nanaimo bars

I know, I know, the name throws you off.  Well, at least it did to me. That's cause I'm from New Jersey.  If you're a Canadian, you know better.

Pronounced na-NEYE-mo (emphasis on the second syllable, which rhymes with eye,) the apparently famous and well-loved cookie is named after the city in British Columbia, Canada. While I've never seen or heard of them before this week, a Google search will turn up over 17,000 Nanaimo Bar recipes.

Nanaimo Bars are a three-layer bar: a chocolate, graham cracker, coconut and walnut base, a buttercream custardy middle, and a chocolate top.

And they are simply scrumptious. And they are no bake.  And why didn't I know about these this past sweltering summer?

It all started with this:
The Duet Partner came over for a rehearsal bearing food gifts.  (She knows me well!)  One of the items was new to me- Bird's Custard Powder.  Use 2 tablespoons, 2 cups milk, and voila!  Pud!

Now, that's a whole lot of pudding for me to be eating, so I went a-hunting for other uses for the powder. And that's what brought me to Nanaimo Bars and 17,000 internet iterations. Why not add one more?

My adaptation of this confection is from Joy of Baking; to make them less sweet, I cut out some of the confectioner's sugar in the middle layer and used unsweetened coconut in the base.

I cut them into teensy-weensy squares, afraid that the bars might be a bit too sweet, but the ladies at the music meeting devoured every last delicious morsel.

adapted from The Joy of Baking.com

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup granulated white sugar
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup unsweetened coconut 
½ cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons milk or cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder or vanilla pudding powder
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¾ cup powdered sugar

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Grease a 9x9 inch square pan.

Bottom layer:
In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder and salt, and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg.  Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts.  Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan.  Cover and refrigerate until firm.  (I skipped this last step because I was short on time, and the cookie was fine.)

Middle layer:
Using the electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and creamy.  Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth.  Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover tightly with plastic, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Top layer:
In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter.  Using a small offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

To serve:
Bring the squares to room temperature before cutting with a sharp knife, to prevent the chocolate from cracking. 


  1. These are luscious looking. I want to bite them but the screen, is in the way. Drat.

    Love your photos.

  2. These bars look very decadent.
    Lots of yummy ingredients!


  3. I haven't thought about these bars since my trip to Jasper National Park in Canada. I bought a bar at a local bakery. They were very sweet there, too.

  4. Wow - these look amazing. Wish I had one to enjoy after lunch right now!

  5. Glad to see you stumbled upon Nanaimo Bars, I'm from Nanaimo and eat them all the time. Each cafe has their own version. We even have Nanaimo Bar cupcakes, martinis, cheesecake, deep fried version, ice cream, fudge and organic! Looks like you made a delicious batch. Enjoy. Thanks for sharing.


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