A customized print-friendly version of this recipe is available by clicking the "Print Recipe" button on this page.

Nanaimo Bars

Author: PJ Hamel

Nanaimo Bars Recipe

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.

View step-by-step
directions on our blog

At a glance

25 squares


Choose your measure:


  • 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)


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


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


  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. Yield: 48 1" x 2" bars. Store covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 1 week. These bars also freeze well.