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Easy Nanaimo Bar Recipes

Updated on May 23, 2013

West Coast Canadian Favorite

Looking for a no bake easy to prepare dessert treat to take to an office holiday party or Christmas cookie exchange? Ask anyone from the province of British Columbia in Canada about a Nanaimo Bar and they will easily wax nostalgic about this regional indulgence. It's a super sweet, rich chocolate no bake bar composed of three layers: a dense graham cracker coconut base with a vanilla custard icing layer topped off by a thin layer of chocolate.

It's so easy to make just like rice krispy squares. There's nothing that can really go wrong when you're putting it together. It just takes a bit of time to assemble the layers. I'm only a weekend warrior when it comes to cooking and baking so if I can do it, you can too. It's the kind of dessert that's perfect for a church bazaar, a holiday get together, potluck or bake sale which is ironic given there's no baking required.

How will you know if you've made it correctly? The bottom layer is firm and should taste like a cross between a brownie and a macaroon. The middle will be a firm layer of icing slightly thicker than canned frosting. The top will set so it's like a thin chocolate candy bar. Listed below are several easy recipes for nanaimo bars.

But if you want to really wow your guests, try mint nanaimo bars, an orange chocolate Grand Marnier variation and delightfully pink versions that are flavored with raspberries or cherries. Why stop at only one batch when you can try all these fun kinds.

Nanaimo Bar Photo

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Updated 5/17 & 5/20

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The Ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe

From the City of Nanaimo

This recipe for the legendary Nanaimo Bar comes from a contest in 1986 initiated by Nanaimo's mayor to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar. This recipe from Joyce Hardcastle was chosen from over 100 entries.

Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Bottom Layer

½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)

¼ cup sugar

5 tbsp. cocoa

1 egg beaten

1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs

½ c. finely chopped almonds

1 cup coconut

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.

Second Layer

½ cup unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream

2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder

2 cups icing sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Third Layer

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter overlow heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

Shopping Tips

Remember to buy unsalted butter & although you can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut, since the whole confection is pretty sweet already, unless you just want to use up sweetened coconut you already have in your pantry, buy a package of unsweetened cocnut. If you can't find custard powder, it's OK to substitute powdered instant vanilla pudding mix.

Nanaimo Bar Photo & Recipe Source

City of Nanaimo

Nanaimo Bars Extraordinaire

Alternate Joy of Baking Recipe

Click on the link below for the interesting backstory on one of Canada's most beloved regional desserts. There are now many variations on the original recipe which can be found including a cheesecake version, cranberries, peanut butter etc. This recipe includes vanilla extract and recommends either walnuts or pecans for the nut chocolate base.

Joy of Baking Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Maple Canadian Bacon Nanaimo Bar

Vegan Nanaimo Bar

Nanaimo Bar Rice Krispie Treats

Nutella Nanaimo Bar

Raspberry Nanaimo Bars
Raspberry Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bar With a Twist

Raspberry or Strawberry Versions

Here's a great variation for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, baby showers or wedding anniversaries. Instead of a cream colored center, you add strawberry or raspberry jam for a bright tinge of pink color. Isn't that a fun twist without having to add food coloring?

It might be fun to try with your own favorite jams to see what kind of flavor combo would result. I would think most fruits go with chocolate so they would all probably turn out great. I wonder if blueberry jam would look really blue? You could then make a plate for someone's shower if they're expecting a baby boy. I haven't tried it yet, but if you do give it a try, let me know how it turns out.

Raspberry Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Source: Robin Hood

Cherry Almond Nanimo Bars


Maraschino Cherry Nanaimo Bars

Source: Celebration Generation

Now For Something Completely Different - 5 Nanaimo Bar Variations

  1. Bailey's Irish Cream Filling

    Get your favorite after dinner drink as a dessert.

  2. Mint Nanaimo Bars

    Mmmm. MInty good.

  3. Mocha Nanaimo Bar

    If coffee is your thang or you like the flavor of coffee and chocolate.

  4. Peanut Butter Filling

    Sort of like the taste of a Reese's peanut butter cup mashed up into a nanaimo bar.

  5. Chocolate Orange Nanaimo Bars

    It's like enjoying those orange chocolate treats you get in a mixed box of chocolates.

Lazy Gourmet Susan Mendelson - Plus Other Cookie Bars & Squares

If you've had the occasion to enjoy Nanaimo Bars at at special event or one of Vancouver's concert or museum venues, it may have come from Vancouver caterer Susan Mendelson who often includes them as a dessert item. She includes her Nanaimo Bar recipe in her original 1980 cookbook "The Lazy Gourmet".

Mmmmm, eh!

Mmmmm, eh!
Mmmmm, eh!

Wanna know where to try one of these delectable treats if you're ever in Nanaimo, BC, Canada? The City of Nanaimo has an official tour map. Just click here.

Nanaimo Bars. Do You Love 'Em? - If You're In Nanaimo

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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      MY mom used to make Nanaimo bars when I was a kid and they were like pure heaven. I still crave them every now and then. Delicious dessert treat and thank you for the recipe.

    • birthdaybluepri profile image

      birthdaybluepri 4 years ago

      Oh so terribly sweet, but I do love every last crumb. My mom makes these every year at Christmas and I can't help myself from devouring so many my stomach hurts. Great Lens!

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 5 years ago

      These are very decadent!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I've never heard of them before - but they sound and look delicious!

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 5 years ago

      I take treats to my weekly dance and am always on the outlook for a good recipe - hmmmm - think I'll try it.

    • microfarmproject profile image

      microfarmproject 5 years ago

      These look delicious!

    • hessa johnson profile image

      hessa johnson 5 years ago

      Love them!

    • profile image

      ladykida 6 years ago

      I'm gonna have to try them out.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I loved the Nanaimo Bar mix that Robin Hood made a few years ago. Oh so sadly, they discontinued them, and I haven't been able to make them from scratch nearly as well; my middle layer is always too runny.

    • profile image

      blanckj 6 years ago

      They look so yummy. I haven't had one in years.

    • seashell2 profile image

      seashell2 8 years ago

      Great lens, I lived in Nanaimo for 20ish years my husband was born and raised there! He Loves Nanaimo bars. I used to make them but haven't in years! Nice work!

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 8 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      One of my favorite Canadian treats. :) We usually save it until Christmas but you can pretty much buy them any time of year hear.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 9 years ago from Canada

      Great lens; yummy subject!


    • profile image

      poutine 9 years ago

      OMG! Those pictures and recipes are to die for.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      NO...Don't take them to a potluck! These need to be hoarded and eaten all to yourself. Way too good to share! LOL. Great lens.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 9 years ago

      I have visited Nanaimo but I didn't have a Nanaimo Bar there. They look great!

    • Sensitive Fern profile image

      Sensitive Fern 9 years ago

      A friend who was married to a Canadian introduced me to nanaimo bars a couple years ago. Incredibly yummy! Like a candy bar almost. Great lens, too. 5*

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 9 years ago

      I have never had a nanaimo bar - but I really want to try one now!

    • The Homeopath profile image

      The Homeopath 9 years ago

      I'm salivating now. Oh, these look soooooo yummy!

    • AnneReidy profile image

      AnneReidy 9 years ago

      Looks delicious!

    • profile image

      WhippetTalk 9 years ago

      I know what I'm bringing to the next Potluck! These look really yummy!

    • Angelina Gherna profile image

      Angelina 9 years ago from California

      they look great, thanks for stopping by my lens and giving me the recipe 5 *'s