These irresistible chocolate-covered gluten-free rum balls are festive, fun, and perfect for boozy adult parties and New Year’s Eve celebrations. This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosures.
My Aunt Ayala is a phenomenal baker; every year, she makes rum balls for the holidays. While this boozy adult dessert should be enjoyed by those over 21 years old, when I was a child, my parents would let me sneak an alluring rum ball or two on the sly.
Aunt Ayala’s rum balls, which are filled with delicious gluten-y vanilla wafers, were suddenly off-limits to gluten-challenged me. Now, if I wanted to enjoy rum balls, I would have to learn how to make them myself.
While I have fond memories of eating Aunt Ayala’s famous chocolate rum balls, my gluten-free rum balls are pretty darn good, too; only mine are made without gluten and are safe for someone who must avoid the sticky protein.
Rum Ball Ingredients
To make gluten-free rum balls, you’ll need the following ingredients, all of which you can find at your local grocery store or online:
Vanilla Wafers: Kinnikinnick makes gluten-free vanilla wafers that work beautifully in this recipe. You’ll need 24 wafers, equivalent to 72 grams or about 1 cup of crushed wafers.
Good substitutes for vanilla wafers include gluten-free graham crackers, gluten-free animal crackers, and gluten-free shortbread cookies. Some people use almond flour, but I don’t. If you want to make them with almond flour, I suggest looking for a different recipe.
Nuts: I’ve made this recipe with both walnuts and pecans and netted similar results. You’ll need 40 grams of crushed nuts, equivalent to about 1/3 cup.
Confectioner’s Sugar: You’ll need 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, which is equivalent to 30 grams.
Cocoa Powder: This recipe uses 2 tsp or 10 grams of unsweetened cocoa powder. If you want to use cacao powder, you can, but the rum balls may be more bitter and less sweet.
Rum: Bring on the rum flavor! You’ll use about 1/4 cup of rum for this recipe. Rum is typically derived from cane sugar and is gluten-free. Avoid rum that includes coloring, spices, and flavors, which may not be gluten-free. Read my Guide to Gluten-Free Alcohol for more information. Brandy makes a good rum substitute in a pinch.
Corn Syrup: Add 1 tbsp or 15 ml of Karo corn syrup to this recipe. If corn syrup isn’t your thing, honey or maple syrup works well too.
Vanilla Extract: Add 1/2 tsp of vanilla to embolden the flavor of the rum balls.
Chocolate: To make my rum balls taste more like my Aunt Ayala’s rum balls, I updated my original recipe to coat them in chocolate. I used 1 cup of Ghirardelli 73% cacao dark chocolate baking chips that I melted over a double boiler.
How to Make Gluten-Free Rum Balls
Step #1: Crush the Vanilla Wafers and Nuts: Grind the wafers and nuts into a fine crumble using a food processor, or add the ingredients to a bag and roll a rolling pin over it to crush everything as finely as possible.
Step #2: Combine the Ingredients: Add the vanilla wafers, nuts, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, rum, corn syrup, and vanilla extract to a large bowl and mix everything with a spatula until well combined.
Step #3: Shape Rum Balls: Using a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon or a melon baller, form 21 evenly shaped rum balls. You can use slightly wet hands to prevent the rum balls from sticking to your hands when rolling. Place the rum balls on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Tip! Make small balls. When you coat them with chocolate, they will become much larger. A melon baller will help you size them just-right.
Step #4: Coat the Rum Balls with Sugar or Chocolate:
At this point, you have two options:
- You can roll the rum balls in granulated sugar, sparkling sugar, or confectioner’s sugar, then place them on a cookie sheet and refrigerate them.
- (Preferable method): Place the balls in your freezer for 30 minutes to firm up before rolling them in melted chocolate. Place them in the fridge again once they’re coated with melted chocolate.
For years, I just rolled them in sparkling sugar and called it a day, but today, I enjoy coating them with chocolate. The chocolate adds sweetness and makes them feel more like the chocolate-coated rum balls Aunt Ayala used to make.
Optional Peppermint Topping: You can jazz up these ordinary chocolate-covered rum balls by adding a little icing or white chocolate and crushed candy canes on top.
To make the white icing topping, either melt white chocolate and drizzle it on top of the chocolate balls using a piping bag or combine 3-4 tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar with 1 tsp of water (more, if needed) until you get a thick but pourable consistency. Drizzle the icing over the top of the chocolate balls using a piping bag, then top with crushed candy canes while the chocolate or icing is still wet.
Once the chocolate and icing have hardened, store them in a zip-top bag or airtight container in your fridge until you’re ready to serve them. They freeze well and last for 4-6 months in your freezer.
