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Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars recipe

Nanaimo bars are a classic Canadian sweet treat that the rest of the world isn’t very familiar with yet. Well they will be now. This recipe is a real keeper.

Nanaimo bars aren’t just yummy. They are an easy no bake dessert recipe too.

A Nanaimo bar recipe has three distinctive layers: a chocolatey base filled with coconut and chopped nuts, topped with a layer of sweet custard, all topped with a layer of chocolate.

If you like chocolate, coconut and then more chocolate you are in for a treat.

I don’t think anyone really knows who first developed these sweet bars, but the recipe was first published in a local publication in Nanaimo British Columbia, Canada in 1952. Apparently though, people had been making these distinctive squares for years before that, so this recipe has a very long history.

The delicious, easy to make dessert recipe quickly travelled across Canada and has been a staple in Canadian kitchens for decades.

The recipe is made in three layers. Each one is quite easy to make and requires NO time in the oven. These yummy squares are a no bake chocolate dessert treat.

How to Make The Three Layers of Nanaimo Bars

The base layer is a mix of cocoa, graham cracker crumbs and coconut, with a few other items to keep it all together and sweeten it up a bit more. Just mix them all together and pat them into an 8″ square prepared baking pan.

I spray a bit of non-stick spray on the pan first, just to make sure that the squares come out of the pan cleanly.

Once the base layer is done, place the baking pan in the refrigerator to cool.

Once you have the first layer in and evenly spread out over the pan, it’s time to make the luscious custard. This layer is an easy one too. It’s made from just three ingredients: butter, sugar and custard powder, plus a bit of hot water. Mix them together well, ideally with an electric mixer, until the custard mixture is lighter in color than it was when you started.

Layer it evenly over the base and place the pan back in the refrigerator.

The luscious top layer is made very simply too. Just blend together 2 squares of melted unsweetened chocolate with some butter. Spread it over the custard layer and pop it all back into the fridge. Cool the squares for about 30 minutes or so before serving them to make sure everything has had a chance to set properly.

Nanaimo bars recipe

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are a three layer, easy to make no bake dessert recipe originating in Canada. Add this one to your own personal recipe book. You'll use it over and over again.
Prep Time 15 minutes
30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16
Calories 369 kcal


  • 8" square baking pan


First Layer Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, (measure lightly)
  • 3/4 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped, (or pecans or almonds)

Second Layer Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons custard powder
  • 3 tablespoons hot water

Top Layer Ingredients:

  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter


To Make the First Layer:

  • Place butter, sugar and cocoa in top of double boiler, stir until very smooth. Add egg and vanilla. Remove from heat. Add cracker crumbs, coconut and nuts. (You may find that you usually end up using your hands to mix in dry ingredients. That's just fine.) Spread the base mixture in an 8 inch square pan and pack it down. Place it in the refrigerator while preparing the second layer.

To Make the Second Layer:

  • Mix together all of the ingredients for this step. Cream them until the mixture is lighter in color (an electric mixer works well for this). Spread the custard mixture on top of first layer and return it to the fridge.

To Make the Top Layer:

  • Melt the butter and chocolate together, making sure you don't burn the chocolate. Slowly pour this mixture over the second layer of the Nanaimo bars, tipping the pan back and forth to make sure it is all covered evenly. Return the bars to the fridge.
  • Cool for 30 minutes before slicing into squares.


Here's a great tip:
The top chocolate and butter mixture can sometimes get hard in the fridge. To make sure the squares cut cleanly you can score them before you pop them into the fridge for the final cool down. By score I mean make cuts exactly where you will be cutting the squares once they are cooled.
This will help to avoid cracking the chocolate layer when cutting the Nanaimo bars into slices later. You will have squares with nice clean edges.


Calories: 369kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 3gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 247mgPotassium: 134mgFiber: 2gSugar: 31gVitamin A: 389IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 36mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

If you love Nanaimo bars, have a look here at another great Canadian tradition – our butter tart recipe.

Baking for the holidays? Find a variety of Christmas baking ideas here.

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