Desserts/Treats

Easy Nanaimo Bars Made Three Different Ways

Canada’s National Dessert – The Nanaimo Bar

Nanaimo Bars first came to life in 1952 in a Woman’s Auxiliary cookbook at the Nanaimo Hospital and it was named chocolate squares.

According to the Food Network Canada history of the Nanaimo bar, it later popped up in Vancouver in a cookbook by Edith Adams.

Edith called the chocolate squares, Nanaimo bars which were fitting since that’s where they were first created.

But before Edith named the Nanaimo bar the recipe appeared in The Sun called the London Fog Bar.

The bar itself was named after the city of invention, Nanaimo, British Columbia, and is coined Canada’s national dessert.

Some of you may be familiar with these types of cookbooks and they are still made today in hospitals and schools to raise money.

Our son’s school has them for sale once a year where parents send in their recipes and photos for the cookbook. 

It’s a great way to showcase traditional recipes that are part of your family.

Nanaimo Squares

Before we get into the Nanaimo Bar recipe I want to thank Christine Weadick for the photos and recipe.

These Nanaimo Bars are a Christmas tradition in her house and I’ve been holding on to the recipe for two years.

Finally, we can say that it’s up on the blog and it’s truly an easy Nanaimo bar recipe that is hard to resist.

Nanaimo Bars Are Easy To Make

One of the reasons it’s so popular besides its amazing taste is that Nanaimo Bars are a no-bake recipe.

You’ll start to see Nanaimo bar recipes pop up around the Christmas holidays for family gatherings as a sweet treat.

Most grocery stores including Costco in Canada offer pre-made Nanaimo bars but homemade is always the best.

Besides the price of making Nanaimo bars at home vs. buying them at the store or a bakery is far cheaper.

What Is A Nanaimo Bar?

Let’s break down the Nanaimo Bar into three layers since that’s what you’ll get when you bite into one.

Layer 1

C0conut and graham cracker and chocolate layer pressed into a lined baking pan

Layer 2

Custard or Vanilla icing filling for the centre (this is where you can create new flavours of Nanaimo bars such as mint or cherry.

Layer 3

The top layer is a thick chocolate coating similar to ganache so that when you bite into it the chocolate cracks in your mouth.

Adding a teaspoon of coconut oil to your chocolate layer while the chocolate is melting will also give it a glossy effect.

It’s so good and customarily you would find them out for Christmas, New Years’, Birthday’s, Weddings, Funerals, etc. 

In fact, It was at my Father-in-laws funeral luncheon where I first had a Nanaimo bar from the dessert table.

Cutting Nanaimo Bars

Cutting Nanaimo Bars

This is the part of the recipe where you want to be mindful and gentle with your Nanaimo bars.

The thick top layer of chocolate can crack if you make the wrong move.

Ideally, once the Nanaimo bars are done put them in the refrigerator for about an hour to let the chocolate firm up.

This also will prevent the layers of your Nanaimo bars from melting or the layers bleeding into each other.

Just as they begin to firm up take a sharp knife and score the Nanaimo bars where you want to cut them into squares.

You don’t have to be perfect but if you want your bar uniform you can use a ruler to guide your knife.

Once they are firmed up remove the parchment paper with the Nanaimo bars to a cutting board.

Using your sharp knife cut the lines where you scored all the way to the bottom to get nice clean squares.

If for some reason you put the Nanaimo bars in the freezer instead of the refrigerator put them in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.

By doing this the bars will defrost a bit and then you can move forward with cutting them.

Freezing Nanaimo Bars

Can you freeze Nanaimo Bars?

Yes, you can freeze Nanaimo bars but I would score and cut them before I froze them.

It will save you the headache of trying to cut them afterward.

Once cut into bars place parchment paper or wax paper at the bottom of your tin and store them for up to 3 months.

This gives you ample time to make them for the Christmas holidays as gifts for friends and family or to set out on the treat table.

How do you pronounce Nanaimo?

This can be tricky for some people just like the name Edinburgh always gets pronounced wrong in Canada.

At least the people I run into can’t pronounce it but we all still know what it means.

So, let’s break it down. Nuh-Neye- Mo.  How does that sound?

I just made that up so take it or leave it or comment below how you would break it down.

How To Make Nanaimo Bars

nanaimo bar recipe

The first one is the almonds, coconut, and graham cracker crumbs waiting to be added to the base.

In the second photo are the eggs, cocoa, sugar, and butter before cooking.

Once that is cooked, I dump the almond, coconut, cracker mix in and stir fast before dumping in the lined pan.

