and dissolves easily. Don’t use granulated sugar or the balls will be grainy.
- Cocoa Powder: for a full rich chocolate flavor and dark color.
- Kosher salt: just a little, to balance the sweetness.
How to Make Rum Balls
- Toast the pecans: optional, but highly recommended.
- Blitz the cookies and pecans in a food processor, separately.
- Sift the dry ingredients.
- Mix the wet ingredients.
- Combine everything into a dough.
- Form 1-inch balls and roll half the balls in powdered sugar and half in cocoa powder.
- Chill for a couple days for best flavor, serve, and enjoy!
What to Coat Rum Balls in
There are so many coating options – powdered sugar and cocoa powder are the most traditional and what I usually use because I love how pretty the contrasting colors look on a platter. But I’ve also rolled the balls in sprinkles, sanding sugar, crushed up nuts, crushed up cookies, and shredded coconut, or even dip them in melted chocolate! Since this recipe makes 50, it’s fun and delicious to do a variety of different toppings.
NOTE: It’s best to roll the balls in the powered sugar and cocoa powder just after they’re formed. Once the exterior dries, they will not pick up as much coating. Also, powdered sugar tends to absorb while in the fridge, so you’ll want to re-roll them before serving to freshen them up.
Nuts: Replace the pecans with a different nut. Almond, walnuts, and pistachios are all great.
Cookies: Use graham crackers and a splash of vanilla instead of the Nilla wafers, or try a combination of Nilla wafers and ginger snaps.
Alcohol: Swap out the rum with bourbon or whiskey. Malibu coconut rum is delish if you also plan to coat your rum balls with shredded coconut.
Non-Alcoholic: Replace the alcohol with orange juice or apple juice.
All About the Rum
I recommend using a spiced dark rum. Dark rums are processed from molasses and help give these treats their classic, rich flavor. Use a brand that you’d enjoy drinking, but don’t feel like you have to get anything expensive or fancy.
The rum in these treats is not cooked, so the alcohol remains. And yes, they do taste like spice rum with a kick, so they are not for anyone under age.
Can you get drunk off of rum balls? Very unlikely. Because the 1/3 cup+ rum in these balls is combined with other ingredients and made into so many individual balls, unless you eat all 50 by yourself, the chance of you getting drunk is extremely low.
If you don’t like rum or need to avoid any alcohol, I would refer to some of my suggested variations above.
How to Store Rum Balls
One of my favorite things about this recipe is you can (and should!) make them in advance. The longer they sit in the fridge, the more time the crushed up cookies in the balls have to absorb the great rum flavor, so the better they taste!
Do rum balls need to be refrigerated? If stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry area, they do not need to be refrigerated. However, I highly recommend storing them in the fridge – they will hold together better, last longer, and taste so much better. They will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Serve them chilled or let them thaw on the counter.
Can rum balls be frozen? Yep! Flash freeze on a baking sheet in a single layer until solid, then transfer them to an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature overnight. Before serving, re-roll them in powdered sugar to freshen them up.
Watch them Being Made
These are moist, chewy, crunchy, full of complex, awesome flavors and everyone loves them. Include them on a dessert tray and they’ll be the first to go!
Other Classic Holiday Candy
Classic Rum Balls
- 1 cup pecans
- 2 cups Nilla wafer cookies
- 1 cup powdered sugar (plus ¼ cup for rolling)
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (plus ¼ cup for rolling)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons spiced dark rum
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast for about 6-8 minutes until browned and fragrant, stirring the pecans halfway through. Set aside to cool.
- Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs; transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the cooled, toasted pecans to bowl of the food processor and pulse into fine bits (don't over-process or you'll end up with paste!); transfer to the bowl with the cookie crumbs.
- Sift the 1 cup powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, and salt over the bowl with the cookies/pecans and whisk everything together.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the rum and honey until the honey is completely dissolved; add to the bowl with the cookies/pecans and mix until completely combined.
- Squeeze a bit of the mixture and if it seems a bit dry, slowly add up to 1 tablespoon of water (or more rum) so that it holds together.
- (If you find the batter extremely sticky, you can chill it for about 20 minutes before forming the balls.)
- Use a cookie scoop to form the mixture into 1-inch balls, rolling them in the palms of your hands.
- Coat half the balls in the extra powdered sugar and the other half in the extra cocoa powder.
- For ideal flavor, transfer to the fridge for 2-3 days before serving. Re-roll in the powdered sugar to fresh up.