Nanaimo Bars

Recipe by PJ Hamel

This layered bar is originally from Nanaimo (pronounced nah-NIGH-moe), a city on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. It was born in 1952, when a fund-raising cookbook from the island featured three recipes for chocolate squares. These recipes were reprinted under the name Nanaimo Bars in the Vancouver Sun. Canadian food companies adopted them as a convenient vehicle for their products, and they've been growing in popularity ever since.

These bars are exceedingly rich; a little goes a long way. And while the original didn't include coconut flavor in the filling, we think its addition is absolutely perfect.

15 mins
10 mins
2 hrs 25 mins
25 squares
Nanaimo Bars


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  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" square pan or 11" x 7" pan.

  2. To make the crust: Place all of the crust ingredients in a mixing bowl, and beat at medium speed just until thoroughly combined.

  3. Press the mixture into the prepared pan, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and set it aside to cool.

  4. To make the filling: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the softened butter, 1 cup of the sugar, and the vanilla, beating until smooth.

  5. In a small bowl, combine the pastry cream filling mix or instant vanilla pudding mix with the milk, stirring until thick and smooth.

  6. Add the pudding mix to the butter/sugar mixture, stirring to combine.

  7. Add the remaining sugar, and beat until the filling is smooth. Spread it over the cooled crust, cover, and refrigerate until chilled.

  8. To make the icing: Combine the chocolate and cream (or butter) in a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl. Heat until the cream is steaming. Stir until smooth.

  9. Spread the frosting onto the bars. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.

  10. Cut into small squares (about 1 3/4") or rectangles to serve. The bars will be very stiff when cold, but will soften quickly at room temperature.

  11. Store covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week. These bars also freeze well.

Tips from our Bakers

  • What to do with the instant pudding mix once you've used 2 tablespoons for these bars? Make instant pudding, reducing the milk in the recipe on the box by 3 tablespoons. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for enhanced flavor.
  • Substitute 3 to 4 drops of coconut flavor (to taste) in place of the coconut extract.

  • For 4 dozen thinner bars, prepare in a 9" x 13" pan. You won't need to amend the baking time, or any of the ingredients or directions.