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

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


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

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.

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! They’re easy to make and are a definite crowd pleaser.  

Best Canadian Nanaimo Bar Recipe

You've got to try these Canadian Custard Nanaimo Bars! Chocolate-y, creamy, nutty - delicious! | International Desserts Blog

Recipe notes:

  • You can use a double-boiler to melt the butter, but I don’t have one, so I used a sauce pan over low heat and it worked just fine.
  • 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!
  • Since these bars are already very sweet, I highly recommend unsweetened coconut. I prefer using the finely shredded coconut in this recipe.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If you’re ever in Nanaimo, Canada, use this guide to follow the Nanaimo bar trail!
Ultimate Canadian Nanaimo Bars

Ultimate Canadian Nanaimo Bars

Yield: 9 slices
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

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


Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds


  • 1/2 cup softened butter,
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla pudding or custard powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Top Layer

  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) chocolate (chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp butter


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 while the mixture is hot.
  3. Take off heat and stir in shredded coconut, chopped almonds, and graham cracker crumbs. Stir well until combined. 
  4. Press into an ungreased 8x8 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.


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


Based on this recipe.

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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

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!


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! :)


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?


Tuesday 7th of March 2017

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

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