Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

What an odd name. Why exactly are such delicious treats named after an costal town in British Columbia, I wonder?

Apparently, there are a lot of different opinions and legends, but it would seem the general public agree that regardless of their origin, Nanaimo, BC is the best place to find these treats. If you would like to read a bit more about the stories, you can read it here.

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

If you don’t have the time or funds to make the trip, you can make your own at home without too much effort. 

When you are putting together the different layers, I find that sticking the pan in the freezer between steps helps to firm things up so you don’t have to wait so long between. You can usually get it done in one session, rather than three. And when you’re craving these, you don’t want to wait any longer than you need to!

I have included two different versions of the chocolate top. The one in the main part of the recipe is the one I traditionally used, but I always found that it was a little too firm and brittle. Whenever I would cut it into squares, the top would crack (usually not where I wanted it to) and make my life difficult. The second version of the topping (in the notes) is what I used for the pictures included in this post. This is more of a “ganache” topping, but it is much softer and easier to cut. It also is much thicker than the traditional amount of topping, so if you are a chocoholic, this might be your preference. Or, you can just cut the recipe in half, if you prefer a thinner top.

Nanaimo Bars
Serves 12
A delicious chocolate graham & coconut bottom topped with a custard cream and chocolate top
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  1. ½ cup butter
  2. ¼ cup sugar
  3. ⅓ cup cocoa
  4. 1 tsp vanilla
  5. 1 egg, beaten
  6. 1 ½ cups graham crumbs
  7. 1 cup flaked coconut
  8. ½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  1. ¼ cup butter
  2. 3 TBSP custard powder
  3. 3 TBSP milk
  4. 1 tsp vanilla
  5. 2 cups icing sugar
  1. 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or 4 oz square semi-sweet chocolate)
  2. 1 ½ tsp butter
  3. 1 TBSP milk
  1. Cook butter, sugar, cocoa and vanilla in saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth.
  2. Add beaten egg, heat just until mix starts to thicken.
  3. Remove from heat, stir in crumbs, coconut and walnuts. Mix well to thoroughly blend chocolate into crumbs.
  4. Press firmly into greased 9” square pan.
  5. Chill at least ½ hour. (or freeze until filling is ready)
  1. Cream butter, custard powder, milk and vanilla in small bowl until blended.
  2. Gradually add icing sugar, beating until smooth, then beat at high speed until light and creamy, adding a little more milk if necessary.
  3. Spread evenly over first layer in pan. Chill until firm – about ½ hour (or freeze until top is ready).
  1. Heat chocolate and butter on low heat, stirring until smoothly melted.
  2. Quickly spread chocolate evenly over filling.
  3. Chill until firm. Cut into bars.
  1. Excellent for freezing.
Alternative Top
  1. ½ cup whipping cream
  2. 6 oz squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 ½ cups chocolate chips)
  3. Melt chocolate & cream on low in saucepan until chocolate is melted & mixture is well blended, stirring occasionally.
These were on regular rotation at my house when I was on my own and just starting my adult life. Because they can stay fresh in the fridge for quite a while (or you can freeze them), I kept them around to indulge as needed.

I always liken them to eating a chocolate bar because they are so incredibly sweet and it doesn’t take a very big piece to feel satisfied. When you cut them, you may want to cut pieces smaller than usual, or you might end up cutting the pieces in half later, which is often what happens to me.

No matter how big or small your pieces may be, I hope you enjoy these Nanaimo bars! Let me know what kind of chocolate top you prefer – the harder, thinner version or the softer, thicker version in the comments below.

1 Comment

  1. Nancy D on March 10, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    I made the ganache topping with half and half cream – still worked out and tasted good, too!

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