Canadian Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are a rich, easy no-bake dessert that’s layered with chocolate ganache, vanilla custard, graham crackers, walnuts, and shredded coconut. It’s a decadent treat that will satisfy all your cravings!

What is a Nanaimo Bar?

Nanaimo bars are a popular Canadian dessert that originated in Nanaimo, a city on the east coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. It’s an easy no-bake treat that is layered with a cookie crust, vanilla custard, and chocolate coating layer on top. It reminds me of a pudding pie but with the structure of a cheesecake. 

I am a dessert lover and it’s seriously one of my all-time favorite desserts which is saying a lot — so bookmark or pin this recipe for later! 

Variations & Substitutions:

These bars are super-rich, indulgent, and completely customizable. There are lots of variations on this recipe, with lots of substitutions and ideas to make them your own, which I’ve listed down below. Once you’ve tried the original version, you can start to branch out 

Nuts – I used chopped walnuts in this recipe, but I think almonds, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts would also taste great!

Graham Crackers – Oreos, vanilla wafers, or any crunchy cookie or biscuit would work here also.

Unsalted butter – You can also use unsalted and add a teaspoon of salt. This will help balance out the sweetness.

Vanilla Custard – You can also use the original Bird’s custard powder if you have it on hand, and I’ve heard that powdered milk works also. I stuck with Jello instant vanilla pudding. If you want to mix it up, try a different flavor of custard, like chocolate, coconut, or coffee/mocha!

Water – to set the pudding, I used water which was able to hold. You can also substitute milk or heavy cream for a thicker and creamier custard layer.

No Egg – I made these Nanaimo bars with no egg. I found that the egg was not necessary to bind the ingredients together and added unnecessary steps. It also can create food safety hazards if the egg is not fully heated, so I opted to keep it out.

How to Make Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars consist of 3 layers that are added to an 8×8 pan:

  • A graham cracker, walnut, and coconut cookie crust
  • A custard icing in the middle
  • Melted chocolate on top

Between each layer, you’ll want to place the pan in the freezer before adding the next layer so the layer sets and makes it easy to spread the next layer.

Bottom layer: Melt the butter in a microwave. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder. Then add in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped walnuts. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the pan using your knuckles. Place in the freezer.

Middle layer: Using room temperature butter, mix the butter until it’s smooth. Then add powdered sugar, vanilla pudding, vanilla extract, and water until combined. It should be thick and creamy. Remove the pan from the freezer, and spread the filling on top of the first layer. Place back in the freezer for 5 minutes until set.

Top layer: Put the chocolate chips and butter into a bowl and microwave for about 1 minute or until chocolate is glistening and soft. Mix until smooth and spread over the second layer. Place back in the freezer for 5 minutes until chocolate has hardened and set. Cut into squares and serve!

Recipe Tips

  • Between each layer, place in the freezer to chill before you are ready for the next one. This helps it so the icing layer doesn’t blend with the chocolate
  • Make sure then your chocolate is liquidy before pouring it onto the icing later — if it’s not it will be hard to spread and the layers will mix. If it’s not, add a little water or neutral oil until it gets to the point where it can be spread.
  • Make sure your knife is sharp before cutting into the bars so you’ll have a nice smooth chocolate top layer.
  • I prefer to have rough chopped nuts and graham cracker crumbs for a bit of texture in the crust. If using a food processor, pulse until you reach your desired consistency

How to Store

Store in an airtight container in the freezer. This helps the middle icing layer to stay firm. 

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Nanaimo Bars (No Egg)

Nanaimo bars are a rich, delicious, no-bake dessert that’s layered with chocolate ganache, vanilla custard, graham crackers, walnuts, and shredded coconut. It’s a decadent treat that will satisfy all your cravings!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: Nanaimo bars
Servings: 25 bars
Author: Globally Flavored

Equipment

  • 8x8 baking dish

Ingredients

  • Bottom Layer:
  • ¾ cup salted butter melted
  • ​1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
  • ​1⁄3 cup cocoa unsweetened
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup walnuts chopped
  • 1 cup shredded coconut sweetened
  • Second Layer:
  • ½ cup butter at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk (or water or heavy cream)
  • 2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Third Layer:
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil optional

Instructions

  • Bottom Layer: Melt the butter in a microwave. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder. Then add in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped walnuts. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the pan using your knuckles. Place in the freezer.
  • Middle Layer: Using room temperature butter, mix the butter until it's smooth. Then add powdered sugar, vanilla pudding, vanilla extract, and milk (or heavy cream or water) until combined. It should be thick and creamy. Remove the pan from the freezer, and spread the filling on top of the first layer. Place back in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • Top Layer: Put the chocolate chips and butter into a bowl and microwave for about 1 minute or until chocolate is glistening and soft. You can also add 1 tablespoon of canola oil for a super glossy top layer. Mix until smooth and spread over the second layer. Place back in the freezer for 5 minutes until chocolate has hardened and set. Cut into squares and serve!

If you tried this dessert, let me know how you liked it in the comments below! I love hearing from you!



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