Nanaimo Bars

nanaimo bars
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  • Total: 19 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 4 mins
  • Yield: 36 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
151 Calories
9g Fat
17g Carbs
1g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 36 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 151
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g 12%
Saturated Fat 4g 22%
Cholesterol 18mg 6%
Sodium 55mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Protein 1g
Calcium 15mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This Canadian recipe was submitted by a reader. The popular Nanaimo bars are assembled in three layers: a crunchy base, custard middle, and chocolate top layer. The bars are named after the British Columbia city of Nanaimo. The list of ingredients may look long, but the bars come together quickly, plus there's no baking required.

Because custard powder can be difficult to find in the U.S., the second layer calls for instant pudding powder. However, custard powder is more readily available these days, so check your supermarket's international aisle.

The bars are typically made with a chilled bottom crust. If you prefer a firmer baked crust, see the recipe variations, below.


  • Bottom Layer:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (4 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • Dash salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup almonds (or pecans, chopped)
  • 1 cup coconut (flaked, sweetened)
  • Second Layer:
  • 1/4 cup butter (2 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream (or milk or half-and-half)
  • 2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix (or custard powder, if available)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (8 1/2 ounces, sift after measuring)
  • Third Layer:
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or 4 ounces broken semisweet baking chocolate)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (1 ounce)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, the Nanaimo bar instructions are broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for the preparation of the layers.

Prepare the Bottom Layer

  1. Gather the ingredients for the bottom layer. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

  2. Place a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer; reduce the heat to low. Place a heatproof bowl or pan over the simmering water and add the 1/2 cup of butter, granulated sugar, and cocoa. Cook until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.

  3. Add the beaten egg, a dash of salt, and vanilla to the butter mixture and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is hot and thickened. The minimum safe temperature for eggs is 160 F. Remove the pan from the heat.

  4. To the egg and butter mixture, add the graham cracker crumbs, nuts, and coconut. Stir the mixture until well blended.

  5. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.

Prepare the Second Layer

  1. Gather the ingredients for the second layer.

  2. In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the 1/4 cup of softened butter with the cream or milk and custard powder (or pudding). Sift the powdered sugar and gradually beat it into the custard mixture; continue to beat until light and fluffy.

  3. Spread the custard mixture over the chilled bottom layer. Return the pan to the refrigerator.

Prepare the Third Layer

  1. Gather the ingredients for the third layer.

  2. Melt the semisweet chocolate with and 2 tablespoons of butter a heatproof bowl or pan over simmering water. Remove from the heat and let the chocolate mixture cool slightly.

  3. Pour the chocolate over the custard layer.

  4. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or foil and chill.

How to Store and Freeze

  • Cover leftovers or transfer them to an airtight container; refrigerate for up to 4 days.
  • To freeze Nanaimo bars, place individual bars in a freezer container or zip-close bags. Label with the name and date and freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipe Variations

If you prefer a baked crust, melt the 1 stick of butter; add the sugar, cocoa, egg, vanilla, graham cracker crumbs, pecans, and coconut. Blend well and pat into the pan. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 10 minutes. Let cool and proceed with the second layer.