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How to Make Nanaimo Bars (a Delicious Chocolate No-Bake Canadian Dessert)

Looking for an easy no-bake treat? Give this favorite Canadian dessert a try! You’ll love the crunchy, creamy, and chocolatey layers – not to mention how easy Nanaimo Bars are to make.

No Bake Nanaimo Bars

😍 About This Recipe

Turns out I’ve been pronouncing the name of this delicious Canadian dessert incorrectly since I was six years old.

*facepalm*

How do you pronounce Nanaimo bars? (Besides the obvious de-li-cious.)

rich, dense, creamy, buttery custard Nanaimo Bars

Last summer, my Canadian friend, Sabrina, set me straight while visiting her in Vancouver, BC. Turns out they’re pronounced Na-NEYE-mo….not NAA-ni-mo – bars.

Glad to finally know that!

Nanaimo Bars are named after where they originated, namely the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Custard Nanaimo Bars

Having grown up eating peanut butter Nanaimo bars, I decided to try the custard variety when I got back to North Carolina.

Wow, these Nanaimo bars are tasty! I love the rich, dense, creamy, buttery custard.

The nutty chocolate crust balances out the sweet filling, and the chocolate topping just makes it rich and delicious.

Give these no bake Nanaimo bars a try! You only need a few simple ingredients, they’re easy to make, and are a definite crowd pleaser.  

Canadian dessert Nanaimo Bars
Nanaimo bars with nutty chocolate crust, sweet filling, and chocolate topping

👍 Recipe Variations, Notes & Tips

  • Double Boiler. You can use a double-boiler to melt the butter and chocolate, but I don’t have one, so I used a sauce pan over low heat and it worked just fine.
  • Butter. Make sure the butter that you use for the filling is room temperature. Otherwise you may end up biting into chunks of butter in your bars!
  • Unsweetened Coconut. Since these bars are already very sweet, I highly recommend unsweetened coconut. I prefer using the finely shredded coconut in this recipe.
  • Dark Chocolate. I like to use dark chocolate in the top layer to balance the sweet middle layer but feel free to use milk chocolate if you prefer it.
  • Bar Size. The recipe suggests cutting the bars into 9 slices. Those slices will be big! These bars are quite rich, so you might want to make them smaller. I often cut each of those 9 slices into 2 bars or 4 bite-sized pieces and find one of those more than enough.
  • Tip: If you’re ever in Nanaimo, Canada, use this guide to follow the Nanaimo bar trail!

😍 Best Canadian Nanaimo Bar Recipe

This recipe has 3 layers. Each layer is quick and easy to make.

To make the bottom layer, melt butter in a large saucepan, then add cocoa powder and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. 

Add one beaten egg. Stir well to cook egg while the mixture is hot.

Adding beaten egg to melted butter, cocoa powder and sugar

Take the saucepan off heat and stir in shredded coconut, chopped almonds, and graham cracker crumbs. Stir until everything is well combined. 

shredded coconut, chopped almonds, and graham cracker crumbs

Press the coconut mixture into an ungreased 8×8 pan. I like to line my pan with parchment paper to make it easy to lift out of the pan.

Chill the bottom layer in the fridge while you make the filling. Doing so will make it easier to spread the filling on the bottom layer.

To make the filling, add softened butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla pudding mix (or custard powder) to a mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. I love using my Breville hand mixer for this. I’m seriously in love with that mixer!

Spread the custard mixture over the bottom layer. Then chill in the fridge while you prepare the top layer. 

Custard mixture spread over the bottom layer of Nanaimo Bars

The last step is to make the top layer. First, melt chocolate and butter in the microwave or on the stove using a double boiler or a heatproof bowl and a saucepan.

Let chocolate mixture cool slightly, then spread over the chilled custard filling. The chocolate is easiest to spread when the cream layer is well chilled. 

Once you have all three layers, cover and chill in the fridge until solid. Then cut into 9 slices and enjoy!

