Rich in rum flavor and a sweet slightly crunchy texture makes these Old Fashioned Rum Balls a traditional confection at every Christmas gathering. Made using classic ingredients such as spiced rum, vanilla wafers, cocoa, and powdered sugar.
Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s was filled with traditions of competitive games of Bingo with the grand prize being chocolate-covered cherries, off-brand sodas, and bad beer. Always present though were the rum balls. They were super dense and chocolate but also laced with tons of spiced rum. My cousin and I always took every opportunity to sneak as many as we could.
When I asked her for the recipe she responded with a framed picture of the family rum ball recipe. At my age, I should have this recipe memorized, but I’m sharing it here so I never lose it. Perhaps I should also get a framed picture of it.
If you love these old fashioned rum balls then try these chocolate rum balls next.
Ingredients in Rum Balls
There are many variations to rum balls, but this recipe has some of the most basics and traditional ingredients combine.
- Vanilla Wafers: the vanilla wafers add a sweet sturdiness to the rum balls and are crushed in a food processor so each bite is smooth.
- Powdered Sugar: using powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar keeps the dough of each ball smooth instead of grainy. The powdered sugar is also used to coat your hands to help roll them into balls.
- Cocoa Powder: adding a hint of chocolate and a little bitterness to cut the sweet is key and using cocoa powder is the best option.
- Chopped Pecans: adding the pecans is optional and you can add any type of chopped nut you prefer.
- Light Corn Syrup: adding the corn syrup smooths out the ingredients and keeps them together.
- Spiced Rum: the key ingredient is to use spiced rum or regular rum instead of using a rum extract. If you’d prefer these to not have real rum though you can use a rum extract.
How to Make Old Fashioned Rum Balls
- Crush the Wafers: place the vanilla wafers into a food processor and pulse until a fine grain forms.
- Mix Ingredients: combined the crushed wafers, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and chopped pecans in a large bowl. Add in the corn syrup and rum.
- Shape: dust your hands with powdered sugar and roll the dough into 1-inch sized balls. Coat each ball in sprinkles or your favorite topping.
What is the Best Rum to Use for Rum Balls
This does come down to personal preference, but I prefer to use a higher quality rum since you’ll be able to taste it well in these rum balls. I also like to use a spiced rum like Captain Morgan’s or Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum.
How to Store Rum Balls
You can easily store these old fashioned rum balls in an air-tight container at room temperature. They’ll last up to 1 week.
Can rum balls be made in advance?
Yes, you can prepare the rum balls 3 to 4 days before you plan on serving them.
Can I freeze rum balls?
Yes. In order to freeze these old-fashioned rum balls make them as directed by the recipe, but do not roll them in a coating. Then place the balls into an air-tight freezer-safe container or plastic bag.
Variations of Rum Balls
There are many recipes for rum balls and this is just one my family has kept for many years. One way we like to change it up is by rolling the balls in a different coating. Below are some delicious variations.
- Shredded Sweetened Coconut Flakes
- Cocoa Powder
- Powdered Sugar
How to Make the Rum Balls Rounder
Because there’s a good amount of rum and corn syrup in this recipe these old-fashioned rum balls are super soft and don’t hold a perfectly round shape. In order to make them more sturdy, you can decrease the amount of rum to 1/4 cup and add 2 to 3 more ounces of crushed vanilla wafers.
Old Fashioned Rum Balls
- 11 ounces Vanilla Wafers one whole box
- 1 cup Powdered Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder
- 1 cup Chopped Pecans optional
- 1/2 cup Light Corn Syrup
- 1/4 cup Spiced Rum
- 1/2 cup Sprinkles optional
- Place the vanilla wafers into a food processor and pulse until the wafers are ground into a fine grain-line mix. Alternatively, you can place the vanilla wafers into a gallon-sized plastic bag and crush them with a kitchen mallet or potato masher to crush them.
- In a large bowl mix the crushed vanilla wafers, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and nuts if using until well combined.
- Add the corn syrup and rum to the mixture and fold the ingredients together until a soft grainy dough forms.
- Dust your hands with powdered sugar and roll a 1-inch sized portion of the dough into the shape of a small ball.
- Pour the sprinkles (or other toppings) into a small bowl and roll each ball into the topping until the ball is fully coated. Repeat until all the dough is used. The dough is very sticky so you may need to repeat dusting your hands with powdered sugar.