Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars |
  • Nanaimo Bars
Posted on April 7, 2014

Last week I mentioned that I took a little trip to Victoria, British Columbia. I boarded the Victoria Clipper in Seattle, and within 3 hours I had arrived at the very quaint (and very British-y!) capital city of BC. The ferry ride itself is almost worth the trip. It’s incredibly scenic and relaxing!

Seattle |

I was very lucky to have sunshine during most of my visit. I spent a lot of time soaking in the ocean views from the Waterfront Trail and strolling through the numerous city gardens and parks. I poked my head into many of the locally run shops and restaurants in the downtown area. And I admired the beautiful architecture of the Parliament Building.

Victoria, BC |

Oh and of course, I had a very fancy Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Empress. It was such a fun and unique experience. And I felt very sophisticated! 10 year old Liz was right – sandwiches with the crust cut off really ARE better!

Fairmont Empress in Victoria, BC |

One of the best parts about traveling to new places, in my opinion, is sampling the local foods. And in Victoria, I ate Nanaimo Bars! Named after the city where they have been claimed to originate from, Nanaimo Bars are a popular treat in Canada. I had heard many great things about this dessert and I couldn’t wait to try them out for myself. And let me just say that they did not disappoint! Those Canadians definitely know a thing or two about confections!

Nanaimo Bars are a triple-layer no-bake bar/cookie. The bottom layer is a tightly packed mixture of graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder, coconut and almonds. The middle layer is a rich custardy buttercream filling. And the final layer is a smooth chocolate topping. So yeah, there is a lot to love here!

I wanted to re-create Nanaimo Bars once I got back home to Seattle and I knew EXACTLY who to turn to get started on this project: Jessie over at Cakespy. Jessie is – rightfully so – a bit obsessed with Nanaimo Bars. She even claims them as her favorite food from Canada. So I knew she would have all the goods on how to make authentic Nanaimo Bars.

I love the idea of making these for a party, because they just look so impressive and regal. It’s like they are wearing little tuxedos! But they aren’t nearly as intimidating to make as they may seem. The three layers come together very easily and quickly. So save yourself the trip to Canada and make yourself some Nanaimo Bars at home!



Nanaimo Bars

Yield: Make one 8 X 8-inch pan

Nanaimo Bars


  • For the Bottom Layer
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

  • For the Middle Layer
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding powder
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar

  • For the Top Layer
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter


  1. Lightly spray an 8 X 8-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Make the bottom layer. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Then add the sugar and cocoa powder, whisking until fully incorporated. Do not let the mixture come to a boil. Temper the beaten egg by whisking in about a tablespoon of the warm butter mixture. Then add the tempered egg mixture to the saucepan, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and nuts, stirring until the dry ingredients are well coated. Dump the mixture out into your prepared baking pan and press it down firmly into the bottom of the pan, making a flat and even surface. Place the pan in your refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Make the middle layer. In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together all of the ingredients until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Carefully spread this layer over the chilled bottom layer, making it as even and flat as possible. Place the pan back in your refrigerator to chill while you make the top layer.
  4. Make the top layer. In a medium saucepan over low-medium heat, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring frequently so the mixture doesn’t burn. Once the chocolate is fully melted, remove the saucepan from the heat and let the chocolate stand for 5-10 minutes to cool and thicken slightly. Then carefully spread it over the chilled middle layer, making a flat and even surface. Place the pan back in your refrigerator for 8-10 minutes to partially set the chocolate. Then “score” the chocolate layer with a sharp knife, which will allow for easier cutting once the bars are completely cooled and will prevent the chocolate layer from cracking. Transfer the pan back to your refrigerator to finish setting, about 30 minutes more.
  5. To cut the Nanaimo Bars, use a sharp knife that has been warmed with hot water and then wiped dry. Re-warming and cleaning the knife frequently between cuts will help you get the neatest looking slices. The bars can be stored in your refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


1. Almonds are the traditional nut used in Nanaimo Bars. But you could substitute walnuts or pecans, if you prefer.

2. I used a European style cultured butter for this recipe.

1 Comment

  • Glad to hear you love Nanaimo’s signature treat! Next time you are visiting Vancouver Island you should check out the Nanaimo Bar Trail. The trail includes a group of Nanaimo restaurants and other local businesses and their take on our town’s classic treat. Along with delicious regular Nanaimo bars there is Nanaimo bar cheesecake, deep fried Nanaimo bars, Nanaimo bar martinis, and even a Nanaimo bar pedicure. Check out for more information


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