No Bake Nanaimo Bars cut into 9 slices

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Yield: 9 slices

Ultimate Canadian Nanaimo Bars

Ultimate Canadian Nanaimo Bars

These nutty, chocolate-y, buttery bars are rich, delicious, and super easy to make. No baking required!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 cup [113g] butter
  • 1/4 cup [50g] sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup [250g] shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup [100g] graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup [125g] chopped almonds

Filling

  • 1/2 cup [113g] butter (softened)
  • 2 cups [240g] powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla pudding or custard powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Top Layer

  • 1/2 cup [4 oz/113g] dark chocolate (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Instructions

Bottom layer

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan, then add cocoa powder and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. 
  2. Add one beaten egg. Stir well to cook egg.
  3. Take off heat and stir in shredded coconut, chopped almonds, and graham cracker crumbs. Stir well until combined. 
  4. Press mixture into an 8x8 pan lined with parchment (that will make it easy to lift the bars out of the pan.) Chill the bottom layer in the fridge while you make the filling. Doing so will make it easier to spread the filling on the bottom layer.

Filling

  1. Add softened butter, powdered sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla pudding mix (or custard powder) to a medium bowl. Beat until light and fluffy.
  2. Spread custard mixture over the bottom layer. Chill in the fridge while you prepare the top layer. 

Top layer

  1. Melt chocolate and butter on the stove or in the microwave. Let chocolate mixture cool slightly, then spread over the chilled custard filling. The chocolate is easiest to spread when the cream layer is well chilled. 
  2. Once you have all three layers, cover and chill in the fridge until solid.
  3. Cut into 9 slices and enjoy!

Notes

  • Double Boiler. You can use a double-boiler to melt the butter and chocolate, but I don't have one, so I used a sauce pan over low heat and it worked just fine.
  • Butter. Make sure the butter that you use for the filling is room temperature. Otherwise you may end up biting into chunks of butter in your bars!
  • Unsweetened Coconut. Since these bars are already very sweet, I highly recommend unsweetened coconut. I prefer using the finely shredded coconut in this recipe.
  • Dark Chocolate. I like to use dark chocolate in the top layer to balance the sweet middle layer but feel free to use milk chocolate if you prefer it.
  • Bar Size. The recipe suggests cutting the bars into 9 slices. Those slices will be big! These bars are quite rich, so you might want to make them smaller. I often cut each of those 9 slices into 2 bars or 4 bite-sized pieces and find one of those more than enough.
  • Tip: If you're ever in Nanaimo, Canada, use this guide to follow the Nanaimo bar trail!
  • Based on this recipe.

    😍 What Can I Help You With Next?

    Nanaimo Bars No baking required!

    Like this Recipe? Share it!

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    Ian

    Monday 5th of October 2020

    Hi Cate,

    I love this blog because of the Canadian content and I have a question to ask. I export Canadian Food & Beverage at my website and I would like to add a page for Canadian recipes. Would it be okay if I added some of the recipes from here to my page.

    Cheers, Ian White CanadianFoodToUsa.com

    Cate, International Desserts Blog

    Wednesday 7th of October 2020

    Hi Ian, you're welcome to link to anything on the IDB but please do not use any IDB content on your site. Thanks!

    cindi

    Thursday 3rd of September 2020

    haha I read your challenge to pronounce the name and figured Nanaimo must be pronounced in such a way that sounds like a toddler learning to speak saying Nana, I (want) mo(re)!

    Cate, International Desserts Blog

    Thursday 3rd of September 2020

    haha! :)

    Eva

    Monday 6th of March 2017

    You instructions in step 3 says something about shredded coconut. I don't see it in the list of ingredients. Is that an oversight either in the ingredient list or instructions?

    Cate

    Tuesday 7th of March 2017

    Yep, there's 1 cup shredded coconut (I just fixed the ingredients list)!

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