Nanaimo Bars

When I was a kid, there was always a very specific list of Christmas treats that my mom would bake up for the three of us to enjoy (my mom, my sister, and me). Usually, my mom hid the Tupperwares full of cookies and other desserts in the basement, so that the baking would last as long as possible. Our family sweet tooth is pretty strong, so sweets never lasted too long in our house…

My mom’s list primarily included traditional family recipes that had been passed down from my grandmothers and great grandmothers. We’d have shortbread cookies, gingerbread mans, mincemeat and marsipan tarts, and Nanaimo bars. This holiday, I decided to share my family’s recipe for Nanaimo bars with my readers!

Nanaimo bars are a traditional no-bake bar cookie that originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Many slight variations of the recipe exist, but the ingredients are primarily the same for all of them. The bars start out with a crust made from chocolate, graham crackers, coconut, and nuts. Then the crust is topped with a custard-flavored butter icing and covered with a layer of chocolate.

An important part of the butter icing is custard powder, which is not so easily acquired in the States. Traditionally, my mom always used Bird’s Custard Powder because it is the most popular brand. In the States, it can sometimes be found in specialty grocery stores in the International Foods section (usually the British-made version) or at international stores like World Market. If you can’t find custard powder, you can substitute it with an equal amount of instant vanilla pudding.

One quick warning, these Nanaimo bars are SWEET and heavy. Traditionally, my family usually cuts them in to 16 servings, but the recipe can easily be cut in to 25 servings if your sweet tooth is not as dominant as mine… 😉

Click below for the recipe! Have a question? Feel free to ask in the comments below! And thanks for reading! 🙂

Nanaimo Bars

Yield: 16 (or 25) servings

For the crust, you are going to need:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For the filling, you are going to need:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder (or vanilla instant pudding)
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the topping, you are going to need:

  • 1 1/2 cups high-quality semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

You are also going to need:

  • Double boiler
  • Wire whisk
  • Rubber spatula
  • Large bowl
  • Medium bowl
  • Small bowl
  • 9-inch square pan
  • Cooking spray
  • Aluminum foil

First, make the crust for the Nanaimo bars. Lightly spray the bottom and sides of your 9-inch pan. Set aside.

In a double boiler over barely simmering water, melt the butter. Mix in the sugar and cocoa, and whisk until smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg. Slowly whisk the egg in to the chocolate mixture, stirring until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding.

Quick tip: When you first stir in the egg, the chocolate mixture may get really thick and the butter may separate from the mixture. Keep whisking until the liquid is all incorporated. Also, make sure the water in your double-boiler is just barely simmering (not boiling), or else you will cook the egg and the chocolate mixture will seize.

In a large bowl, mix together the remaining crust ingredients and the chocolate mixture. Pack the crust in to the bottom of the 9-inch pan, pressing until good and firm. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ingredients for the center filling. Spread the mixture over the crust using a rubber spatula. Refrigerate until set.

In a double boiler, melt together the chocolate and butter for the topping. Let cool slightly, and then spread over the filling. Chill in the refrigerator until firm.

Keep in the refrigerator, covered with aluminum foil, until ready to serve. Using a sharp knife, cut in to 16 squares. Enjoy! 😀

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2 thoughts on “Nanaimo Bars

  1. I saw these on Just a Smidgen’s blog the other day and wondered why they were called that. And its good to see a recipe which uses a British-born ingredient (even if it is custard powder!)

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