Yes, you can taste the rum in Grandma’s Rum Balls! They’re an easy, no-bake cookie that everyone will love.
Every Christmas, my grandma made old fashioned Rum Balls. And everyone LOVED them. They’re packed with chocolate, walnuts, and of course, rum!
Grandma’s ancestors were from Germany, so this recipe is likely German.
Here’s a look at grandma’s typewriter-written recipe:
I refined the recipe only slightly, adding clarification for ingredients and instructions.
I love making these every year for guests, and I’ve entered them a few times in Christmas cookie exchanges (see my guide here on How to Host a Cookie Exchange!).
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The best rum for rum balls
These old fashioned Rum Balls get get their name from the addition of ⅓ cup of rum. I used Bacardi White Rum, which is about $12 for an entire bottle. You can definitely taste the rum, so don’t purchase a super cheap variety.
Choose whatever rum you like. If you’t not a regular rum drinker, I recommend getting Bacardi—it’s good without being overly expensive.
You can use spiced rum or even bourbon in place of the white rum, if you’d like.
- Semi-sweet chocolate chips make these balls extra chocolate-y. You could also use dark chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate chips.
- You’ll need granulated sugar both for the rum ball mixture and for rolling the balls.
- White rum is best for this recipe. Spiced rum or bourbon work, too.
- Grandma’s recipe calls for walnuts. Pecans are good, too! Make sure they are very finely chopped.
How to make rum balls
Start by placing the vanilla wafers in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the wafers are in fine crumbs. Alternatively, place the wafers in a large zip-top bag, seal, and crush the wafers using a rolling pin or meat mallet.
If you’re using a food processor, you can also use it to chop the walnuts into very small pieces. Otherwise, a knife and a cutting board work great for chopping the walnuts.
Next, microwave the chocolate chips in 30 second intervals until melted. Stir in between each 30 second interval so the chocolate chips melt evenly.
Stir in the sugar, rum, and corn syrup.
Tip: when measuring the corn syrup, spray the measuring spoon with cooking spray—the corn syrup will slide right out!
Then, stir in the vanilla wafer crumbs and walnuts. Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to roll the rum balls, place ⅓ cup of granulated sugar in a shallow dish. Scoop the dough into 1 inch pieces, roll with your hands until round, and roll in the sugar.
I find that a cookie scoop/ice cream scoop with a release lever is the easiest way to scoop out the dough. I have this cookie scoop, which I fill about halfway with dough to create 1 inch balls.
Tip: if the dough is too firm to scoop, let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then try again. It will continue to soften as it sits.
If the dough is too wet (and sticks to your hands), add another tablespoon of crushed wafers and try again. If it’s too dry, add a few teaspoons of rum.
Rum Ball variations
White sugar is a very traditional topping for Rum Balls. That’s what Grandma used, so that’s what I prefer.
Here are a few more ideas for what to roll them in:
- Cocoa powder
- Powdered sugar
- Very finely chopped coconut (also known as desiccated coconut)
- Chocolate sprinkles
- Colored sprinkles (red and green would be pretty!)
If you use powdered sugar, you will likely need to re-roll the rum balls after a few days, as the powdered sugar gets absorbed into the ball.
Make it ahead & freezing
Rum Balls are great for making ahead of time. The flavor improves as they sit!
They will keep, tightly covered, at room temperature for at least one week, and up to several weeks in the refrigerator.
You can also freeze rum balls for up to 2 months in a resealable freezer bag, or another freezer-safe container.
Frequently Asked Questions
Instead of white rum, try using bourbon to create bourbon balls! You can also use spiced rum if you like the taste of it.
To crush vanilla wafers, place them in a large zip-top bag and seal the bag. Pound the bag with a meat mallet or rolling pin to crush the wafers. It might take a few minutes, but they will turn to crumbs eventually!
To make rum balls that are nut-free, simply omit the nuts. You do not need to change anything else about the recipe. It will yield fewer rum balls but they will still be really delicious.
The answer to this question is up to you! The recipe calls for ⅓ cup rum, and it makes 42 rum balls. Each rum ball contains approximately ⅓ of a TEASPOON of rum. I ate them as a kid, and I turned out ok, I think! 😉
You would have to eat a LOT of rum balls to feel the effects. Each rum ball contains approximately ⅓ of a teaspoon of rum.
Tips for giving rum balls as a gift
Rum Balls make a delightful holiday gift! Here are a few ideas for gifting:
- Place them in a holiday tin, lined with parchment paper or wax paper
- Decorative bakery boxes are an easy way to gift a lot of rum balls
- Grab a pretty plate from Homegoods or another home store, and drop them off with the neighbors
More holiday cookie recipes
This season, I’m sharing six of my grandmothers’ old fashioned Christmas cookie recipes. I hope you enjoy them as much as our family has throughout the years!
- Grandma’s Do Re Mi Cookies—nutty and tangy…I adore these
- Grandma’s Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread—so festive (and buttery!)
- Grandma’s Cocoa Drops—a must-make for chocolate lovers
- Classic Ginger Cookies—these are SO soft and chewy!
- Snowball Cookies—a holiday classic
- 7 Layer Bars—super easy and everyone loves them
- Old Fashioned Spritz Cookies—so festive and fun!
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
Grandma’s Rum Balls
- 1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup white rum
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 50 vanilla wafers (about 2 cups when crushed)
- 1 cup walnuts, very finely chopped
- Granulated sugar for rolling
- Place the vanilla wafers in the bowl of a food processor or in a zip-top bag. Process or crush with a rolling pin until the wafers are fine crumbs.
- Place the chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until melted.
- Stir in the sugar, rum, and corn syrup. Fold in the vanilla wafers and nuts. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar.
- Store in an airtight container.