Classic Nanaimo Bars

Friday 30 April 2021

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
Classic Nanaimo Bars. You cannot get much more Canadian than Nanaimo Bars!  If you are not familiar with them, you might be thinking to yourself, "What the heck are Nanaimo Bars?" 

The Nanaimo Bar is a classic dessert bar/cookie that originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia. It usually consists of three distinct layers. 

A cookie crumb/coconut/nut base.  A rich and creamy sweet custard flavored icing filling.  A melted chocolate topping.

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
You will see a lot of different versions out there. There are many versions of the filling and base, all three layered. Some flavored with peanut butter, etc.

This is the original classic version that I am sharing with you today.  The recipe comes from a recipe that I got from one of my longest and dearest friends, Mabel.

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
Mabel and I met each other here in Nova Scotia in 1983.  My ex husband and I had taken a compassionate posting here (he was in the military) after my mother and father separated that year.  

It was a very difficult time for my mother and she really needed our support.  We ended up moving into a townhouse on the base and Mabel was my next door neighbor.  We got along like a house on fire from day one.

We both had children around the same age and indeed, her son Richard and my son Douglas remained friends all the way up through high school and were each other's best men at their respective weddings.

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
Mable and I used to sit on our front door stoop after supper each night enjoying a cup of coffee and catching up with each other's days.  We did a lot of things together.  We also enjoyed a lot of the same interests.

Crafts, cooking, ballroom dancing, square dancing, etc.  We have been friends now for about 40 years.  I love it when a friendship can withstand the test of time. We are not as close as we used to be of course, but we are still in touch and speak online from time to time.  Due to Covid of course.

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
Although I had been away from Canada for 20 years, every time I was able to visit home Mabel and I always got together for a drink and a good gab, and a meal. This time we haven't been able to see each other in person, but hopefully this mess will all be over with soon.

Here's hoping! 

Mabel did move away from here for several years to Labrador with her family.  When she left to go she gifted me with a cookbook that she had inscribed with a lovely message in her beautiful calligraphy.  I sure missed her for those few years she was away.

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
We shared a lot of recipes with each other through the years.  We used to also get together as couples once a month to have a meal, catered to by either her or myself, usually with a foreign theme.

They were so much fun. We had German night, Spanish night, Italian night, Mexican night, Chinese night, etc. I learned a lot about cooking from her, and I hope that she did from me also.  In any case this recipe comes from that book she gave to me all those years ago!

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
This recipe is one of my tried and trues! How could it be anything else???  Recipes shared by friends are some of the best recipes in the world.

You know that if they are sharing them, that they are also their tried and trues.  Nobody shares recipes that don't work out.  That's just how it goes!

Classic Nanaimo Bars 

I have several of her recipes posted on here.  Recipes like her delicious Strawberry Pie.  The filling base is made in the microwave, and plenty of fresh berries are folded into that before it gets poured into the crust and chilled.

Its my absolute favourite pie during Strawberry season. I never make it but what I think of her and the happy memories we share.

Classic Nanaimo Bars 

Then there is the recipe for Dad's Cookies I got from her. They are a fabulously tasty slice and bake oatmeal cookie that greatly resembles the Dad's brand of Oatmeal Cookies that you can buy in the shops.

Delicious with an ice cold glass of milk or hot cuppa.

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
Don't get me started on her recipe for Picnic Cake.  I can't believe that I don't have it on here, although you can get a printable version of the recipe here

This was Ariana's favourite cake that I used to make her when she lived with us.  I always made it every year for her and Jose's birthday's also. It is a lush peanut butter cake with a rich peanut butter buttercream frosting. Seriously tasty.

Classic Nanaimo Bars 

Another of her recipes which I have enjoyed many times through the years is Mabel's Ham Pate.  It is especially good to make when you have leftover boiled ham. 

Excellent on crackers or crisp breads. 

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
Back to the bars. These are very easy to make.  Three lush layers.  No bake, although you do cook the bottom layer a bit in a double boiler.  You melt together butter, sugar and cocoa powder, then beat in an egg and cook until thick.

Into this gets stirred some graham cracker crumbs, desiccated coconut and finely chopped toasted walnuts, before the whole mixture is pressed into a pan and chilled.

