Nanaimo bars remind me of church. I grew up in Northern Ontario, Canada and there was always homemade treats served with coffee after church. The best part if you asked me when I was a kid. Nanaimo bars were frequently included.  My husband (also a Canadian but moved to the States when he was 10) had never eaten a Nanaimo bar which I deemed a crime. When I saw The Food Pusher’s photo of her bars on Foodgawker I was compelled to finally make them for him.

If you’ve never heard of a Nanaimo Bar, I wouldn’t be surprised. Wikipedia includes the following about this quintessentially Canadian dessert:

The Nanaimo bar is a dessert of Canadian origin popular across North America. The Nanaimo bar is a bar cookie which requires no baking, and is named after the West-Coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. It consists of a wafer crumb-based layer, topped by a layer of light vanilla or custard flavoured butter icing, which is covered in chocolate made from melted chocolate squares.

I have a version of this recipe written on a piece of lined paper from my mother but didn’t include any instructions on how to make them.  Luckily the internet has it.

Nanaimo Bars

(Adapted from The Food Pusher)

Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1-1/2  cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened)
  • 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, finely chopped

Middle Layer

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp half & half (or heavy cream)
  • 2 Tbsp powdered vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Top Layer

  • 6 squares semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp Crisco or vegetable oil
  • 2 squares white Baker’s chocolate (melted separately)

Prepare a 9×9 baking pan by lightly greasing with butter or solid vegetable shortening, then lining with parchment paper. (This ensures that the parchment paper sticks to the pan.)

To make the bottom layer:  In a 300° oven, toast coconut and chopped nuts until golden brown and fragrant.   Remove from oven and set aside to cool.  In the top of a double boiler, melt 1/2 cup butter and stir in the cocoa and sugar. Whisk in the beaten egg.  Whisk until thickened, and then remove at once from heat.  Fold in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts.  Press into prepared pan.  Keep the in refrigerator until the next layer is ready.

To make the middle layer: In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1/2 cup softened butter, half & half, and pudding mix.  Fold in the powdered sugar.  Beat until very light.  Spread evenly on top of the first layer.  Chill in refrigerator for an hour or so, until middle layer is firm.

To make the top layer: In a double boiler melt the semi-sweet chocolate squares and Crisco or vegetable oil. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes before pouring onto second layer and spreading evenly.  Melt the white chocolate in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. (Follow instructions on the box for chocolate.) Drizzle the white chocolate in lines over the semi-sweet chocolate for decoration. Use a toothpick to pull the white chocolate through the dark chocolate creating a design.   Place in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes and then cut into squares.  (This is the best time to cut the squares since the top layer is still relatively soft and won’t crack.)  Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Keep chilled in a sealed container.

I recommend adding the extra touch of the white chocolate. It makes an already wonderful dessert even better. Please ignore the big white blob in the photo above. That was the taste test for me.

My husband and son both gobbled these up. My son rates them  5 stars and commented that they were the best thing he’s ever eaten. Husband suggested some tweaks for next time to make it acceptable. He wants me to use walnuts next time since I used pecans and to replace the semi-sweet chocolate for milk chocolate.  My daughter didn’t try it though she was interested because of the nuts. I agree with my son on the rating but would also cut back a little on the amount of chocolate for top layer next time.