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David's recipes: Nanaimo Bars

These treats are common throughout Canada, where they are called "Nanaimo bars" (presumably after Nanaimo, British Columbia). In some parts of the country, you will find these in every bakery. Typical recipes have less chocolate, and a thicker middle layer (thereby decreasing the total % chocolate); I have modified the recipe to alleviate this undesirable property.

A nanaimo bar

Beware: These are very intense treats, and should not be considered good for you.

Nanaimo bars are valuable educational tools! Have your students or children make nanaimo bars with you, and teach them principles of stratigraphy!

The following is a recipe for a double batch, which is a lot of Nanaimo Bars; you can halve the recipe and still give yourself and your friends an extreme chocolate buzz. Note that the eggs are not cooked, so you might, for safety's sake, substitute a pasteurized equivalent, like Eggbeaters, which works just as well.


          1 cup melted butter (2 sticks)
          1/2 cup granulated sugar
          1 cup cocoa
          2 egg equivalents (it is best to use a sterilized egg product such 
                      as EggBeaters to avoid problems with Salmonella)
          about 3 cups graham cracker crumbs (one 13.5 oz box)
          1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
          1 cup chopped walnuts

Middle Layer

          1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature (1 stick)
          4 tbsp custard powder
          2 tsp vanilla
          3 tbsp milk
          2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar


          8 oz semisweet chocolate
          4 oz unsweetened chocolate
          3 1/2 tbsp butter

Base: Mix together melted butter and sugar. Add to this cocoa, then eggs. Beat until smooth. Add graham wafer crumbs and mix thoroughly. Add coconut and walnuts, and mix. Press into 2 9-inch square pans. Refrigerate while making middle layer.

Middle Layer: Cream together butter, custard powder, and vanilla. Gradually blend in milk and confectioners sugar. Spread evenly over base. Chill well before icing.

Icing: Melt chocolate and butter together on low heat. Spread onto chilled middle layer. Important: if the chocolate icing is too hot, or the middle layer isn't cold enough, the chocolate will melt the middle layer. But if the chocolate is too cold and the middle layer is too cold, the chocolate will be very hard to spread.

Chill in a refrigerator, but cut into pieces before the chocolate on top has completely hardened. Store in the refrigerator.

Notes on ingredients:

Custard powder: This is easy to find in Canada, where there are several brands, but can be a bit more difficult in the U.S. The only one I have found in the U.S. is called Bird's Imported English Dessert Mix for Custard Style Pudding", and comes in a yellow, red, and blue box.

Graham cracker crumbs: The texture of the bottom layer is very sensitive to the amount of graham cracker crumbs used relative to the amount of liquid added by the egg equivalents. If there are too many crumbs, then bottom layer is too dry and crumbly, and doesn't hold together well enough; if there are too few crumbs, the bottom layer is too liquidy. I find that two large eggs have less liquid than 1/2 cup of EggBeaters, and that if one uses two large eggs, then 3 cups of crumbs is about right, or even too much, but if one uses 1/2 cup of EggBeaters, then the full 13.5 oz box of crumbs is about right.

Copyright © 1999, David R. Maddison