If you use the flat bottom of a metal measuring cup to press it down, its very easily done.

Classic Nanaimo Bars 

The middle layer is thick, vanilla custard flavoured and incredibly sweet and buttery.  Its quite moreish actually.

Onto that some semi sweet chocolate melted together with butter.  Oh my goodness . . . 

Classic Nanaimo Bars 
Rich, sweet and totally irresistible.  You can make them well ahead and keep them in the freezer if you wish. If you live in America you can buy the Bird's Eye Custard Powder in dedicated British shops or online via Amazon.

Here in Canada it is available in most grocery stores.  I consider it to be a store cupboard ingredient myself.

At any rate, I hope you will want to make these lush and simple bars. Enjoy!  Enjoy!  Enjoy!

Classic Nanaimo Bars

Classic Nanaimo Bars

Yield: Makes 36 squares
Author: Marie Rayner
These are exceptionally delicious. A tried and true Canadian treat!


Bottom Layer:
  • 1/2 cup (125g) butter
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 5 TBS cocoa powder
  • 1 large free range egg, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups (165g) graham cracker crumbs (In the UK use crushed digestive cookie crumbs)
  • 3/4 cup (60g) desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup (45g) finely chopped toasted walnuts
Middle Layer:
  • 1/2 cup (125g) butter, softened
  • 3 TBS milk
  • 2 TBS vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups (260g) icing sugar, sifted
For the top layer:
  • 2/3 cup (120g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 TBS butter


  1. Have ready a 9X9 inch square baking pan.
  2. First make the bottom layer. Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa powder together in the top of a double boiler, over simmering water (or in a heavy based saucepan). 
  3. Temper the beaten egg with some of this and then return the whole mixture to the top of the double boiler.  Continue to cook over simmering water until the mixture begins to thicken. 
  4. Stir in the crumbs, coconut and nuts.  Press firmly into the pan.
  5. To make the second layer, cream the butter, milk, custard powder and icing sugar together until smooth and light.  Spread this mixture over top of the bottom layer. Put in the fridge to chill while you make the top layer.
  6. To make the final layer, melt the chocolate chips and butter together over low heat.  Cool. When cool, but still runny, pour this and spread it over top of the second layer.
  7. Place in the refrigerator to chill completely before cutting into squares with a sharp knife to serve.
  8. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.
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Classic Nanaimo Bars

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  1. Absolutely love Naniamo Bars. I only make them at Christmas though, as they are too addictive. The recipe I use is exactly like yours. I'm going to check out Mabel's Strawberry Pie 🍓. We'll be enjoying fresh strawberries soon. Stay safe. Take care. Hugs and love, Elaine

    1. Prepare yourself to fall in love with the pie Elaine! Its the best! I can't wait for strawberry season! Love and hugs to you and Larry. You stay safe and healthy also! xoxo

  2. I've never heard of Nanaimo Bars before, but I am familiar with similar types of no bake slices that my mother made when I was growing up. She had one that looked almost the same as this one, but she called it Continental Slice. If I remember correctly it's very sweet, so not something that appealed to me, though my brothers and sisters wolfed them down.

    I suspect this is something my husband would like as he has a dreadful sweet tooth (while remaining stick thin! How does that work?). If you can freeze them, then I may let him have one piece at a time.

    1. These are very sweet for sure Marie! I can only tolerate them in VERY tiny squares, but people do love them! If Lars has a sweet tooth then he is sure to love them. You can freeze them, so that would be perfect for you to give him the occasional sweet treat! ❤️

  3. I adore Nanaimo bars but I don't know of anyplace here in Michigan that sells them. In fact, we had to look hard in London (Ont.) to find them in the grocery. They are fabulous and I'm so glad to have a recipe. Now, to get that custard powder!

    I loved your stories about Mabel. I have a couple of friends like that -- long lasting and deeply loved. And they are the best. If you connect with her again, tell her thank you from Michigan for sharing the recipe!

    1. Thanks Jeanie! It seems we blinked and suddenly we were old, empty nests, etc. I hope you get to make the squares and enjoy them!! ❤️


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