Nanaimo Bars

Jan D’Atri | Oct 3, 2013, 3:49 p.m.


Jan D’Atri

I wish I had known about this treat years ago when I was living in British Columbia, where it originated. (I was going to school at the Conservatory of Music in Victoria, and on the weekends my fellow classmates and I would drive up Vancouver Island to Nanaimo, a quaint and picturesque town on the waterfront just to get away from it all.)

Little did I know then, as relatively few people know now, that it’s the home of the original Nanaimo Bar, a decadent, delicious no-bake three layer cookie bar that takes only one bite to win you over for a lifetime. Yes, it’s that good, with a bottom layer of packed chocolate, nuts, graham crackers and coconut. The filling is a creamy layer of custard butter icing, and if that’s not enough, the top layer is a rich, firm chocolate!

The Nanaimo Bar has been called Canada’s Favorite Confection and for years the recipe was imprinted on souvenir tea towels and aprons. I remember seeing it when I strolled around town, but it wasn’t until years later that I remembered its goodness.

I think you’re going to like the Nanaimo Bar! This favorite from our friends to the North definitely raises the bar on a chocolaty layered treat.

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup (5 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened)

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

Middle Layer

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons cream

2 tablespoons custard or vanilla pudding powder

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Top Layer

4 squares (4 oz) gourmet dark chocolate or 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons butter


Bottom Layer:

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder until blended. Whisk in the beaten egg, stirring continually until the mixture thickens, about one minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Mix well, and then press mixture evenly and firmly into approximately a 9-inch square pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes).

Middle Layer (Filling)

With a mixer, cream butter. Add in remaining ingredients and beat until light and fluffy. (If mixture is too thick, add another tablespoon of cream.) Spread filling over the bottom layer and refrigerate until firm, 15-20 minutes.


Melt chocolate and butter together in a saucepan or double boiler. Do not burn. Spread gently over the filling. Refrigerate.

Tips for Serving

Because the top chocolate layer will get rather hard, you may want to score the chocolate where you’ll be cutting it into bars before you refrigerate for the final time. The 9-inch square makes about 12 squares.

This recipe works well as bite-sized pieces, too. Keep the pan of bars chilled and cut into it with a knife that is heated by dipping it into a container of hot water. Wipe knife down to dry after each dipping.

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