December 15, 2015

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are these creamy, delicious, chocolatey squares that originated in Nanaimo Canada - a small city located just north of Victoria on Vancouver Island (otherwise known for its amazing pirate poutine). Unfortunately, the origins of the Nanaimo bar (aside from its location) are unknown. There are a few speculations and an early printed publication of the recipe in Edith Adams' fourteenth prize cookbook in 1953, but no one really knows who is the original creator.

When I lived in Victoria back in 2007, making a trip to Nanaimo just to eat a Nanaimo bar was high on my priorities, along with this, this, and this. Nanaimo bars are so popular in that city that they have produced a self-guided trail brochure leading you to all the Nanaimo bar desserts.

Nanaimo bars are incredible. They consist of a chewy graham, walnut, and coconut crust, layered with a creamy custard flavored butter icing and topped with a thin layer of chocolate. They are by far my favorite holiday dessert, and I may even like them better than most Christmas cookies. My grandma used to make us a batch each year. She'd bring us a tin of assorted Christmas squares - thumbprint cookies, macaroons etc. and I'd always root through looking for the Nanaimo bars.

The first year I made a batch on my own, I ate the whole tray in less than a week. I no longer make them unless I know there will be folks around to help me out. A few years back I made a mint chocolate version, and lucky for me, Brent's weakness for chocolate mint is larger than my desire to eat a whole tray. They are incredibly easy to make and are even easier to devour. They are seriously my absolute weakness. They don't require any baking, just a quick chill to set each layer before the next is added. Once made, you can package them up in a cookie tin and store them in the fridge for a few weeks, or you can freeze them for even longer. Although, I can guarantee that they won't last that long unless you have some serious self-control.

Thanks to the folks over at Kraft for sponsoring this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out the Kraft Product Locator to find ingredients near you.

makes 25 squares
prep time: 40 minutes
cooking time: n/a

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped finely 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp custard powder
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Line a 9x9 inch baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter, vanilla, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder on low heat. Remove from heat and mix in the beaten egg. Add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and walnuts and combine. Press the mixture flat into the baking pan with a spatula. Place in the fridge to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and custard powder, and cream with a hand mixer or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Spread evenly onto the crust. Place back in the fridge for 20 minutes to set.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Remove the pan from the fridge, and pour the melted chocolate onto the Nanaimo bars, tipping the pan back and forth ensuring an even layer of chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes until the chocolate has set.

Remove the bars from the fridge and let sit until room temperature. Cut the bars into 25 small squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 6 months.


  1. These sound so delicious! I have seen recipes for these floating around on Pinterest but never really knew what they were or where they come from. I'm sold! And I LOVE that last photo!

  2. I have so much love for these bars.

  3. THey look beyond delicious and sound quite rich and filling, my mouth is watering from looking at the pics!!!

  4. Looks and sounds INCREDIBLE!
    Happy holidays...

  5. I grew up on these bars! Although I'm from Ontario these have old ass traditions throughout Canada. They are hands down my fav bar!

  6. I'm going to Nanaimo next spring, and I could not bookmark this entry fast enough! I love it! And I'm tucking the recipe away for when I inevitably fall in love with these things in Canada and come home desperate to recreate them. Thanks!

  7. These look wonderful! I have a question though - what on earth is custard powder? Is it a Canadanian or West-Coast thing? I grew up in the midwest and live on the East Coast and have never seen or heard of it! Do you have any ideas for substituting it, if I can’t find it? Thanks!

    1. Hi Avery,
      Custard powder is a cornflour based powder used to thicken and form a custard. It is used in the filling of Nanaimo bars for color and flavor (not thickening) therefore not absolutely necessary. I have made them without custard powder, and they still turned out great. Custard powder is found in the baking aisle, and not regional. I bet you will be able to find it in your local grocery store, by a company called Birds. Good luck!

  8. If these bars called nanaimo look like this I would go to Canada just for them! Holy moly they look good. My lord! I cannot take eyes off of them and will surely suffer all day since I'm not going to find them here in Holland!

  9. My husband and I are from a small town next to Nanaimo but have been living in England for the last 5 years. Nanaimo bars and butter tarts are a must for Christmas and now more than ever since we don't live in Canada anymore! I am so happy you are spreading the love!!

  10. These look delicious! I love the chocolate on top!

  11. These look and sound delicious! I need to try them - thanks for sharing.
    Jasmine -