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Betty Lou’s Bourbon Balls

The holidays are not about moderation. They’re a time for caloric comfort and sweet nostalgia, for preparing and sharing confections of butter, sugar and booze. Bourbon balls perfectly encapsulate this indulgent trinity, a melt-in-your-mouth reminder of pure holiday joy. Kentucky native and food writer Lynn Marie Hulsman shares the recipe made by her mother, Betty Lou. “My mother never made a dozen or so bourbon balls; she made legions of them,” Hulsman says. “I always thought it was because so many members of our huge extended family were begging her for heavy tins full of the boozy confections. This is probably true. My mother’s bourbon balls were legendary, and the appreciation for them was ample.” 


Yield:About 2 dozen
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature 
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. bourbon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • Whole pecans, to garnish
  • Tools:Large mixing bowl, fork, spoon, 2 large baking sheets, waxed paper, double-boiler or microwave-safe bowl, toothpicks


In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, bourbon, chopped pecans and vanilla with a fork until smooth. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or overnight.  

Roll the candy into 1- to 2-inch balls, working quickly so the mixture doesn’t melt from the heat of your hands. Transfer the balls to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, then freeze them overnight. 

Slowly heat the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave until just melted, then stir until smooth.  

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Remove the balls from the freezer. Spear candy ball with a toothpick and dip into the melted chocolate to coat, using a spoon if easierRoll off the excess chocolate and transfer each ball to the baking sheet. Use a second toothpick to gently push the candy off the dipping toothpick.  

Top the ball with a pecan half, covering the toothpick mark, then repeat with the remaining balls. Move the baking sheet to the refrigerator to cool until the chocolate has set. 

TIP: To keep the candy from becoming too soft, work in smaller quantities. Melt the chocolate in batches, and only remove as many balls from the freezer and you can work with at one time. Once set, the bourbon balls will keep in a cool, dark container for up to a month, or longer in the freezer.   

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