These no bake 3 layered Canadian bar cookies with a crumbly chocolate coconut base, vanilla buttercream layer, and crisp chocolate top are a hit with everyone!
Nanaimo bars are a Canadian bar cookie named after the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. They are no bake, but the bottom layer is gently heated to cook the egg. Then it is a case of a quick chill between adding the other two layers.
The 3 layers of Nanaimo Bars:
- A biscuits/cracker crumb base made with cocoa power, coconut and nuts.
- Fluffy vanilla buttercream
- Bittersweet/dark chocolate layer, which provides a satisfying crunch when you bite into it.
This is a recipe I often made in Canada for Mr Jones’s work colleagues, and they would always disappear very quickly I’m told. I have since made them for his Japanese colleagues when he returned on a work trip to Japan, and I can categorically say that they don’t travel well when wrapped in foil and shoved into a hand luggage bag with a week’s worth of clothes and a laptop. His poor colleagues ended up with, well, ‘organic shaped bars’, shall I say. But every last crumb was eaten all the same!
The icing layer of the classic Nanaimo bars is made with Birds custard powder, an egg free custard powder which originated in England. Whilst I used to be able to buy it in Australia, I can no longer find it. So as a substitute for custard powder, I use 2 tablespoon cornflour and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
If you do have access to Birds custard powder, then use 2 tablespoon of it, and leave out the cornflour and vanilla from the recipe.
The custard powder provides a lovely yellow layer, but I have to say I prefer the taste of the vanilla buttercream. I use milk in the buttercream. Many recipes call for cream but I never have cream in – unless its for this No churn Passion fruit ice cream.
To use up the rest of the digestive biscuits or graham crackers, this Ginger & Apricot Chocolate Fridge Slice is another no bake treat and takes minutes to prepare.
A couple of Nanaimo bar Tips:
- Cooking in a bain marie, or double boiler (heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water) helps prevent the egg from cooking in clumps (I cooked it in a saucepan the first time I ever made it and was left with little bits of egg white dotted through the base).
- Placing the bars in the freezer after you have spread the buttercream layer, whilst you melt the chocolate – for around 5 minutes – then quickly pour the chocolate over and spread in an even layer.
- To cut neatly into squares, chill in the fridge until the chocolate has just set (around 10 minutes). With a sharp knife cut through the chocolate layer into 16 squares. Place back in fridge to set properly for another 20 minutes. Otherwise the chocolate can crack and the buttercream splodge out and it can look messy.
If you like this sweet recipe, you may also like:
Bourbon Biscuits – a classic British chocolate biscuit
Eggless Chocolate Orange Cake with an orange drizzle
Gluten Free Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
- ½ c | 90g unsalted butter
- ¼ c | 50g granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 egg beaten
- 1¼ c | 125g digestive biscuit or graham cracker crumbs
- 1c | 90 unsweetened desiccated coconut
- ½ c | 70g almonds skin on, roughly chopped
- ½ c | 90g unsalted butter softened
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch/ cornflour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
- 2c | 250g icing sugar/ confectioners sugar
- ½ tablespoon milk
- 115 g dark chocolate (70%) roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoon butter
For Bottom Layer:
- Line a 20 x 20cm ( 8 x 8 inch) tin with lightly greased baking paper.
- Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat the butter and sugar until the butter has melted.
- Keep the water simmering, but carefully remove the heatproof bowl with a tea towel and place on a heatproof surface.
- With a balloon whisk whisk in the cocoa powder. Whilst whisking, slowly pour in the beaten egg a little at a time.
- Place the bowl back over the pan of water and continue to whisk for 4-5 minutes until thick (this will cook the egg).
- Remove from the heat and stir in the biscuit/cookie crumbs, coconut and chopped almonds.
- Spoon into tin and press down well into an even layer. Place in the fridge to cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Beat the butter with the cornflour, vanilla and icing sugar until smooth and slowly mix in the milk.
- Pour on top of the base and spread into an even layer. Place in fridge for 15-20 minutes.
- Just before you start to melt the chocolate place the Nanaimo bar tin in the freezer. This will help prevent the buttercream from mixing with the warm chocolate.
- Either in the microwave, or in a clean heatproof bowl set on top of a pan of simmering water, place the chopped chocolate and butter.
- Once melted, carefully remove the bowl from the heat and let stand for 30 seconds or so. You want it to sill be runny but not quite so hot.
- Remove the Nanaimo bars from the freezer and carefully spoon on the chocolate, working quickly to lightly spread the chocolate in an even layer over the buttercream.
- Chill in the fridge until the chocolate has just set (around 10 minutes). With a sharp knife cut through the chocolate layer into 16 squares. Place back in fridge to set properly for another 20 minutes.
- Cut through the other 2 layers into squares. Keep in the fridge.
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These Nanaimo bars look yum. I loved that this is no bake treat.
Thankyou! 🙂 Yes they are such a great no bake treat!
Mama Maggie's Kitchen says
These 3 layered Canadian bar cookies are totally delicious! I love the crumbly chocolate and the coconut base so much.
Thanks Maggie! They sure are delicious! 🙂
Jen Talley says
What a unique dessert! It looks delicious!
Fantastic bar recipe, my daughter will love it
Thanks Marina! It is a great favourite with young and old in our family!
Chef Dennis says
These Nanaimo Bars look soooo mouthwartering!
Emily Flint says
I’ve never had a nanaimo bar before but after seeing this recipe it’s on my list to make!
That’s great to hear Emily, hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
I’ve seen references before to Nanaimo bars but never understood what they were or how to make them – until now! YUM! thank you!
That’s great Sue! Hope you enjoy them!
Michele Peterson says
Nanaimo bars are definitely a Canadian in classic and the first thing I go for on a dessert buffet. These are exactly as they should be even without the Bird’s custard powder!
Me too Michele! Bird’s custard powder can be tricky to find!
This is a new sweet treat for me – and I am so excited! I love the sound of the different layers. I know they’ll be a real hit!
Thanks Alex! The layers are fun and look good too! Hope you enjoy them!