These decadent Nanaimo Bars are a no bake, triple layer treat that originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. 

If you’re a fan of chocolate, vanilla custard, nuts and coconut, this recipe is for you! Fair warning, they’re super addictive and a quite rich!

Nanaimo Bars

I told myself I wasn’t going to do this…

I’m only in Canada temporarily, so I didn’t want to make any recipes that were specific to this region, but my good friend insisted that I make these infamous Nanaimo Bars and share them on my blog. She handed me her grandmother’s recipe, and well… I couldn’t resist.

What Are Nanaimo Bars?

I had heard of these Nanaimo Bars, but didn’t really know what they were and certainly had never tasted them before.

So what are they??

They are  a triple layer, NO BAKE, {insanely rich} dessert that is named after a city (Nanaimo) in British Columbia, Canada.

Chocolate Nanaimo Bar Recipe

I personally find these Nanaimo Bars to be a tad labor intensive, but totally worth it.

You’ll find yourself using the double boiler method twice. Once while making the “crust layer” and again when making the chocolate ganache that tops this decadent treat.

It’s important to use the double boiler method for the crust because you’re adding an egg, and you’ll need to cook it over the indirect heat in order to make sure you’re not consuming any raw eggs.

Layer One – The Crust:

The first layer is a chocolatey mixture filled with graham cracker crumbs, sweetened coconut flakes, and chopped walnuts.

Two pictures in one showing how to make a double broiler

To start off – you’ll melt butter, sugar and cocoa powder together over a double boiler.

Once it’s a smooth chocolate consistency, you’ll add in some crushed graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut and chopped walnuts.

Nanaimo Bar Crust

Nanaimo Bar Crust Variations –

Try these variations for a different take on the traditional Nanaimo bar recipe.

  • Instead of graham cracker crumbs try Nilla wafer crumbs.
  • Toasted coconut instead of raw coconut.
  • Substitute any chopped nut for the walnuts.

chocolate crust in pan with parchment paper

Press the chocolate mixture into a lined 8″x8″ pan and place in the fridge to chill while you make the middle vanilla custard layer.

Layer Two – The Custard Filling:

This middle layer is like a vanilla custard and buttercream icing combination.

The recipe calls for a “custard powder” which I had never heard of before, but sure enough, I found it in the baking isle of my Canadian grocery store.

  • Mix up the vanilla custard layer similar to how you would a buttercream frosting, spread over the crust layer, then place in the fridge to chill.

PRO TIP: Order yourself some vanilla custard powder on Amazon here.

Substitution for Custard Powder –

Custard powder might not be available in the US, but I have read that using a vanilla pudding mix in place will yield similar results.

spatula in baking dish

Layer Three – The Chocolate Ganache

The final step is to make a smooth and silky chocolate ganache that is poured over the top of the vanilla custard layer.

  • Prepare the chocolate ganache using a double boiler method, so you do not scorch any chocolate.
  • Combine semi-sweet chocolate squares in a metal or glass bowl along with butter and heavy cream.
  • Whisk over a pot of hot water just until the mixture is smooth then remove from heat and set on the counter to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Pour the chocolate ganache over the vanilla cream filling.

Once the top chocolate ganache layer has been added, you will chill it again in your fridge until it’s set.

chocolate ganache poured into pan.

Overall, it’s not a difficult recipe to make, but it does take some time.

It’s a deeply rich dessert, that I would recommend cutting into much smaller squares then I did… I could barely make it through one bar. But I pushed myself to the edge.

What can I say… it’s all in the name of research, right?! 😉

Nanaimo Bars

More No Bake Dessert Recipes:

Craving more no bake treats to make this holiday season? Here are a few of our favorites…

Nanaimo Bars

If you’ve never had a Nanaimo Bar, you should definitely try it at least once.

Give yourself a little Canadian culture.

Three Nanaimo bars stylishly stacked on a plate for display
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Nanaimo Bars

A triple layer, NO BAKE, {insanely rich} dessert that is named after a city (Nanaimo) in British Columbia, Canada.
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 25
Calories: 234 kcal
Author: Shawn

Ingredients

Crust Layer:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup coconut flakes

Middle Layer

Top Layer:

  • 4 oz chocolate squares
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream

Instructions

For the Crust:

  • Line an 8"x8" square pan with parchment paper, set aside.
  • Prepare a double boiler by bringing about two inches of water to a boil in a medium size pot. Combine the 1/2 cup butter, 5 tbsp cocoa powder, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla in a metal or glass heat proof bowl. Place the bowl on top of the pot of boiling water, make sure the water does not touch the bowl, then whisk the chocolate mixture until smooth and melted.
  • Add the egg, and whisk until combined. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the chocolate mixture thickens to the texture of hot fudge sauce.
  • Remove from heat and add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut flakes, and chopped walnuts. Stir till combined, then press evenly into the prepared 8x8 pan. Chill in fridge while you prepare the middle layer.

For the Middle Layer:

  • Add 1/2 cup butter, heavy cream, and custard powder to the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until light and fluffy. (it will curdle at first, and be a bright yellow, just keep mixing until it gets fluffy and lighter in color.
  • Add the powdered sugar, in 1 cup increments, beating in between, until light and fluffy.
  • Spread on top of the crust layer. Place in fridge to chill while you prepare the top layer.

For the top layer:

  • Prepare the double boiler again, and place the chocolate squares, butter and heavy cream in a heat proof bowl (I just washed out the bowl I used for the crust layer and used that one again). Whisk until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and let cool on counter for 10-15 minutes.
  • Pour on top of the bars, and smooth out. Chill in fridge for at least 15-20 minutes to let the chocolate set.
  • Remove bars from pan and cut into small squares. Store in fridge.
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 234kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 122mg | Potassium: 77mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 326IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg
Keywords: bar candy, Nanaimo
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About the author

Shawn is the Owner and Creator of I Wash You Dry. She loves to create and share simple, family-friendly recipes. Mom to 5 adorable children and dwells in the desert of Southern Utah.


Shawn Syphus smiling

Shawn Syphus

Hi, I’m Shawn and I’m a busy mom of five; pretending to live on a budget. I love to cook, and explore new recipes, but they have to be quick and easy with as few dishes as possible.

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