Nanaimo Bars (and a lot of gibberish about Canada…)

WHAT is a Nanaimo bar, you ask?

Believe it or not, a good portion of my family comes from Canada.  Crazy… I know, but believe it or not, those Canadians are actually pretty bad ass.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my immediate family generally hails from the suburbs of Detroit.  My grandmother, who still live in the Detroit area today with my Grandfather, was born and raised in Ontario.  For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Michigan, Ontario can be reached from Detroit just by crossing over the Detroit River!

This, of course, is very exciting to freshmen and sophomores in college, since the drinking age in Canada is 19….

I digress….

Every year when I was little, we would take big family vacations to the lake every Fourth of July, complete with cousins, aunt, uncles, and grandparents.  My grandma and I would go on a huge cookie-baking marathon, starting a few days before we would leave.

While we never made this particular cookie, my grandmother would always bring a stash of these delicious bar cookies along with us and they would always be the first to get completely DEVOURED.  The Nanaimo bar apparently originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia, but that’s about all anyone really knows about its’ mysterious origins.  One thing for certain is, it is distinctly a CANADIAN treat.

I introduce to you – the Nanaimo Bar.

To my American friends and fans:  you’re welcome.

To my Canadian relatives and ancestors:  I apologize if I’m divulging some sort of confidential national secret….

These delicious bar cookies are actually pretty simple to make, as they involve no baking whatsoever.  To make the bottom layer, melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder until smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla and egg and stir until the mixture thickens a bit.  Remove the pan from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and walnuts.

Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of an ungreased 8×8 inch pan and cool in the fridge until firm, about 20 minutes.

To make the creamy, middle layer, cream the room temperature butter until lightly whipped.  All of the Canadian recipes call for the addition of custard powder at this point, but if you’re like me and you can’t find it, you can use instant vanilla pudding mix.  Beat the custard/pudding mix and milk into the butter and then slowly incorporate the powdered sugar into the mixture. Spread the filling over the bottom layer.

To make the delicious chocolate top-layer, heat 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and butter in a double boiler until melted and shiny.  Pour over the filling layer and smooth over with a spatula.  Keep the bars in the fridge until they harden up, then use a hot knife to cut them into squares.

While these bars can be served at room temperature, they really are best COLD!  Keep them in the fridge until you are ready to devour…and you will.


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup butter (room temperature)
  • 3 tablespoon custard powder (or instant vanilla pudding powder)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoon butter

Makes 16 squares

Recipe adapted from Closet Cooking and City of Nanaimo Website


Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Bar Cookies, Life, Michigan, Recipes, Sweets

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One Comment on “Nanaimo Bars (and a lot of gibberish about Canada…)”

  1. July 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    i don’t know what that is, but i love it and i want it now!

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