This easy Nanaimo bars recipe will have you begging for seconds (and thirds!). Each decadent layer boasts a flavor profile that blends seamlessly with one another. You’ll also love the fact that it’s a no-bake dessert!
They’re Canada’s sweet gift to the world!Jump to Recipe
Welcome back to Moments With Lisa. My name is Lisa and I’m all about normalizing small-home living for families. I myself am raising a family of four in a 1000 sq. foot condo, and I’m here to remind you that you can make delicious meals and desserts, regardless of your kitchen’s size.
Whenever wintertime rolls around, I get in the mood for Nanaimo bars. It’s a Canadian classic, and a dessert that I grew up with.
My mom came to Canada in the early eighties, and while she immigrated from the Philippines, her cooking didn’t stop at traditional Filipino dishes. I was lucky enough that my mom’s true calling was in the kitchen. She was always willing to whip-up dishes from all over the world (psst: her tiramisu was on a whole other LEVEL).
That being said, Nanaimo bars were a dessert staple in our household, especially during the holiday season. I’m proud to share my late mother’s recipe (with a few of my very own tweaks make it a little easier to prepare). It took me a long time to finally start making her recipes again, but I find comfort in rediscovering the flavors that took up such a big part of my childhood. I miss her every day.
What Ingredients Do I Need To Make Nanaimo bars?
- Brown sugar
- Cocoa powder
- Vanilla extract
- Graham cracker crumbs
- Shredded coconut
- Chopped nuts of your choice
- Heavy cream
- Vanilla pudding mix
- Powdered sugar
- Semi-sweet chocolate
What is a Good Custard Powder Substitute?
The traditional recipe for Nanaimo bars requires custard powder for the cream center. While custard powder isn’t difficult to find in the baking aisle of your local grocery store, it’s not an ingredient that most people use on the regular.
As someone who lives in a smaller home, I try to minimize the amount of “stuff” that we keep around – including ingredients in our pantry. Sure, I do a LOT of baking, but custard powder just isn’t a core ingredient for most of the goodies I prepare.
I opted for vanilla pudding mix as it comes in a smaller container, and was less expensive.
You can also choose one of the following as a custard powder substitute for Nanaimo bars:
- Rice flour
- Arrow root flour
- Potato starch
- Tapioca starch
- Vanilla pudding mix
What is a Nanaimo bar mix?
Lately, I’ve noticed Nanaimo bar boxed mixes popping up in grocery stores. I have never used a mix myself, but the box seems to provide the necessary ingredients to successfully prepare your own Nanaimo bars. Just like a cake mix, you’ll likely need some core ingredients like liquids (milk, water, etc.), fats (oil, butter), etc.
If you’re curious about a particular brand of Nanaimo bar mix, I encourage you to do some research, and take a look at some user reviews. Otherwise, my homemade rendition is pretty simple hard to whip-up. The recipe is just down below, so keep scrolling!
How do I cut into Nanaimo bars?
To get a clean cut, run a serrated knife under warm water and cut the chilled Nanaimo bars (make sure they’re all set before you do this!)
What’s the best way to store left over Nanaimo bars?
Place any leftover squares into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 10 days.
My Oh-So-Easy Nanaimo Bars Recipe
Follow this easy recipe for Nanaimo bars (psst: don’t forget that they’re Nanaimo bars without custard powder!) and impress your guests at your next holiday party.
Easy Nanaimo Bars Recipe (That Don’t Require Custard Powder)
For the Bottom Layer
- ½ cup salted butter
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- ½ cup chopped nuts of your choice
For the Filling
- 1/3 cup salted butter softened
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp vanilla pudding mix powder form
- 2 cups powdered sugar
For the Chocolate Topping
- 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chopped
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- For the bottom layer, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add brown sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk until well-combined.
- While whisking, slowly pour in beaten egg. Return mixture to heat and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla. Use a large spoon or spatula to fold in graham cracker crumbs, coconut and pecans. Fold until all ingredients are well combined.
- Line a square pan (9×9) with parchment paper, allowing an overhang on all sides. Evenly pack the graham cracker and chocolate mixture onto the bottom of the pan. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for one hour.
- For the filling, use an electric mixer to whip together all ingredients. Star on low speed and slowly work your way to high until you reach a smooth consistency.
- Spread the filling on top of your graham cracker and chocolate base. Chill for another 30 minutes.
- For the top layer, melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan and spread evenly on top of the filling. Refrigerate for another 10 minutes.
- Remove the dessert from the pan with the help of your parchment overhang. Use a serrated knife to cut into squares. Serve and enjoy!