Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian three layer holiday treat you will fall in love with! These chocolate covered bars are just waiting to conquer the world the same way as it did its home country!
Do you want one? You do but don’t know what they are? It’s okay go ahead and make them anyway!
Nanaimo Bars and Butter Tarts are both very Canadian! We wish we could be home with family this holiday season but it’s not in the cards. So instead I am baking an array of Canadian treats.
What are Nanaimo Bars?
Nanaimo bars are a triple layer confection with a crunchy chocolate and coconut base, creamy center and a chocolate glaze. They are very traditional in Canada and are rumoured to be invented in a Nanaimo bakery, the West Coast town we lived just an hour away from.
Nanaimo bars have a very devout following in its native land. You will understand why once you try one. You’d be forever sold on this triple layer confection with a chocolate coconut base, creamy center and a chocolate glaze.
When we lived in Canada I barely ever made these delicious bars myself because they would be served at 3 out 4 homes we’d be visiting around Christmas.
Now that we live in England we feel like we NEED to have things that remind us of home, and thus bring us much needed comfort.
How To Make Them
They are quite easy to make, the hardest part is waiting for the layers to set to continue with the recipe.
The process is pretty similar to a cheesecake. The base is a mixture of graham cracker crumbs, cocoa, butter, sugar, dried coconut and one egg. You can successfully use Digestive biscuits if you are in the UK.
All you do is mix everything and bake quickly for 10 minutes, then add a no-bake custard cream layer and top with melted chocolate. Done!
What sets the middle layer is a custard powder. The powder also gives it that telltale yellow colour. Custard powder is absolutely necessary for true Canadian Nanaimo Bars.
You can use a vanilla pudding mix but it’s won’t be exactly the same. It’s worth tracking Bird’s custard powder online if you can’t find it in your local supermarkets.
Please, don’t forget to pre-cut your bars when the chocolate is partially set, about 30 minutes after you complete the final layer. This will prevent the top from cracking once the bars are chilled and firm.
Although not a part of the traditional recipe, I love sprinkling my Nanaimo bars with flaked sea salt at the end. It gives very sweet bars a much needed balance, not to mention the sea salt looks like a light dusting of snow. Absolutely gorgeous!
These bars freeze well. In fact that’s how everyone stores them back in Canada. Simply put them in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between the layers and freeze until needed.
Take out of the freezer 30-40 minutes before serving to allow them to thaw. These bars taste best when served at room temperature.
More Holiday Bar Recipes:
This recipe was originally published in 12/2013. Updated with new photos and text and republished in 12/2020.
- 190g/3/4 cup butter melted
- 50g/1/4 cup sugar
- 6 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 egg large
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 220g/2 cups graham cracker crumbs I used Digestive biscuits in the UK
- 100g/1 cup dried coconut
- 125g/1/2 cup butter softened
- 6 tbsp milk
- 4 tbsp custard powder I used Bird's Custard powder
- 625g/4 cups icing sugar
- 250g/8 oz dark or milk chocolate chopped
- 2 tbsp butter
- Preheat your oven to 350F/180C. Mix all ingredients for the base in a large bowl. Line your 9 inch X 13 inch pan with parchment paper and pack your crumb mixture firmly into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool in the pan.
- While the base is chilling beat the middle layer ingredients until smooth and spread over the base. Chill for 60 minutes.
- Melt chopped chocolate with a tablespoon of butter in a double boiler. Or if you don't have one, set a bowl with chocolate over a pot of simmering water and melt your chocolate this way.
- Spread melted chocolate over the cream layer. Let the chocolate set for 30-40 minutes. Then cut into bars, so your chocolate layer won't crack later when the chocolate hardens. Chill until firm for several hours or overnight.