The Best Nanaimo Bars Recipe Ever | Canadian Dessert (2024)

In honor of Canada Day (July 1), I want to share a truly classic Canadian treat for all of you. Because it’s one of my favorite Canadian desserts, I am sharing how to make Nanaimo bars.

This recipe is so Canadian (and was literally shared with me by Jenn from Saskatchewan) that many of my friends from around the world have never even heard of it! That, my friends, is truly a great sadness. Nanaimo Bars are a true Canadian delicacy and everyone should be able to experience their deliciousness!

Once you make these the first time, you will be making them all the time. They are just so easy (really they are a no bake dessert bar) and yummy. Let’s spread the word on these delicious dessert Nanaimo bars so the rest of the world can enjoy some Canadian heritage too!

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TheNanaimo Bar history

Before I share our ultimate Nanaimo bar recipe, I want to share a bit of history and trivia on Nanaimo bars.

Where did Nanaimo bars come from?

The Nanaimo bar originated in Canada and was named after the west coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, which is located on Vancouver Island.

What are Nanaimo bars made of?

Nanaimo Bars are ano-bake dessert bar delicacy which is one of Canada’s greatest recipes of all time. This dessert of chocolate squares is best known for its layered sweetness which includes cocoa and coconut, powdered sugar and custard, then topped with a thin layer of chocolate. The middle layer is a custard filling that adds some vibrant yellow coloring, making this dessert appealing to the eye as well.

How do you even pronounce Nanaimo bars?

It looks like it may sound strange, but it really doesn’t! It’s pronounced “nuh-NYE-mo” with emphasis on the second syllable.

Nanaimo bars are a true family favorite (or favourite, if you’re Canadian) in our home and are made quite often. This recipe is a perfect way to celebrate Canada Day and all your other favorite holidays!

The Best Nanaimo Bars Recipe Ever | Canadian Dessert (1)

The Best Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Prep Time

40 minutes

Supplies to Get Started

  • 8×8 square baking pan
  • a spatula for spreading
  • a few sizes of mixing bowls
  • dry measuring cups
  • liquid measuring cup
  • measuring spoons

The Best Nanaimo Bars Ingredients

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Base

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 Tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla

Filling

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 Tablespooncustard powder
  • 1 Tablespoon milk

If custard powder isn’t available in your area, you can substitute like this: for each Tablespoon of custard powder in your recipe, make your own custard mix with 1 Tablespoon ofcornstarchplus 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of fine salt.

Topping

  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate baking squares (4oz)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

How to Make Nanaimo Bars

When I plan on baking I like to start with a clean kitchen, empty dish rack and a sink full of hot sudsy water. For this recipe I reuse the bowls for the different layers, and because I do not want the color to mix I give them a quick wash in between and rinse them off. Therefore, having my soapy water ready makes it a quick job so I can get back to making the dessert.

Simple Nanaimo Bars Base Layer

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First, we start by making the bottom layer. Melt butter (I use the microwave) for easy mixing.

In a small bowl combine cocoa powder, white sugar, and melted butter. Mix well until dissolved and lump-free. Then set aside.

Mix graham cracker crumbs, coconut, egg, and vanilla in a medium-size bowl until well blended.

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Combine cocoa mixture with coconut mixture then mix well.

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Using a spatula, press Nanaimo bar base into an 8×8 square pan ensuring to spread well in an even layer. Then place the pan in the refrigerator allowing to chill.

Nanaimo Bars Filling

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Time to make the second layer! In a medium-sized bowl soften butter and then combine with powdered sugar, custard and milk. I find using a silicone spatula works the best to smash out any lumps.

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Once lump free, spread custard mixture onto the chilled base and place dish back in the refrigerator.

The Best Nanaimo Bars Topping

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Last comes the top layer! In a small mixing bowl, melt the semi-sweet chocolate with butter. Microwave at 30-second intervals, being sure to stir in between until completely melted.

Stir the melted chocolate and butter mixture until smooth.

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Spread on top of the chilled middle custard layer, then return to refrigerator.

Depending on your refrigerator temperature, let the bars chill for approximately 1 hour or until firm. It takes 45 minutes to set in our fridge, but it feels like forever because I want to eat it!

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Then slice, serve, and enjoy this delicious Canadian delicacy!

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The Best Nanaimo Bars Ever

Yield: 12

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Additional Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

These no-bake dessert bars are the perfect example of Canadian heritage originating in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Nanaimo bars consist of 3 layers including a vibrant yellow filling. Satisfy your sweet tooth with this delicious chocolatey treat!

Ingredients

Nanaimo Bars Base

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla

Nanaimo Bars Filling

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 Tablespoons custard powder
  • 1 Tablespoon milk

Nanaimo Bars Topping

  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate baking squares (4 oz)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Instructions

    1. For base: In a small bowl combine cocoa powder, white sugar, and melted butter. Mix well until dissolved and lump-free. Then set aside.
    2. Mix graham cracker crumbs, coconut, egg, and vanilla in a medium-size bowl until well blended.
    3. Combine cocoa mixture with coconut mixture, then mix well.
    4. Using a spatula, press Nanaimo bar base into an 8×8 pan. Spread evenly. Place the pan in the refrigerator allowing base to chill.
    5. For filling: In a medium-sized bowl, soften butter and combine with powdered sugar, custard and milk. Smash out any lumps with silicone spatula.
    6. Once filling mixture is lump-free, spread custard mixture onto the chilled base and place dish back in the refrigerator.
    7. For topping: In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the semi-sweet chocolate with butter. Microwave at 30-second intervals, being sure to stir in between until completely melted and smooth.
    8. Spread on top of the chilled custard layer then return to refrigerator.
    9. Let the bars chill for approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until firm.
    10. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
Nutrition Information:

Yield: 12Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 378Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 51mgSodium: 196mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 2gSugar: 36gProtein: 3g

Enjoy the Best & Easiest Nanaimo Bars!