The third is the base pressed into the lined pan.

Number 4 is the custard powder, water, butter, and lemon peel before I start making the middle layer.

The fifth photo is the middle layer spread in the pan.

Lastly, the top layer is the melted chocolate that I scored once it was chilled in the refrigerator.

The recipe calls for a 9X9 pan but I have this 7X11 pan I got in a set back when I got married so it’s over 40 years old.

3 Different Varieties Of Nanaimo Bars

cherry nanaimo bars

If you want to make changes to the Nanaimo bars you only need to change the middle layer.

Cherry Nanaimo Squares

Cherry Nanaimo Bars

How to make Cherry Nanaimo Bars

Omit the lemon zest.

Add chopped up 12-15 well-drained maraschino cherries with the sugar and replace the water with 2 Tablespoons juice from the cherry jar.

Follow with custard powder, butter, drained chopped maraschino cherries, and some juice from the cherry jar in place of the water. 

The second shot is the cherry filling before the melted chocolate is poured over.

Lastly, we have cherry squares with the chocolate scored so it hopefully doesn’t crack when you cut it.

Cherry Nanaimo Bar Filling

Cutting Nanaimo Bars

Mint Nanaimo Squares

How to make Mint Nanaimo Bars

Omit the lemon zest. Add peppermint extract to taste and a few drops of green food coloring

The mint squares lifted out of the pan with the wax paper ready to be scored and cut and placed in the tin for the freezer.

The Ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Printable version below

Base Layer

In a saucepan combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and eggs cook over medium heat stirring until smooth and starting to thicken.

Add vanilla. Quickly add the cracker crumbs, coconut, and almonds and stir to completely combine everything. 

Press into a lined 9 X 9 pan. Wax paper or parchment paper both work to line the pan. 

Middle Layer

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons custard powder
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Cream the butter and gradually add sugar, custard powder, water, and lemon zest.

When smooth and well-blended spread over the base as smooth as you can. 

Top Layer

  • 1 Tablespoon butter or coconut oil
  • 2-4 squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped up

Melt the butter and chocolate together stirring as it melts.

Pour over the middle and quickly tilt the pan in all directions to spread it all over the top. 

Refrigerate until set, 2-3 hours or longer. When ready to cut and serve, let the pan sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes to let the chocolate warm.

This helps prevent the chocolate from cracking as you cut it. Lift out of pan using edges of the paper.

I score the chocolate carefully before I try cutting all the way through.

How many squares of chocolate is up to you, I split the difference and use 3. 

Printable Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Easy Nanaimo Bars Made Three Different Ways
 
Recipe Type: Desserts
Author: Christine Weadick
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 20
These easy Nanaimo bars are a hit every year at Christmas and I pack away a few for any company that comes around. You can freeze them up to 3 months so you can make them ahead of time. You can also switch up the flavour by adding peppermint or cherry Nanaimo bars.
Ingredients
  • Base
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • Middle
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons custard powder
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • Top
  • 1 Tablespoon butter or coconut oil
  • 2-4 squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped up
Instructions
  1. Base
  2. In a saucepan combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and eggs cook over medium heat stirring until smooth and starting to thicken. Add vanilla.
  3. Quickly add the cracker crumbs, coconut, and almonds and stir to completely combine everything. Press into a lined 9 X 9 pan. Wax paper or parchment paper both work to line the pan.
  4. Middle
  5. Cream the butter and gradually add sugar, custard powder, water, and lemon zest. When smooth and well-blended spread over the base as smooth as you can.
  6. Top
  7. Melt the butter and chocolate together stirring as it melts.
  8. Pour over the middle and quickly tilt the pan in all directions to spread it all over the top.
  9. Refrigerate until set, 2-3 hours or longer. When ready to cut and serve, let the pan sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes to let the chocolate warm.
  10. This helps prevent the chocolate from cracking as you cut it. Lift out of pan using edges of the paper.
  11. I score the chocolate carefully before I try cutting all the way through.
  12. How many squares of chocolate is up to you, I split the difference and use 3.
 
 

There you go Boss, this is a Nanaimo bar recipe that you can have fun with by changing the flavor of the middle layer.

I have a pan I got in a set many years ago that is 7 X 11 and it works well as a replacement for a 9 X 9 pan.

Have fun!!!

Christine W.

Thanks, Christine for sending me your recipe. It only took two years to get it up but now I’m happy to showcase it.

To view all of the recipes on Canadian Budget Binder please read The Free Recipe Depot. Tonnes of recipes to try.

Mr.CBB

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