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.

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.

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

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.

Nanaimo Bar Crust

Once the chocolate mixture has thickened over the double boiler, you’ll add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and chopped walnuts.

Try these variations to the crust: 

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

Nanaimo Bar layers

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.

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, found it in the baking isle of my Canadian grocery store. It might not be available in the US, but I have read that using a vanilla pudding mix in place will yield similar results.

{You could also order yourself some vanilla custard powder on Amazon here.}

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

Nanaimo Bars

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

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

Give yourself a little Canadian culture.

Print

Nanaimo Bars

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

  • Author: Shawn
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 25 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
Scale

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 crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Middle Layer

Top Layer:

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

Instructions

For the Crust:

  1. Line an 8″x8″ square pan with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the egg, and whisk until combined. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the chocolate mixture thickens to the texture of hot fudge sauce.
  4. Remove from heat and add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut flakes, and chopped walnuts. Stir till combined, then press evenly into the prepared 8×8 pan. Chill in fridge while you prepare the middle layer.

For the Middle Layer:

  1. 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.
  2. Add the powdered sugar, in 1 cup increments, beating in between, until light and fluffy.
  3. Spread on top of the crust layer. Place in fridge to chill while you prepare the top layer.

For the top layer:

  1. 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.
  2. Pour on top of the bars, and smooth out. Chill in fridge for at least 15-20 minutes to let the chocolate set.
  3. Remove bars from pan and cut into small squares. Store in fridge.
  4. Enjoy!

Keywords: Nanaimo, bar candy

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.
42 Responses
  1. Carol

    For Nanimo Bars use Bird’s Custard Powder originally from Britain but also made by Kraft Foods in Ontario Canada. We love our Nanaimo Bars here in British Columbia, original recipe from Nanaimo, British Columbia on Vancouver Island.

  2. Rebecca

    Hello. What would you say is a good substitution for the walnut? Could I simply add more coconut? Or perhaps more crushed cracker? If so do you think it is a straight volume to volume switch? Thanks!

  3. Linda

    If you use vanilla powder in these bars, they are NOT Nanaimo bars and should not be called such. (they are wanna-be bars) That said, it is nice to see Nanaimo bars gaining popularity in other parts of the world. This takes me back…..

    1. Linda

      Sorry, I meant to say vanilla pudding powder. Also, when I learned to make these over 40 years ago, the bottom layer WAS baked and recipes can still be found that instruct baking in the oven….

    2. Leah Camara

      I live in the US and want to make this recipe ( I had them once when visiting a friend in Canada. However I have never seen custard powder in any store and I bake often. What can I use in place of the “powder”?

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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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