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I was so excited to get some beautiful pictures of my Nanaimo bars but while I was on a phone call my family found them and started to devour them immediately! They are just that much of a hit in this old house that I can not even get a picture before they are dug into haha.

They are really quite easy to make, even though a lot of people think they are difficult. In reality they are simpler than a cake made from scratch!

Now the best & easiest Nanaimo Bars are right at your fingertips. I hope you enjoy making these as much as I do.

Thanks so much for joining us for anotherEasy Recipe for Busy Moms! Be sure to check out ourRolled Sugar Cookie Recipefor another easy to make decadent dessert, and our muffin top recipe (the tastiest part of the muffins)!

We have lots of great ideas if you need easy desserts for a crowd too!

Bon Appétit!

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The Best Nanaimo Bars Recipe Ever | Canadian Dessert (15)
MEET AMANDA

Amanda is a mom of 4 living a mostly crunchy lifestyle outside of Atlanta, GA with her husband, 2 dogs, and a cat. As a former special education teacher who also has her personal training certification — Amanda really enjoys teaching others how to do things!

When she’s not working, Amanda enjoys DIY projects, exercising, photography, hiking, and long walks through Target.

The Best Nanaimo Bars Recipe Ever | Canadian Dessert (2024)

FAQs

What are Nanaimo bars called in the USA? ›

But neither Nanaimo's historical miners nor current residents have an exclusive relationship with the dessert; over the last century, similar sweets have popped up across North America, going by names like “New York slice,” “London fog bar” and “prayer bar.” Still, when it comes to branding, Nanaimo is the winner, bar ...

How long do Nanaimo bars last in fridge? ›

Seeing them in my fridge when I'm craving something sweet has been a miracle, honestly. In the Refrigerator: Nanaimo bars will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Serve straight from the fridge. In the Freezer: You can also keep your Nanaimo bars in the freezer for 2-3 months in an airtight container.

Are Nanaimo bars a Canadian thing? ›

The Nanaimo bar. It's a sweet treat made from chocolate, custard, coconut and walnuts. Love it or hate it, it's uniquely British Columbian.

What is a fun fact about Nanaimo bars? ›

It is named after Nanaimo, British Columbia, where it was popularized in the years following the Second World War. It subsequently rose to wider prominence after Expo 86. In 2006, the Nanaimo bar was declared Canada's favourite confection by a reader's poll in the National Post.

What is the old name for Nanaimo? ›

Founded as Colvilletown around a Hudson's Bay Company trading post, it developed after 1849 when coalfields were discovered nearby by local Indigenous people. In 1860 the settlement was renamed Sne-ny-mo (whence Nanaimo) from an Indigenous word meaning “a big, strong tribe,” which was applied to a tribal confederation.

Why are Nanaimo Bars so good? ›

But in reasonable doses (or not), Nanaimo bars are wonderfully luxurious, satisfying treats; the shredded coconut and nut counterpoint to the thick velvety texture of the icing and ganache has been winning the hearts of sweet-toothed Canadians and visitors for decades.

Who invented the Nanaimo bar? ›

The recipe submitted by Joyce Hardcastle, a resident of Nanaimo, was unanimously selected by a panel of judges. The Nanaimo bar was popularized nationwide after being highlighted as a classic Canadian dessert at Expo 86.

What is a substitute for custard powder? ›

If a recipe lists custard powder and you don't have any, you can make some simple swaps to achieve the same effect. For each tablespoon of custard powder that's called for in your recipe, you can make your own custard mix with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch plus 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of fine salt.

What is another name for Nanaimo Bars? ›

Other names for Nanaimo Bars include but are not limited to New York Slice, New York Special, Mississauga Bars, Edmonton Esks, Georgia Street Slices, Georgia Strait Smog Squares, London Fog Bars and London Smog Bars — coincidentally the London Fog (a hot drink consisting of steamed milk, vanilla syrup and Earl Grey Tea ...

What is the worlds largest Nanaimo bar? ›

The completed bar weighed in at 530 pounds and measured eight feet long, 44 inches wide and three inches high. The family will submit their logs, photos, weights and measurements to the people at Guinness. They hope to receive the official certificate in the mail in a couple of months.

Why does it smell in Nanaimo? ›

Every year around March, herring spawn off the shores near French Creek. Roe wash up on nearby beaches and decompose into the summer. The decomposing eggs release hydrogen sulphide and winds can carry the odors towards the highway and FCPCC.

Where is the original Nanaimo bar? ›

This creamy, chocolatey treat's origin is elusive, shrouded in mystery, and claimed by many as their own. Of course, we know that Nanaimo Bars originated in Nanaimo, or they would be called New York Bars, or New Brunswick Bars.

What is the slogan of Nanaimo? ›

We are indeed a harbour city nestled between the water and the hills. 'Welcome to Nanaimo: the Harbour City.” We have so much harbour that we've adopted it as our slogan.

What is Nanaimo city nickname? ›

'Welcome to Nanaimo: the Harbour City.” We have so much harbour that we've adopted it as our slogan.

Which bar dessert was named after a city in British Columbia? ›

In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Graeme Roberts, in conjunction with Harbour Park Mall, initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, almost 100 different variations of the famous confection were submitted.

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