O Canada, We Miss Nanaimo Bars…

There a lot of things I miss from Canada now that I live in Seattle. My friends and family of course. The snowy months leading up to December that made it feel completely Christmassy. The word “washroom”. Being able to instinctively say sorry when other people bump into me without it being strange (apparently Canadians are just as weirdly polite as sit-coms always told us we were).

Then there’s all the foods I have yet to see in supermarkets here.

Fudgee-Os, Half-Moons, Mint Aeros, Fuzzy Peaches, Coffee Crisp, Wine Gums, ketchup chips, maple sandwich cookies..

A lot of junk food it would seem. 

Oh and President’s Choice white cheddar mac & cheese. So many university meals…

One of Trevor’s favourite Canadian treats is a little less packaged than the things on my list. I can create it in the kitchen instead of unsuccessfully hunting it down in a supermarket.

Nanaimo Bars.

Named after the city in British Columbia that it originated from, Nanaimo Bars are a rich little no-bake treat that resemble a candy as much as a bar due to it’s very sweet three layers.

Layer one is a combination of sugar, cocoa and butter melted together, bound around coconut, almonds and graham crumbs with the help of an egg.

Layer two gets its flavour from custard powder, but is thick like a dense buttercream frosting.  Scratch that, not “like” a buttercream frosting. It is a buttercream frosting.

Layer three is chocolate with a little butter to keep it slightly softer, even after refrigeration.

So recapping, this is a sweet chocolate-coconut treat, with two, count’em two, sweet toppings. Someone actually looked at this thing after the second layer and said hey, I just slathered this thing in a thick, rich buttercream. You know what it needs? An additional layer. Of chocolate.

Someone is awesome.

Nanaimo Bars

Adapted from AllRecipes.com

Chocolate Coconut Layer

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

Custard Buttercream Layer

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Chocolate Layer

  • 4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet baking chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons butter


  1. Coconut Layer: Beat the egg in a small bowl and put aside. In the top of a double boiler, combine 1/2 cup butter, white sugar and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Temper the egg by slowly adding a 1/4 cup of the warm chocolate mixture to the egg, whisking constantly. Add the egg back into the remaining chocolate mixture, whisking constantly until combined. Stir mixture until thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 8×8 inch pan.
  2. Custard Layer: Cream together 1/2 cup butter, heavy cream and custard powder until light and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread over the bottom layer in the pan. Chill to set.
  3. Chocolate Layer: While the second layer is chilling, melt the semisweet chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter together in a double boiler. Let cool until no longer hot to the touch. Spread over the chilled bars. Let the chocolate set in refrigerator before cutting into squares. (I let it set about 2 hours before cutting it, when the chocolate was no longer oozing, but was not quite hard yet.)

Makes approx. 20 bars. Recipe doubles well in a 9×13 in pan. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


23 thoughts on “O Canada, We Miss Nanaimo Bars…

  1. thanks for posting Amanda! Your Nanaimo bars were certainly delish & they are most definitely one of my most missed things from Canada as well!

  2. I’ve tried Nanaimo Bars before and they were a little bit of a fail, but these look SO much better. I always felt like they had potential so I’ll have to try your recipe out because they look THAT good!

  3. Love nanaimo bars! My sister always sends me a Canadian care package every year with maple syrup, crunch bars and coffee crisp bars, Swiss Chalet dipping sauce and many other goodies. It’s nice to have this recipe to make for my southerner hubby and my daughter. As Canadians we are very polite, My 2 year old mimics everything I do and say, her first two sentences were “Pardon me” and “Thank you very much” I was so proud!

  4. These look amazing. I eat Nanaimo bars when I visit Victoria! I can’t wait to try these. As always, your photography is amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Leigha – I’m so glad you guys liked them!

    Jess – Yeah, I’ve made ones before that ended up really hard. These ones came out perfect though! I hope it works out for you too!

    Kandace – That’s soo cute about your daughter! A true Canadian! ;)

    Kris – Thanks so much for your kind words!

  6. Being from a twin city MI/Ontario border…oh how I do miss these bars. I would stock up on the mint ones at the holiday time and enough to stretch out the winter. I never thought about making them. Coffee Crisps….now that I really miss and so does my husband. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, only problem now is I think I may have to make the bars too.

  7. I am from Canada, living in Texas now, and you just listed all of my favourite foods that they do not sell in grocery stores here! I miss Ketchup chips and Aero bars so much! You can actually get the maple cookies in some places around here, which is fantastic. Nanaimo bars are definitely one of my favourite things to make that I can still find all of the ingredients for in the States. Thanks for posting this; it made my day!

  8. Ha! I’m glad I’m not the only ex-pat who craves President’s Choice white cheddar mac & cheese – I have my Mom send it to me here in Delaware :)

  9. I will be moving to the Seattle area from the East Coast and there are so many things I will miss. :( Does anyone like moving to Seattle? (j/k)

  10. I’ve always wanted to try – but I’m slightly daunted by the process! I finally put custard powder on my shopping list and ended up buying vanilla custard mix. Will see how it goes! Thanks for the inspiration and the beautiful pictures to tempt!

  11. Alicia – Give them a shot, the three layers take a little time but are easier than they seem!

    Traci – I managed to find custard powder just in my standard grocery store in the baking aisle. I hear Chinese grocery stores actually have it pretty commonly. If it helps, this is the brand I buy: http://www.birdscustard.co.uk/

    Marcia – Oooh… I definitely need to make myself some mint ones sometime!

    Laura – You’re welcome! :)

    Carolyn – Now you can try making them and surprise your husband with them on an anniversary or something!

    Jo – Oh gosh, it’s such student food and I miss it to this day!

    torviewtoronto – Thank you!

    Aly – I loved moving to Seattle but I miss Canada every day! Well.. maybe not the days that my friends back home complain that they’ve been shovelling snow all day. ;)

    Rob – I know! Liquid in a bag! Such madness!

    Jess – Goodness, thank you so much! I need to get on posting that! :D

    Opal – Haha… what does it sound like when they say it?

    Beth – Thank you!

    ricekernel – Thanks for the compliment! Let me know how it goes!

  12. Pingback: Happy 1st/4th of July! « Amandeleine

  13. These were amazing! My friends were really impressed, but they were surprisingly simple to make. I think next time I fill make more of the creamy middle part because the ratio of it with the bottom layer was kind of low. Thanks so much for the recipe!

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