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Traditional rum balls recipe

This traditional rum balls recipe is a tasty treat for grown-ups. This easy, no bake recipe comes together in no time and because the flavor develops even more overnight, it’s the perfect make ahead sweet. Old fashioned rum balls are always a hit at holiday parties.

Traditional rum balls in red dish.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without these old fashioned rum balls. They are as much a part of our holiday treats as gingerbread, buckeyes and sugar cookies. This recipe makes 5 dozen, so it is great for cookie exchanges and gift-giving.

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Why you should make this recipe

  • Fast & Easy – The recipe only takes about 30 minutes to make.
  • Versatile – I have over a dozen flavors of rum ball recipes – you can easily make swaps to change the flavors!
  • Make ahead – The flavor develops even more overnight, making these the perfect make ahead no bake cookie.

Traditional rum balls recipe

There are plenty of variations out there for making this no-bake treat. You can use vanilla wafer cookies, or chocolate cookies. You can make them with or without cocoa.

Old fashioned rum balls on white plate.

Rum balls can be rolled in anything from regular sugar or powdered sugar to nonpareils or colored sanding sugar for a more festive look. As long as they are boozy, you are doing it right.


  • Vanilla wafer cookies
  • Pecans
  • Powdered sugar
  • Salt
  • Allspice
  • Dark rum
  • Light corn syrup
  • Granulated sugar

How to make rum balls

This traditional rum balls recipe is very easy to make. If you don’t have a food processor, place pecans and cookies in a zip-top plastic bag and break up with a rolling pin.

Step by step photo instructions.
  1. Combine vanilla wafer cookies and pecans in bowl of a food processor. Grind cookies and pecans until they look like coarse sand.
  2. Add rum, corn syrup and spices to bowl, then add cookie and nut mixture. Cover and refrigerate rum ball mixture.
  3. Using a small cookie scoop, portion rum balls and roll into smooth balls.
  4. Toss in sugar mixture and place on parchment-lined sheet pan.
No bake rum balls in red candy dish.

Easy rum balls Q&A

Do traditional rum balls need to be refrigerated?

Rum balls do not need to be refrigerated, but they should be stored in a cool area. Refrigerating them will extend the life of them.

Can I make these with bourbon?

Traditionally, Kentucky bourbon balls are made with cocoa or chocolate. However, some people make a recipe exactly like this one substituting bourbon for rum.

Can I use flavored rum?

Absolutely! You can use flavored rum – I used coconut rum for a tropical coconut rum balls recipe!

How long will rum balls stay fresh?

If kept in an airtight container in the fridge, they will last a few weeks.

Last year, I had mine in the refrigerator for three weeks before they were all gone and they were still perfectly fine.

For this reason, these are a great make ahead treat for the holidays. After I’ve portioned out whatever I need for cookie exchanges or gifts, I keep the rest of refrigerated for friends who pop over during the holidays.

Sugar coated rum balls in red bowl.

Personally, if I can feel like I’m having a drink and eating a cookie at the same time, I’m in. Therefore, my cookies definitely taste like rum.

Variations and substitutions

  • I don’t put cocoa powder in my rum balls, but if you want them to have just a touch of cocoa flavor, add 2 tablespoons with the powdered sugar in the dough.
  • Another possibility would be to add a bit of cocoa powder to your sugar mixture and roll them in a cocoa sugar blend.

Easy rum balls for Christmas

As my mom says, this traditional rum balls recipe will make your eyes twirl. And let’s face it, as wonderful as Christmas is, sometimes it’s also very stressful.

We are all juggling so many things during this hectic time of year. We need an easy rum balls recipe that can be whipped up with little effort and not much time. The most time consuming part of this recipe is waiting to eat them.

For some seasonal variations, try these peppermint rum balls and gingerbread rum balls too!

No bake rum cookies on plate.

Helpful tools and equipment

Here are a few suggested products to make these even easier.

  • Cookie scoop – so the rum balls are all uniform in size. I used a tablespoon-sized scoop to portion mine.
  • Red serving bowl – so festive!
  • Food processor – makes quick work of these. It is one of the most utilized tools in my kitchen.
  • Food scale – so useful! This is the one I own.

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More Rum Ball Variations:

Yield: 60 pieces

Traditional Rum Balls Recipe

Traditional Rum Balls Recipe

This easy, traditional rum balls recipe is a tasty no bake treat for grown ups.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Additional Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes


  • 12 ounces vanilla wafer cookies, 1 box of cookies
  • 1 1/4 cup pecans, toasted
  • 1.5 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp allspice, ground
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar


  1. In the bowl of a food processor, process vanilla wafers and pecans until finely ground. Set aside. (You may have to do this batches if you have a smaller food processor)
  2. In a large bowl, sift together 1 cup powdered sugar, salt and allspice.
  3. Stir in rum and corn syrup.
  4. Add vanilla wafers and pecans. Mix well.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Combine remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and granulated sugar in a shallow bowl and set aside.
  6. Scoop out tablespoon portions, roll into balls and toss to coat in sugar mixture.
  7. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.


If you have time, chill them overnight.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 66Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 44mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 0gSugar: 7gProtein: 0g

Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.

Did you make this recipe?

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  1. I’ve never heard of this tradition before! I bet my hubby would LOVE them. Can’t wait to share them with him and his family this Christmas.

  2. “As long as they are boozy, you are doing it right.”

    THIS IS (one of the many reasons) WHY WE ARE FRIENDS! I’ve never made a rum or bourbon ball before, so clearly, I need to fix that this holiday season. Because you know how I feel about booze and baked goods and celebrations. 😉

    Thank you so much for participating in this year’s exchange and joining us in sharing some cookies and spreading the love!

    1. Thank you so much, Erin! There are so many reasons why we’re friends 🙂
      Booze and baked goods will bind us forever!

  3. OMG! Used bourbon and everyone loved them!! We will make these again! Almost couldn’t let them leave… can’t eat these and drive??

  4. I have only had the “traditional” rum balls so I was excited to see all of the variations you have suggested. Sound so good.

    1. Hi Karen, YES!! They freeze like a dream 🙂
      You might want to re-roll in powdered sugar to make them party-ready again, though.

    1. Hi Misha,Yes you can! Keep in mind that maple syrup is sweeter than corn syrup (and a little thinner). So, you *may* have to adjust cookies/nuts just a smidge for your personal preference.

    1. Hi Judy! Honestly, whatever I have in the cabinet at the time 🙂 I’ve used Gosling’s black rum and Appleton’s reserve (that one is an amber rum). For bourbon – I use Bulleit or Woodford. Let me know what you think!

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