Nanaimo Bars

Last year, my brother packed up and moved to the US from Canada for school, much like his big sister did 5 short years ago. Although Canada isn’t too far, we both quickly learned some quirky differences in cuisine and terminology. One of our favorite treats to introduce to our deprived neighbors to the south: Nanaimo Bars.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I recently received a package of recipes from my grandmother, including my great-grandmother’s recipe for Nanaimo bars! These delicious chocolatey treats were invented in British Columbia in the early 1950′s and a version of the recipe was first published in 1957. The note from my Grammy says that her mother-in-law passed along the recipe in 1959 when she was living in British Columbia. I had no idea there was a family recipe until I got this treasure in the mail!

Nanaimo Bars

Enjoy these sweet Canadian treats with this recipe shared from our family to yours!


    Bottom Layer:
  • ½ cup margarine or butter, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • Middle Layer:
  • ¼ cup margarine or butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla custard powder*
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • Top Layer:
  • 4 squares (4 oz) semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp margarine or coconut oil


    Bottom Layer:
  1. Place margarine or butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla and egg in a bowl over a dish of boiling water, or in the top of a double boiler.
  2. Stir well until the margarine is melted and the mixture resembles custard.
  3. Combine graham crumbs, coconut and nuts (if using). Add to cooked mixture.
  4. Pack firmly and evenly into 9x9” baking pan. Chill while preparing middle layer.
  5. Middle Layer:
  6. Mix milk with custard powder. Cream margarine and add milk mixture.
  7. Blend in icing sugar. Spread evenly over bottom layer. Chill for 15 minutes.
  8. Top Layer:
  9. Melt chocolate and margarine in double boiler or microwave. Spread over middle layer.
  10. Score top of chocolate layer before it hardens completely to make it easier to cut squares.


*You can substitute 2 Tbsp cornstarch and 1/4 tsp vanilla for custard powder.

These are a favorite at pot lucks, they disappear faster than you can say chesterfield! They also freeze well, making them easy to prep ahead of time. Happy snacking!

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2 Responses to Nanaimo Bars

  1. Amanda says:

    Yum! nanimo bars are one of my favorite treats. I’ve never made them myself but I’ll have to try your family recipe out!

  2. Leah says:

    Do try it! Despite being 3 layers they’re easier than they look. The stash in my freezer is disappearing fast!

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