Make Ahead

Nanaimo Bars

July 31, 2013
Photo by Lillie Auld
Author Notes

If you grew up in Canada or in the Pacific Northwest then you may be familiar with this no-bake triple-layered confection, which gets its name from Nanaimo, a city on Vancouver Island in British Columbia (pronounced Na-NYE-mo).

I originally made these bars—many moons ago—to thank my supervisors upon the completion of my first college internship but had completely forgotten about these gems until I found an old journal containing the recipe while recently cleaning out my childhood bedroom. I had carefully transcribed the ingredients and instructions from a page clipped from The Seattle Times and the entry contained not only the recipe, but also my review and commentary, and I guess you could say it was just analog foreshadowing for what would turn into my “food blog” of today. —buttermeupbk

  • Prep time 6 hours
  • Cook time 5 minutes
  • Makes 1 8x8-inch pan
  • For the bottom layer:
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch-process
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup finely crushed graham crackers (from 1 sleeve or 9 crackers)
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (or very finely chopped almonds)
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • For the middle and top layers:
  • 1/2 cup butter, very soft
  • 3 tablespoons custard-flavored pudding powder (or vanilla flavor)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon half-and-half or heavy cream, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
In This Recipe
  1. Butter an 8×8 pan and line with foil. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, cocoa, sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Add the crushed graham crackers, almond meal, and coconut, and stir until combined. Press evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. I used the bottom of a measuring spoon to make sure it was firmly pressed into the pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, custard powder, and powdered sugar together until smooth. Add vanilla, salt, and one tablespoon half-and-half. Beat for several minutes until smooth and spreadable, adding more half-and-half one teaspoon at a time as needed. Spread evenly over the base layer.
  3. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate chips, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Pour over the top of the bars and use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate all the way to the edge.
  4. Refrigerate for several hours until firm, then slice into squares. I find that “scoring” them about 10 minutes after the chocolate sets helps to cut clean lines. I use a sharp knife and a very gentle “sawing” motion to slice them into five equal bars and then into 25 smaller squares. Store your bars in the refrigerator.

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I was born and raised in Seattle. I moved to New York in 2004, and it has been a love/hate relationship ever since. I moved to Brooklyn in 2010. I have no idea what took me so long. Brooklyn is filled with awesomeness. I love all things made with butter, drinking bourbon, and wearing leggings. I do not own a Kitchen Aid mixer (because I haven’t gotten married yet) or have one single drawer in my kitchen (the joys of apartment life) and my counter can’t accommodate a rolling pin without hitting the stove. Yet, somehow baked goods and other kitchen treats make it out alive to butter y’all up. Please email me at [email protected]