How To Make Nanaimo Bars – A Canadian Snack

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How To Make Nanaimo Bars – A Canadian Snack

Out of all the quintessentially Canadian snacks, my favourite by far has always been the Nanaimo Bar. Pronounced Nuh-nye-moe, this is a no-bake dessert bar that I spend a ridiculous amount of money on when my ship hit British Columbia because I wanted to introduce my international friends to the treat.

It’s a chocolatey, creamy, coconuty square of goodness that will cover your fingers in chocolate if you take too long to eat it.

But it never takes me long to eat it. In fact, I could finish off the whole pan within the hour.

The Nanaimo Bar’s origins are not completely clear, as variations of the recipe appeared in cookbooks in early years under various names. Eventually it was given the name Nanaimo after Nanaimo, British Columbia, where three recipes almost identical to the modern recipe appeared in a hospital cookbook under names like “chocolate square” and “chocolate slice”.

After being featured as a Canadian dessert at the 1986 World Exposition in BC, they gained nationwide popularity.

Today, we’re going to try to make our own Nanaimo Bars. My younger brother made them for our family once, but I believe he did so out of a pre-packaged box recipe. We’re going to do this from scratch. Feel free to follow along and try out these Canadian treats yourself!

This Recipe Makes 16 Squares

You Will Need:

Layer One:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • ½ cup finely chopped almonds (optional)

Layer Two:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Layer Three:

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 teaspoons butter


Layer One

1. Over the stove, melt 1/2 cup of butter and add in 1/4 cup of white sugar and 5 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Stir until smooth.

2. Beat in one egg, stirring until the mixture is a thick, globby, gelatinous creature. This should take 2-3 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat and add 1 3/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs, 1 cup of flaked coconut, and 1/2 cup of chopped almonds if you choose to use them. Stir until well mixed. I did these as individual steps because otherwise, it would have been too thick to mix. After the graham cracker crumbs were added, it kind of just looked like dirt.

4. Press mixture into an ungreased 8×8 inch pan. Don’t be afraid to really press. It should be well packed.

Layer 2

1. Get them muscles ready and mix together 1/2 cup of butter, 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of custard powder until light and fluffy.

2. Add the 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Mix until smooth.

3. Spread over the first layer in the pan as evenly as possible. I used a knife for this process.

4. Place in the fridge to begin the chilling process.

Layer 3

1. While the second layer is chilling, melt the 1 cup of chocolate chips and 4 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon) of butter. You may use the stove or microwave. Spread in medium-thick layer over the chilled mixture. Chill 30 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

And there you have it! Wonderfully delicious Nanaimo bars ready for eating! I didn’t use almonds in mine, but you can use almonds or walnuts to add to the base. I got this recipe and slightly adapted it from All Recipes. Background information on Nanaimo Bars was found here.

These turned out quite fantastically. They’re very rich and sweet, and next time I would maybe use 3/4 of the ingredients for the base, as the base was a little overpowering, but these are definitely a success!

Don’t forget to check out these other Canadian snacks!

For another snack recipe, try making your own fruit snacks!