Nanaimo Bars

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Hands-on time:
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Yield: 25 squares

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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.

Nanaimo Bars

star rating (11) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 25 squares
Published: 04/28/2011

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch-process cocoa preferred
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sweetened or unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (made from about 13 whole crackers)

Filling

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if you use salted butter)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar or glazing sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/8 teaspoon coconut flavor
  • 2 tablespoons Pastry Cream Filling mix or instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Icing

  • 1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (Belcolade bittersweet disks are good) or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream or 2 tablespoons butter

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.

Directions

see this recipe's blog »

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 9" 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 bars or rectangles to serve. The bars will be very stiff when cold, but will soften quickly at room temperature.

Yield: about 25 small, rich bars.

Reviews

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  • star rating 12/01/2012
  • Janiece from Black Diamond , WA
  • I tried this recipe as written by KAF, it was OK but not outstanding. Next time I made it using the KAF recipe but used the Birds Custard Mix. They were a winner, as close to what my grandmother made when I was a kid growing up. BTW you dont have to look far to get the Birds Custard. I always order from Amazon, of course I would perfer to order from my friends at KA but you dont offer the product. So YES YES YES using the real deal custard makes a huge flavor change in this recipe. Thank you so much to all the super cooks that KAF Floor for all the wonderful recipes that I use sometime as many as five times a week, to take to different meetings or as a gift to my SIL whose wife works retail and is 7 months pregnant. He says he expects me to keep on baking even after the baby is here. LOL My daugher says you GO MOM. Sincerely, Janniece
  • star rating 10/19/2012
  • Jennifer from Newton, Massachusetts
  • I'm originally from Vancouver and this is NOT an authentic Nanaimo Bar recipe. I love so many of your recipes, but this one takes too many liberties. A baked crust? Walnuts/pecans instead of almonds? Coconut flavored filling? Where's the Bird's Custard Powder?--I can purchase it locally. It makes me sad to think that people are making these and calling them Nanaimo Bars--this recipe is part of our Canadian culture. Perhaps you can include a link to the original recipe...
    I'm sorry if this isn't true to your culture, we sometimes develop recipes that take on new twists from their original sources and traditions. Hope you will give this one a try. ~Amy
  • star rating 09/04/2012
  • Misty from Baltimore. MD
  • These bars are amazing, they are my guilty indulgence (guilty because I am trying to watch what I eat, and they are so hard to stay away from). Recipe was easy to make, and I made it as is. I used unsweetened shredded coconut for the crust part and I think it was a good move, because it kept the crust from getting too sweet and balanced out the sweetness of the buttercream layer and the chocolate. I also used coconut oil for the buttercream and I loved what it did to the overall taste, I think the bars wouldn't be as good with just vanilla in the buttercream. I will definitely be making these again soon.
  • star rating 04/03/2012
  • tonyaann from KAF Community
  • I was looking for something different to pass out to friends for Easter...and I found it! Simple, amazing and very sweet! My kids are asking for another sample....I guess I will make another one tomorrow.
    If no one is allergic try adding peanut butter to the filling. So good! betsy@kaf
  • star rating 01/13/2012
  • headerpence from KAF Community
  • I first discovered these amazing bars when I was working in a local bakery. They always sold out and were a hit with almost all the customers. I decided to try them and this is hands down the BEST RECIPE I have ever found for this delectable treat. This is great for people who need to make a dessert but want it to be slow and easy!
  • star rating 01/02/2012
  • emilyflake from KAF Community
  • According to my Canadian husband, these are delicious, but he had the following (Canadianly polite) critiques: try for less crust, more filling/chocolate, for a 1:1:1 ratio. I personally didn't add the second cup of confectioner's sugar, as the filling was plenty sweet without it. Maybe up the butter and vanilla? And lastly, I will have to have my MiL send Bird's Custard from the homeland, unless KAF starts to carry it (HINT HINT). The crust made the house smell bonkers good. I'll make these again and just live with the fact that I have to buy new fat clothes.
  • star rating 12/27/2011
  • bakemanjm from KAF Community
  • These bars are unbelievable! I don't care what they're called - all ingredients were easy to find and it was easy to make. My family LOVED them and asked when I am going to make them again. I didn't have a 9" square pan so I used the 8' pan I had. I was worried they might be too thick, but I thought it worked well. I will be making these again soon. Another winner by KAF!
  • star rating 10/06/2011
  • MargaretFrench from KAF Community
  • Love Nanaimo bars!! I've been making the same recipe since the 1950s. It's not quite authentic--no custard powder--but it's absolutely delicious (provided you like sweet and rich) and I usually have all the ingredients in the house. Here's a link to my blog post about nanaimo bars. The recipe is included. http://margaretfrench.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/nanaimo-bars-canadas-contribution-to-world-cuisine/
  • star rating 08/27/2011
  • Sharon C. from KAF Community
  • I made these with my daughter last night. The recipe was easy to follow and most of the ingredients were things most people have on hand. They were delicious! They definitely should be chilled overnight in order to cut and serve them from the pan. We had to try them when they were not quite chilled through last night. Not as pretty as they are today, but delicious anyway. I will definitely make these again.
  • 08/26/2011
  • Sharon C. from KAF Community
  • I have not yet made this recipe, but found the previous poster's comments to be very harsh. I went on-line and looked up Nanaimo Bars and found a very similar recipe on the Joy of Baking website. It explained how several years ago, the city had a contest and people submitted their version of this recipe. In addition, it also mentioned how difficult it was to get custard powder in the US and suggested the use of pudding. I am planning to make the KAF recipe this evening with my daughter who wants to be a pastry chef when she finishes high school. I will let you know how they come out!
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