Why We Love Rum Balls
They Make For a Festive Dessert: Rum balls are the perfect Christmas or New Year’s Eve dessert. They’re festive and fun and may leave you with a little buzz.
They’re Easy to Make: This recipe requires no baking, and the rum balls come together in minutes.
Everyone Loves ‘Em: Show up with rum balls at your next adult party, and everyone will be crushing on you.
Make them Ahead of Time: This is a dessert you can make days in advance because the longer they sit, the more the wafer cookies soak up the rum and the boozier they taste. I recommend serving them cold vs. room temperature.
What Rum Do You Recommend? You can use any rum that is distilled and unflavored. Light rum has a sweeter and more subtle flavor, while dark rum may have a bolder rum flavor.
Vegan Option? To make vegan rum balls, use vegan dairy-free chocolate or skip the chocolate altogether and coat the rum balls in granulated sugar, sparkling sugar, or powdered sugar.
Toppings: As you can see, I topped my rum balls with crushed candy canes, but you could also top it with crushed chocolate bits, chocolate sprinkles, sanding sugar, shredded coconut, or anything that fits your fancy.
Alcohol-Free Version? If you don’t want to use rum, or you want to make “rum” balls for the kids, I recommend using fruit juice, like orange or grape juice, in lieu of rum. You could also use condensed milk. To give it a rum flavor without alcohol, you could add a few drops of rum extract (optional).
Now For a Health Twist: To add some redeeming nutritional benefits to your rum balls, you could add a small scoop of protein powder to the batter. You may need to adjust the amount of liquid, but you would definitely add a punch of protein. I recommend vanilla or chocolate protein powder for the best flavor.
Happy New Year’s Eve
Enjoy your Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and adult holiday party celebrations with these delicious, intoxicating chocolate-covered gluten-free rum balls. Who knew a simple but classic holiday treat could pack such an amazing chocolatey and boozy punch?!?
As you can tell, I love my Aunt Ayala’s recipes. She also taught me how to make Gluten-Free Rugelach with Apricot Jam & Walnuts too, which I highly recommend, too!
For more classic Christmas recipes and favorite holiday treats, check out my 13+ Easy and Impressive Gluten-Free Holiday Cookies.
Here are a few articles you might enjoy reading, too:
- Is Orgain Protein Powder Gluten-Free? I Tested It For Hidden Gluten
- Are Chocolate Chips Gluten Free?
- Are Candy Canes Gluten Free?
- Guide to Gluten-Free Alcohol
- I Tasted 6 Brands of Gluten-Free Animal Crackers
Gluten-Free Rum Balls
- 72 grams gluten-free vanilla wafers equivalent to 24 Kinnikinnick wafers or 1 cup crushed wafers (see notes)
- 40 grams walnuts or pecans 1/3 cup
- 30 grams confectioner's sugar 1/4 cup
- 10 grams cocoa powder. unsweetened 2 tsp
- 1/4 cup rum
- 1 tbsp corn syrup or honey
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup chocolate chips or baking chips I used Ghirardelli 72% cacoa dark baking chips
- 3 tbsp white chocolate (optional) or icing topping – see directions
- Crush the vanilla wafers and nuts into crumbs using a food processor. Alternatively, you can add the ingredients to a zip-top bag and use your rolling pin to crush the ingredients into fine crumbs.
- In a large bowl, combine the crushed wafers, nuts, confectioners' sugar, and cocoa.
- Add rum, corn syrup, and vanilla extract and mix well until well combined and the mixture holds together when pressed.
- Line a baking sheet or tray with parchment paper. Use a teaspoon or melon baller to form the mixture into 21 small balls, placing each ball onto the parchment paper.
- Place the balls in your freezer for 30-60 minutes to firm up. While the balls are chilling, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Alternatively, place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and melt the chocolate. Roll the balls in the chocolate using a fork, shake off the excess chocolate, then place the coated balls onto the parchment paper. Refrigerate the balls until the chocolate hardens.
- Optional Peppermint Topping: You can jazz up these ordinary chocolate-covered rum balls by adding a little icing or white chocolate topping, along with crushed candy canes.To make the white icing topping, either melt 1/4 cup white chocolate and drizzle it on top of the chocolate balls using a piping bag or combine 3-4 tablespoons of confectioners' sugar with 1 tsp of water (more, if needed) until you get a thick but pourable consistency. Drizzle the icing over the top of the chocolate balls using a piping bag, then top the wet white chocolate or icing with crushed candy canes.
- Once the chocolate and icing have hardened, place the rum balls in a zip-top bag in your fridge until you're ready to serve them. They also freeze well and last for 4-6 months in your freezer.