Nanaimo Bars

September 2, 2018

With this being my very first experience, both making and eating Nanaimo Bars, I’m here to tell you not only are they so simple to make but they taste unbelievably delicious!

I love how there is so much going on in these layered bars, but it all so perfectly blends together. One candy bar came to mind when I first tasted these bars, Almond Joy bars. I’m sure it is due to the chocolate, coconut and nut combo.

Nanaimo Bars

What is a Nanaimo Bar?

Some of you are likely asking; what are Nanaimo Bars? They are a popular Canadian confection, basically a bar cookie,  that to me tastes very similar to a richly chocolaty, loaded fudge. They are named after the west coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia.

They consist of 3 layers, a cracker crumb and chocolate base, a custard flavored icing and then they’re finished with a chocolate coating.

Nanaimo Bars

How do You Make Nanaimo Bars?

The instructions may appear to be long and tedious but these tasty treats are surprisingly super simple to make. They are a no bake bar after all. You’ll make three separate layers and chill briefly between each so the layers don’t blend.

Then use a clean sharp knife to cut into bars – cut across instead of downward for cleaner cuts.

I’m glad I finally got around to making these delicious dessert bars. Now that I’ve tasted them I can’t understand why I waited this long.

I guess I just didn’t understand there was so much more than just the stunning look of these famous bars. Their intricate taste is equal to their gorgeous, layered, multicolored look. Enjoy!

Nanaimo Bars

5 from 6 votes

A no bake bar made with three layers of pure decadence! You get a chocolatey, graham cracker-coconut base, a sweet cream filling, and they're finished with a layer of rich semi-sweet chocolate.

Servings: 9
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

Bottom Layer:

  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, diced into pieces
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 5 Tbsp (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 cup (180g) graham cracker crumbs* (about 12 sheets)
  • 1/2 cup (76g) almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 cup (83g) sweetened shredded coconut

Filling

  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 - 3 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp custard powder, or 1/4 cup instant dry milk powder and 1 tsp vanilla extract**
  • 2 cups (240g) powdered sugar

Top Layer

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp (28g) unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking dish. Line with parchment paper and butter parchment, set aside.

  2. For the first layer: Melt butter in large heat proof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water set over medium-low heat.

  3. Remove from heat, add in sugar, cocoa powder and salt and whisk until well combined. While whisking vigorously, very slowly pour in beaten egg in a thin stream.

  4. Return mixture to heat and cook until mixture has just thickened.

  5. Remove from heat and add in graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and almonds and toss until evenly coated.

  6. Press mixture into prepared baking dish. Chill while preparing the filling, bottom layer shouldn't be warm when adding the custard frosting layer.

  7. For the second layer: If you are using the custard powder option then simply add powdered sugar, butter, custard powder and 2 Tbsp heavy cream to mixer fit with paddle attachment. Whip until very pale and fluffy while adding another 1 Tbsp cream to thin if needed.

  8. If you are using the powdered milk option, add 1/4 cup powdered milk and 3 Tbsp heavy cream to the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Whisk vigorously to dissolve powdered milk. Add in butter, powdered sugar and vanilla, set mixer with paddle attachment and beat mixture until very light and fluffy.

  9. Spread mixture into an even layer over bottom layer. Chill preferably in the freezer while melting chocolate (otherwise the warm chocolate can melt this layer).

  10. For the third layer: Melt semi-sweet chocolate along with butter in a heat proof bowl, set over a pot of simmering water until smooth (or in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl in 20 second intervals stirring between each, until melted and smooth).

  11. Spread mixture into an even layer over filling layer. Chill until chocolate has set.

  12. Cut into squares (tip for best appearance, cut squares from side to side rather than cutting downward). Store in an airtight container in refrigerator, bring to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes

*1. To chop ingredients I recommend using the food processor:

  • Break graham cracker sheets in half, add to the food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl. To crush by hand place graham crackers in a gallon size resealable bag and crush using a rolling pin.
  • Add the almonds and pulse in short bursts until chopped very small, transfer to bowl with the graham crackers. Almonds can also be chopped fine by hand.
  • I even like to also chop up the coconut until it's about half the original size in the food processor, though this is optional. 

**2. There are several ways to flavor the custard flavor frosting layer but my personal favorite (as well as everyone else that taste tested) loved the dry milk option best (surprisingly). Another alternative is to use 2 Tbsp instant pudding mix (vanilla or white chocolate), then reduce powdered sugar by 2 Tbsp. Or just go with 2 tsp vanilla extract. The most authentic option is to use custard powder if you are looking for traditional flavor.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Nanaimo Bars
Author: Jaclyn
Important note: I don’t recommend serving these bars to the elderly, young children or those with a weakened immune system. Though the egg is cooked, in testing twice I found 140 – 145 degrees was as high as I dare let the temp go or I felt the egg would begin to curdle and the mixture would also become too dry. The USDA recommends a safe temp of 160 degrees.

Recipe originally shared January 2, 2013. Recipe has been slightly revised and improved.