What are Nanaimo Bars and where did they come from? Read on to find out and get a delicious recipe for your cook book!
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Yummmmmmmy! I love Nanaimo Bars! Three layers of deliciousness combine to create a bar that’s got all the right flavours and textures in one. Chocolate and custard with a touch of coconut for flavour. Almonds, graham crumbs and cream for texture, and an extra dose of chocolate just because! 😀
I make these every year for my Dad for his birthday. I’ve been doing so for a few years now, he absolutely loves these Perfect Nanaimo Bars! They are the best way to end a lunch, or dinner (or… breakfast?) meal, and are large enough to share… if you have to…
Where did nanaimo bars originate?
Nanaimo Bars were created in Nanaimo, BC, which just so happens to be right ‘across the pond’ from where I live! Nanaimo is on the East side of Vancouver Island, and is a lovely City! I actually moved to Nanaimo fresh out of high school, as they have a brilliant Culinary Arts program at the University there.
Not only is Nanaimo beautiful but it is full of fun things to do, and more importantly has great places to eat! The best poutine I have ever had to this day was from a little place called Pirate Chips where you could also get deep fried chocolate bars! Or you could check out Mrs Riches where they make burgers THE SIZE OF YOUR HEAD and take a polaroid to hang on their wall of every person who orders one!
Who created the Nanaimo bar?
It is a little hard to pin point, but the first known printed recipe for Nanaimo Bars was submitted by Mrs. E. MacDougall for the 1952 Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary cookbook. She called it ‘Chocolate Slice’ or ‘Chocolate Slice’ and it was very close to the modern bar.
Vancouver caterer, chef, and Lazy Gourmet cookbook writer Susan Mendelson is credited with raising the Nanaimo Bar to cult status and expanding its potential to include mocha and mint flavoured bars as well as blondies topped with white chocolate.
Either way, whoever has had a hand in creating these beauties into what they are today deserve a big round of applause.
For more info on the Nanaimo Bar you can check out this page on Wikipedia.
How to make nanaimo bars
Start by building the bottom layer. Combine butter, cocoa and sugar in the top of a double boiler, then add eggs and stir until thick. Remove from heat and mix in graham crumbs, almonds and coconut. Press into the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish and try to make it as level as possible.
To build the custard layer, whip butter, cream and custard powder until it fully combines. Mix in confectioners sugar and spread over the bottom layer. It is important to spread the custard as evenly as possibly because the top chocolate layer is thin and you don’t want custard peeping out! Also you want your bars to have a clean, straight line look once cut. Refrigerate 30 minutes to set.
Combine the top layer ingredients and microwave until melted. Spread over top of the custard layer and refrigerate again.
Cut into bars!
Can you freeze nanaimo bars?
You sure can! In fact this is how I store the Perfect Nanaimo Bars for my Dad for his birthday. He likes to keep them frozen because then he can savour them; indulge in one bar every so often. They store great in freezer ziplock bags. I like to cut a few strips of parchment or wax paper to put in between each layer of Nanaimo Bars as I build them up in the bag.
What is custard powder made up of?
Custard powder is basically just cornstarch, salt, flavouring and colour!
Are nanaimo bars gluten free?
Nope, they sure aren’t! But you can make them gluten free! The only ingredient you would need to replace is the graham cracker crumbs. Luckily you can buy an easy replacement from Amazon, Kinnikinnick Graham Style Cracker Crumbs.
Love chocolate? Me too! Try these next:
S’mores Cheesecake Parfait
Did you love this recipe? Help me decide which flavour I should create next! Caramel Frappuccino or Mint Chocolate? Add your vote in the comment section below the recipe card!
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Perfect Nanaimo Bars
- 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 2 eggs beaten
- 3 cups graham crumbs
- 1 cup flaked coconut
- 1 cup finely chopped raw almonds
- 1 cup butter soft
- 6 tbsp heavy cream
- 1/4 cup custard powder
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp butter
- Double Boiler (or pot with heat proof mixing bowl)
- Wooden Spoon
- 9 x 13″ baking dish
- Medium Microwave Safe Bowl
- Using a food processor or nut chopper, grind the almonds up into coarse crumbs. Set up the double boiler and measure out all of the ingredients for the bottom layer.
- In the top of the double boiler melt the butter. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and whisk continuously for about three minutes, until the mixture thickens and eventually becomes smooth. Remove from heat.
- Add the graham crumbs, almonds and coconut to the chocolate and using a wooden spoon, mix until fully combined. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9 x 13″ baking dish and make layer as level as possible.
- Sift the custard powder into the bowl of a stand mixer and add the butter and cream. Using the paddle attachment whip until the ingredients eventually fully combine, about 4 minutes on medium high speed. Whip in 1 cup confectioners sugar at a time, scraping the bowl in between each addition.
- Using an icing spatula, spread the custard over the bottom layer in the baking dish. Spread as evenly as possible! Chill for 30 minutes. Just enough time to clean those dishes that piled up 😉
- In a microwave safe bowl combine the chocolate chips and butter and melt on 50% power until fully melted. Pour over top of the custard and spread evenly. Refrigerate 30 more minutes. If you prefer you can use the double boiler. Just be cautious to keep it at a low temperature so you don’t heat the chocolate too quickly – it will ruin the chocolate.
Cutting and Storage
- Gently slide a knife through the top chocolate layer to form the bars, cleaning the knife often. I like to cut them so they are 3 x 8, resulting in 24 Nanaimo Bars. Look above at the process shots for photos. Refrigerate another 30 minutes to ensure the bars are firm enough.
- Cut through the bars again, this time all the way through, and along the edges as well to pop the bars out of the baking dish. You can refrigerate these for 2 weeks, or freeze for 6 months.