Home / Food / Desserts / Nanaimo Bars – A Canadian Tradition
Nanaimo Bars are easy to make at home and a family favortite during the holidays

Nanaimo Bars – A Canadian Tradition

This recipe is part of  series featuring popular holiday desserts in my family. The last recipe was  a German cookie recipe that my mother would make every year for Christmas. So I thought for this next recipe I should do something purely Canadian.  I sought out the advice of my wife and co-workers, and asked them what traditional Canadian Christmas baking brings to mind. My wife’s answer came without hesitation:

Nanaimo Bars

(Which she also happened to crave during her pregnancy and are incredibly difficult to find pre-made during the summer months by the way), followed by peanut butter balls. I received the same response from almost all of my co-workers who I posed the question too. While a few of them said they make some kind of secret cookie recipe with their families almost all of them said Nanaimo bars are about as traditional as it gets.

Which led me to my next question:

How do you actually make these delicious looking treats? I’d only ever bought them pre-made or seen them at Holiday bake sales. It turns out they are surprisingly easy to make despite taking a good 40 minutes to prepare (but this is mainly due to having to chill chocolate in the fridge etc.), so plan ahead and set an afternoon aside when making these. The fact that Nanaimo bars are a no-bake dessert, make them ideal as a side project while cooking supper in the oven.

Nanaimo Bars are easy to make at home and a family favortite during the holidays

This post contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated if a purchase is made through the links provided. For more information please read my affiliate disclosure.

A Little History

Nanaimo bars are named after the town of Nanaimo, BC where depending on who you ask you will get various answered as to the recipes heritage. The first published version of this recipe was first published in the the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook under “chocolate squares”, and didn’t appear in print as Nanaimo bars until it was published in the Vancouver Suns Edith Adam’s Cookbook. Others say that these delicious squares were first called London fog bars and the recipe was sent with families from London as they sailed to Canada to settled in the coal town now known as Nanaimo. Regardless of who was actually behind the invention of this recipe, it can be said with utmost certainty that the Nanaimo Bar as we know it today is a clear Canadian delicacy.

Make your own Canadian Nanaimo Bars with this easy to follow from scratch recipe. Click To Tweet

Real Canadian Nanaimo Bars

First things first, make sure you have all the ingredients on hand. You will need:

Nanaimo Base:

  • 3/4 cup of unsalted butter melted
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp Water
  • 6 Tbsp Dutch Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup finely shredded coconut
  • 2 cups graham wafer crumbs
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds

Buttercream Filling:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 8 Tbsp 35% whipping cream
  • 4 Tbsp vanilla custard powder
  • 3.5 cups icing sugar

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 6 oz semi-sweet bakers chocolate
  • 4.5 Tbsp unsalted butter


Instructions

Once you have all the ingredients together, prepare a 5″ x 5″ deep cookie dish or casserole pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  1. Melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in a double boiler ( a bowl set over a pot of simmering water). Once mixed together and liquid, add the almonds, graham crumbs, and coconut. If the base mixture seems too thick add some of the water to the mass to make it more pliable. You want the Nanaimo base to be mold-able yet hold together. Press the base into the parchment lined pan.Making the base for Nanaimo Bars is super easy!
  2. Chill the base in the fridge until firm, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. While the base is chilling, add the softened butter, icing sugar, and custard powder to an electric mixer. Beat the butter and sugar mix until creamy, fluffy and has the consistency of icing. Slowly add the 8 tbsp of whipping cream and continue beating until the cream is incorporated. The icing should be smooth and have a velvety texture.
  4. Once the graham crust base has set, use an offset spatula and spread the icing mixture evenly over the base layer. Again return the dish to the fridge to let the icing set, about 10 minutes.spreading the butetrcream icing on the homemade nanaimo bars
  5. Melt the remaining semi-sweet chocolate and butter over the double boiler on low heat. Once the butter cream icing layer has set, pour the chocolate ganache over the Nanaimo Bars and again using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate over the top.Topping the Nanaimo Bars with Chocolate Ganache
Refrigerate one more time for at least half an hour to ensure everything is nice and cold, then cut the Nanaimo Bars into whichever shape or size you like! 
Nanaimo Bars are easy to make at home and a family favortite during the holidays

Looking For More Christmas Baking?

