International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars (Canadian layered chocolate and custard bars)

(Canadian layered chocolate and custard bars)

Image by joyosity

Average: 4.2 (25 votes)

These rich, sweet, chocolatey confections are named for a town on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. As far as anyone can tell, the recipe first appeared in a cookbook by a local woman named Mabel Jenkins in the 1950s. Her easy, no-bake recipe for bars with a layers of graham cracker crumbs, creamy custard and sweet chocolate is now popular all over Canada. Yankees in the American Pacific Northwest enjoy them too!

Makes about 12 big bars or 24 smaller bars


Graham Crust

  • Unsalted butter -- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons)
  • Cocoa powder -- 5 tablespoons
  • Sugar -- 1/4 cup
  • Egg, beaten -- 1
  • Graham cracker crumbs -- 1 1/4 cups
  • Shredded, sweetened coconut -- 1 cup
  • Chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts -- 1/2 cup

Cream Filling

  • Powdered (confectioner's) sugar -- 2 cups
  • Unsalted butter -- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons)
  • Milk or heavy cream -- 3 tablespoons
  • Vanilla custard powder or instant vanilla pudding mix -- 2 tablespoons

Chocolate Icing

  • Semi-sweet chocolate -- 4 (1-ounce) squares
  • Unsalted butter -- 2 tablespoons


  1. Crust: Put the butter, cocoa powder and sugar into a medium saucepan and place it over low flame. Stir until the butter is melted and all of the ingredients are mixed together and smooth. Stir in the beaten egg and continue to cook over heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to thicken, around 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to overcook. Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and nuts until smooth. Spread the mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x9-inch baking pan and press down firmly to form an even layer.
  2. Filling: Add the filling ingredients to a mixing bowl, and use a tabletop or hand-held mixer to beat the ingredients until they are smooth, light and fluffy. Spread this mixture evenly over the crust layer in the baking pan. Set the pan in the refrigerator to chill for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Icing: Put the chocolate and unsalted butter for the icing in a small saucepan over low flame. Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted and form a smooth mixture with a nice sheen. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and spread the chocolate icing evenly over the filling layer in the baking pan. Cover and set the pan back in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly.
  4. To cut into bars, first bring the pan to room temperature, then cut into portions with a sharp knife.

Nanaimo Bar Variations

  • Substitute peanut butter for the chopped nuts in the bottom layer.
  • Use other flavors of custard powder or pudding mix in the middle layer. Chocolate or mocha are very tasty.
  • Try different types of chocolate for the top layer — dark chocolate, mint chocolate, or even white chocolate.


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