These three layer Nanaimo bars are sweet, delicious, simply the best! It’s a classic no-bake Canadian treat with a fudgy graham cracker base, a creamy custard layer filling, and then a chocolate ganache topping that will keep you coming back for just one more bite!
Table of Contents
What is a Nanaimo Bar?
You may be asking ‘what is a Nanaimo bar’? This popular Canadian treat is a three layered bar cookie that is fudgy and decadent. Each layer is different from the other and ranges from crunchy, to creamy, and then smooth and chocolate-y.
The magic is in the flavors and textures and in one taste you will discover why these Nanaimo bars are so amazing!
This bar type of cookie is named after the west coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia and has even been hailed as Canada’s favorite confection!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Classic taste: A true delicacy that is like biting into a rich piece of loaded fudge.
- Simple to make: Despite the instructions looking long, these no bake bars are easier to put together than you think!
- Stores well: These keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week or even freeze a piece for later!
- Melt-in-your-mouth good: It’s a triple threat treat with a rich custard filling, nutty coconut base and the finishing layer of sweet chocolate!
Ingredients and Notes
These authentic bar cookies are layered with a coconut and walnut base, a sweet custard filling, and chocolate topping. They are a favorite and for good reason!
- Butter: Unsalted butter is used in all three layers and gives them their decadent taste!
- Granulated sugar: You could use brown sugar if that is all you have.
- Unsweetened dutch processed cocoa: Regular unsweetened cocoa powder works, too, just not sweetened.
- Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract for best taste.
- Egg: Used in the base for binding.
- Graham crackers: These should be in crumbs, a few larger sized pieces are okay for texture.
- Shredded coconut: Unsweetened shredded coconut is best, but sweetened is okay, just your bars will be even sweeter.
- Walnuts: These need to be finely chopped, although other nuts can be used the softer texture of walnuts adds a nice bite to the bars.
- Powdered sugar: Icing sugar must be used for a light and fluffy middle layer that almost seems like a thick buttercream frosting.
- Custard powder: A must for traditional authentic bars.
- Cream: Heavy cream, whole or whipping cream needs to be used. Do not use milk as it won’t be as creamy.
- Semi-sweet chocolate: A good quality chocolate is best for flavor. I would not use milk chocolate as it will be too sweet.
How to Make Nanaimo Bars
Follow these directions for the best Nanaimo bars recipe! While these layered bars are perfect year round, we love to include them on a Christmas cookie platter during the holidays.
Melt butter mixture: In a medium pot over low to medium heat melt butter, then whisk in the sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.
Whisk in egg: Slowly add the beaten egg into the mixture in a thin stream, whisking vigorously at the same time to prevent curdling. Place the pot back on the stove and continue to cook for approximately 2 minutes until the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened.
Add remaining base ingredients: Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press mixture into a pan and then chill in the refrigerator.
Make custard flavored filling: Whisk together powdered sugar and custard powder, then add cream and butter and beat until fluffy. Spread over the 1st layer then chill for 1 hour in the fridge.
Melt chocolate, spread over top: Melt together your butter, milk and chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Let cool, then spread evenly over the custard layer. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until chocolate is set. Cut and enjoy!
Tips for Best Results
- Chill between layers: Otherwise each layer will blend into the other and the presentation of the layers is also what makes these so unique!
- Temper the egg: To start you will need to whisk your egg in a small bowl. Then slowly add the egg to the hot ingredients, whisking constantly. It’s important to whisk vigorously when combining! By keeping the eggs moving constantly, the temperature of the eggs rises gradually, preventing them from separating and appearing curdled.
- Use a double boiler: If you are worried about your chocolate getting too hot while melting.
- Use a hot knife: This will help make clean slices through your Nanaimo bars.
- Line your pan with parchment paper: For easier removal from your 8 inch pan. You could also grease and flour your pan really well, or both!
How to Store
- Store: Refrigerated in a sealed container for about a week. The bars are best chilled as the filling softens at room temperature.
- Freeze: Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. You can freeze individual pieces or the whole pan. Thaw overnight in the fridge.
Can I use dry milk powder instead of custard powder?
While custard powder is more authentic, you could substitute with dry milk powder if needed.
Can I use other nuts?
Yes. Pecans or almonds are two other great choices for the base layer.
Can I bake the crust instead?
If you don’t feel comfortable with a tempered egg base, you can bake the crust at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. This will make the base a bit drier, so it will lose some of the fudginess.
How do I cut Nanaimo bars without the top cracking?
You will need to use a thin sharp knife to cut these bars. After you place the last layer of chocolate ganache on the top, chill your bars for around 30 minutes. Remove from the fridge and score your knife along the top where you intend to slice your bars. Place back in the fridge until chilled all the way through. When bars are completely chilled, cut along your previously made lines all the way through the bars. Wipe your knife clean after each slice.
More Delicious Treats
The Best Nanaimo Bars
- ½ cup butter
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsweetened dutch processed cocoa (sifted)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 large egg (beaten)
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup coconut unsweetened
- ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons custard powder
- 3 tablespoons cream (heavy, whole or whipping cream)
- ¼ cup butter (softened)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 4 ounces semi sweet chocolate (chopped)
- In a medium pot over low/medium heat melt the butter, whisk in the sugar, cocoa and vanilla until smooth. Remove from the heat and slowly add the beaten egg, whisking quick and hard, place the pot back on the heat (low/medium) and continue to cook for approximately 2 minutes until the mixture is smooth and thickens.
- In a small bowl whisk together the crumbs, coconut, chopped nuts and salt.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the crumb mixture, combine well. Press the mixture into a lightly greased and floured 8 inch square pan. Chill while making the 2nd layer.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and custard powder, add the cream and butter and beat until fluffy. Spread over the 1st layer. Refrigerate 1 hour to set.
- In a medium pot melt together the butter, milk and chopped chocolate until smooth. Let cool, then spread evenly over the 2nd layer. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm. Cut and serve. Enjoy!