The Best Nanaimo Bars

Have you ever had a nanaimo bar?  When I originally posted this recipe almost two years ago, I discovered that they’re actually a Canadian thing and many, many people have never heard of them, let alone tried them.

Now, clearly I should have known this was a Canadian treat.  They’re named after a city that I visit every. single. summer.  This should have been obvious to me.  For some reason I just thought this was a strange coincidence.  I can’t even believe that I’m admitting that because I feel just slightly ridiculous for not knowing.

I guess I just can’t imagine anyone not knowing about these little treats.  How does everyone not know and love nanaimo bars?  They’re too amazing to only be a thing in Canada!

Nanaimo bars have always been a favourite of mine.  When they were on the dessert table at a buffet, there was no question about what to choose.  But the first time I remember having an absolutely amazing one was the first year that I spent Christmas with my husbands family.  My mother-in-law makes the best nanaimo bars.  That’s just a fact.

  • For the base:
  • 2 ounces (57g) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (114g) butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons (60mL) pasteurized egg whites (or one large egg)
  • 2 cups (244g) graham wafer crumbs
  • 1 cup (74g) unsweetened coconut
  • For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup (114g) butter
  • 4 tablespoons (34g) custard powder
  • 4 cups (454g) powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (90mL) milk
  • 1 tablespoon (15mL) vanilla
  • For the glaze
  • 4 ounces (113g) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (57g) butter

  1. Place the 2 ounces of chocolate in a medium microwave safe bowl and microwave for 2-3 minutes at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, until the chocolate is almost melted. Continue to stir until it is completely melted. Add the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, egg whites, graham wafer crumbs and unsweetened coconut and mix well. Press into a 9x13 inch pan and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. In another bowl, cream the butter for the filling. Add the custard powder, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread the filling evenly over the chilled base. Chill for another 15-20 minutes.
  3. In a microwave safe bowl, place the 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate and the butter and heat at 50% power for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until the chocolate is almost melted. Continue stirring until it is completely melted. Spread evenly over the chilled custard layer. Chill for several hours or overnight.
  4. Cut into bars and store covered in the refrigerator for a week, or remove from the pan and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. I actually prefer these just slightly thawed straight from the freezer!

I’ve used both unsalted and salted butter for these and both are fine, so use your preference. I use baking chocolate for both the base and the glaze. You could certainly use chocolate chips instead, but I wouldn’t recommend it as they don’t melt as well as the baking chocolate.

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