Bars & Squares

Nanaimo Bars

December 22, 2009




These bars have quite the history. Not only how they have become to be Nanaimo bars, but also what they’ve meant to me. The name ‘Nanaimo Bars’ is said to have come from a woman who lived on Vancouver Island, in Nanaimo who entered them into a baking contest, instead of naming the bars after herself she named them after the city of Nanaimo. There have been other claims to the bar name, a more familiar one known as ‘The new york slice,’ but true Nanaimo bar lovers have come to love them by this name.

My mom’s mom, my grandma was the nanaimo bar queen. She made them for my  mom and her 4 other sisters and 1 brother when they were growing up, and then it became a favorite of all her grandchildren as well. Ie. me. My mom said that my grandpa would say they were ‘just glorified chocolate bars,’ but that definitely didn’t stop him from eating them. Everytime we got together for a family reunion, picnic or barbeque,  nanaimo bars were always there.

I got this recipe from my aunt, who got it from my other aunt who got it from their mom. Since my grandma’s no longer with us, my aunt has carried on the traditional family favorite, which my mom says tastes just like grandmas. So, I thought I would try for the first time to make them!

This treat doesn’t require any baking, and is delicious! Give it a try for the holidays.


Grandma’s Nanaimo Bars


Bottom layer:

  • 1/2 cup  butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup graham wafer crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup coconutSecond layer:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream + 2 tsp.
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (or vanilla pudding powder)
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Third layer:

  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


Bottom Layer

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″ x 8″ pan.

Second Layer

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Third Layer

Melt chocolate and butter overlow heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

Let sit for a couple hours to harden, then run a knife under hot water before slicing. These can be frozen easily, but their pretty good frozen too!


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  • Reply Steph December 31, 2009 at 9:07 AM

    Wow, that looks really good!

  • Reply Auntie Sue January 8, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    I discovered that using more chocolate than called for for the 3rd layer worked way better, and I cooled off in the fridge till barely firm and scored the chocolate with a knife helps when you cut them…..they look yummy!

  • Reply Alicia January 9, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    Thanks for the tip auntie sue! Definitely will try that next time, it was too hard trying to cut them haha, but still tasted good!

  • Reply Bakeaholic » Blog Archive » End of the Year Update & Holiday Baking December 18, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    […] I made Nanaimo Bars with my Auntie Sue, she is the Queen of Nanaimo  Bars! Recipe here: […]

  • Reply Aunti Weezz December 31, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Hi Lou, I have one of the “original” Nanaimo Bar recipies as well. Somehow it has changed when it was past down to the next sibling, HA HA. Who knows, Aunt Sue’s Nanaimo Bars at the Baby Shower were very very delicious, I will try her recipie next time. My recipie calls for less coconut, more chocolate topping 6oz, and walnuts not almonds, less cocoa powder. All in all Gramma Alice’s girls and grandaughters can pull off great traditional goodies. Love Aunt L

  • Reply Aunt Josie January 1, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    Loved your write up on the original Nanaimo Bar recipe, for that matter all your wonderful eatable creations! Suzan’s recipe is one of our mother’s versions I guess. The recipe that your grandmother, my mom gave to me in the mid-70’s is as follows. It is quite similiar to Sue’s.
    Grandma Whitelaw’s Nanaimo Bar recipe:
    Bottom layer:
    1/2 cup butter 1 1/2 cups gramham cracker crumbs
    1/4 cup sugar 1 cup unsweetened coconut
    5 Tbsp. cocoa 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (mom always used walnuts)
    1 egg beaten
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    Second layer:
    1/2 cup butter
    4 Tbsp. milk (mom may have used canned milk)
    2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder (mom always used Bird’s Eye custard powder)
    2 cups icing sugar
    Third layer:
    4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (or 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips)
    2 Tbsp. butter
    Bottom layer: Melt first 3 ingredients , add beaten egg, stir & cook until thickened. Remove from heat, & stir in graham crumbs, coconut, vanilla extract & nuts. Press firmly into ungreased 9×9 pan.
    Second layer:
    Cream buitter, milk, custard powder & icing sugar together well. Spread over bottom layer.
    Third layer:
    Melt chips or squares & butter (mom used double boiler) I just use microwave now. & spread over second layer. Chill in fridge & cut into squares.
    I like Sue’s idea to score the chocolate before it gets hard.

  • Reply Aunti Weezz January 2, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    Hi Gals, well now we will have to start a first ever Nanaimo Bar Party. In 2011 we will have to try a gathering with all our versions of Nanaimo Bars to enjoy. I wonder what Aunt Gloria’s recipie is?? I will have to get it from her to share with the Bakers of, “In the Sweet “N” Bar Galley”
    I have had Aunt Gloria’s and they too are delicious. I wonder what Debbie’s is?? Love Aunt L

  • Reply Alicia January 5, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    Thanks aunties! I looooooove nanaimo bars! =) I’m glad we all have a version of Grandmas! A nanaimo baking day sounds yummy!! xoxox

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