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. And while this boozy adult dessert should be enjoyed by those over 21 years old, my parents let me sneak an alluring rum ball or two each year.
Fast forward to years later, and of course, I have celiac disease and cannot eat gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and sometimes oats.
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 a rum ball, I would have to learn how to make one myself.
While I have fond memories of eating Aunt Ayala’s famous 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 to gather a few ingredients, including:
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 or gluten-free shortbread cookies.
Nuts: I’ve made this recipe with both walnuts and pecans with similar results. You’ll need 40 grams of 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.
Rum: 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 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 use 1 cup of Ghiradellia 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.
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.
Once the chocolate and icing have hardened, store them 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.
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 even 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 become.
Enjoy your New Year’s Eve and adult party celebrations with these delicious, intoxicating chocolate-covered gluten-free rum balls. Who knew a simple dessert could pack such an amazing chocolatey and boozy punch?!?
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.