Tried the recipe? Take a picture and tag me on Facebook & Instagram: @earthfoodandfire . For more from scratch recipes follow me on Instagram & Pinterest
Nanaimo Bars are easy to make at home and a family favortite during the holidays
Print
5 from 4 votes

Canadian Nanaimo Bars

A Canadian tradition, Nanaimo Bars are a delicious holiday dessert. rich and velvety with just the right amount of chocolate.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword from scratch nanaimo bars, Homemade nanaimo bars
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 12 nanaimo bars
Calories 8380kcal
Author Markus Mueller | Earth, Food, and Fire

Ingredients

Nanaimo Base:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter melted
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp Water
  • 6 Tbsp Dutch Cocoa Powder
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 cups graham wafer crumbs
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds

Buttercream Filling:

  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 8 Tbsp 35% whipping cream
  • 4 Tbsp vanilla custard powder
  • 3.5 cups icing sugar

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 6 oz semi-sweet bakers chocolate
  • 4.5 Tbsp unsalted butter

Instructions

  • Prepare a deep cookie dish or casserole pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  • Melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in a double boiler. Once mixed together and liquid, add the almonds, graham crumbs, and coconut. If the base mixture seems too thick add some of the water to the mass to make it more pliable. You want the Nanaimo base to be mold-able yet hold together.
  • Chill the base in the fridge until firm, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • While the base chills, add the softened butter, icing sugar, and custard powder to an electric mixer. Beat the butter and sugar mix until creamy, fluffy and has the consistency of icing. Slowly add the 8 tbsp of whipping cream and continue beating until the cream is incorporated and velvety.
  • Once the graham crust base is firm, use an offset spatula and spread the icing mixture evenly over the base layer. Return the dish to the fridge to let the icing set, about 10 minutes.
  • Melt the remaining semi-sweet chocolate and butter over the double boiler on low heat. Once the icing has set in the fridge, pour the chocolate ganache over the Nanaimo Bars and using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate over the top.
  • Refrigerate one last time for half an hour to ensure everything is nice and cold.
  • Cut the Nanaimo Bars into whichever shape or size you like!

Notes

Note that the "cook time" is ment as the amount of time the nanaimo bars need to be chilled in the fridge before eating

This post contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated if a purchase is made through the links provided. For more information please read my affiliate disclosure.


Related Posts

Learn how to make this Canadian treat at home. Nanaimo Bars are a wonderfully rich and creamy treat during the holidays. #baking #desserts #squares #nanaimobars #nanaimo #christmas #canadaday

Please note : We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

21 Comments

  1. I’m sooo doing your nanaimo bars this christmas! I’m sure the extra work from making them from scratch is worth it! Ok… gotta clean up that saliva mess I’ve just did on my computer.;) c ya

  2. My mother and I were just talking about the dessert platters she and I used to make for Christmas when I was growing up. Nanaimo bars were always the first thing to disappear from the tray. It’s good to see that making these from scratch is coming back into vogue. Your recipe looks perfect and your execution is lovely!

  3. It has been a long time since I had these. They are always a hit and so delicious. Perfect for the cookie exchange too.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever had nanaimo bars, but sure looks like I’m missing out! And I have all those ingredients on hand at all times, sooooo, yay! Thanks for sharing this fun recipe 🙂

  5. As close as I have lived to Canada all my life, I have never tried these bars. They look delicious and I can imagine how good they must be! That buttercream filling grabs me big time!

    • O no! You’ll have to make a trip across the border and bring some home!, Better yet make them yourself! The recipe may seem involved, but it’s really quite straight forward.

  6. I don’t think I have ever had the pleasure of a Canadian Nanaimo Bar, which makes me sad that I have been missing out on a delicious treat. I definitely will have to try making a batch now.

  7. I never knew about Nanaimo Bar but definitely pinning this!

  8. Nice to know about nanaimo bars. They look really so tasty. I like all those flavors.

  9. These bars looks so delicious and tempting!! You have explained it so well.. can’t wait to try it for 4th of July get-together.pasty!

  10. What is custard powder?

    • Hi Holly, custard powder is a pre-packaged custard mix that you usually add water to to make a custard filling. Bird’s Custard is the brand name for the original powdered, egg-free imitation custard powder, and is one of the traditional ingredients used to make nanaimo bars.

  11. I’m so excited to make these – I have never made them before and you make it sound so simple BUT I’m just reading and the list of ingredients say 8 Tbsp of whipping cream but in the method it says to add 4…….. Now I can not see where to add the other 4 OR is this just a typo (I get it because I’m the queen of typo’s lol ) but if it is which one is it?? I don’t want to add too much or not enough and what size a pan?? I need to make lots (To take to my Husband work) so would it be ok to double it??

    • Thank you for pointing out the discrepancy! You are correct it is a typo!. The correct amount is 8 tbsp of whipping cream. I used a 5×5 inch casserole dish to make this recipe, if you are making a big batch I would double the recipe and use a 9 x 5 inch pan.
      I have updated the recipe post to reflect this!
      Have fun make the nanaimo bars!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*