If you’ve heard of Nanaimo bars, it probably means one of two things. Either (a) you are Canadian or (b) you’ve heard about them through a Canadian. I certainly never heard of them before I met my favorite Canadian and had my first one from a small deli in Vancouver in 2007. It was love at first chocolatey, sugary bite.
These 1950s cookie bars originate from, you guessed it, Nanaimo, British Columbia. But spread in popularity all over the Great White North and today are considered “Canada’s Favourite Confection.” I’m not entirely sure why these rich, decadent dessert bars never really caught on in the States because they are certifiable amazing, full of butter and pretty much everything residents of the good ole US of A love.
The traditional Nanaimo bar consists of three layers. The bottom is a graham cracker, pecan, chocolate and coconut crust that reminds me of a souped-up cheesecake crust. The middle layer is pretty much just vanilla-flavored frosting (awesome, right?). And the top layer is a mixture of melted semisweet chocolate and butter. Amazing. So amazing in fact, that my classic Nanaimo bar recipe won Best in Show in my office cookie and bar contest a few years back. I also won Best in Show the following year for another recipe, but I wouldn’t want to brag or anything…
As you can probably tell, these bars are really, very rich. So rich in fact that Babyface never liked them as a kid (he’s learned to love them as an adult). I always cut these guys into small squares instead of the giant-sized beasts you’ll find on every street corner in Vancouver. It seems just a one inch 2.54 centimeter square piece will do the trick.
Instead of sharing with you the standard Nanaimo recipe, I decided to up the fun factor and go the mint chocolate chip route. The combo of mint and chocolate in this is spectacular! And the green food coloring is an added dose of festivity. I am in love with these bars. Good work, Canada. Good work.
Instead of sharing with you the standard Nanaimo recipe, I decided to up the fun factor and go the mint chocolate chip route. The combo of mint and chocolate in this is spectacular!
You might be offput by the seemingly raw egg in the bottom layer of the recipe. Don't be. The hot melted chocolate cooks the egg as you whisk it in, just make sure to not skip the tempering step. If you don't temper the egg, you'll end up with chocolate scrambled eggs. Not yum.
1 stick butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 stick butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup instant vanilla pudding powder OR vanilla custard powder
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Green food coloring (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
3 1-ounce squares semisweet baking chocolate
Line an 8x8 square baking dish with parchment paper, set aside.
For the Bottom Layer:
Combine butter, sugar and cocoa in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently until butter is melted and sugar and cocoa are dissolved. Remove from heat.
Temper the egg by taking a few spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture and whisking it into the egg. Add the egg and vanilla to the remaining chocolate mixture in the saucepan, whisking quickly until egg is well-incorporated. Don't worry if the chocolate starts to seize up, just stop stirring when egg is mixed in.
Add in the coconut, graham cracker crumbs and pecans. Stirring until all is coated in chocolate.
Dump out mixture into prepared pan and press down firmly using damp hands to form a crust. Place in fridge while preparing middle layer.
For the Middle Layer:
In a stand mixer, cream butter on medium speed until smooth and pale yellow.
Add in confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, until well combined.
Add milk and mix on medium until mixture is smooth. Add in vanilla pudding or custard powder and peppermint extract. Mix until smooth. Add in chocolate chips and food coloring (if using) and mix until evenly distributed.
Spread middle layer on top of chilled bottom later evenly using a spatula. Place in fridge while preparing last layer.
For the Top Layer:
In a double broiler (or a heatproof bowl over 1" of simmering water in a saucepan) melt butter and chocolate squares until smooth. Remove from heat.
Pour chocolate and butter mixture over top of middle layer and spread with a spatula. Return bars to fridge to cool completely. After cooled, use a sharp knife to cut into small squares.
Yield: 24 small squaresServing Size: 1 small square Amount Per Serving:Calories: 229Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 34mgSodium: 108mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 2gSugar: 16gProtein: 2g
At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.
Cassie is a holistic nutritionist, cookbook author, and all-around food lover. She grew up cooking dinner with her parents every evening, and her passion for home cooking has been strong ever since. Cassie is the author of two published cookbooks (Cooking with Greek Yogurt and Chia, Quinoa, Kale, Oh My!) and dozens of recipes published in major magazines and newspapers. Cassie has been sharing her award-winning recipes on Wholefully since 2010. She loves dark chocolate, homegrown tomatoes, motorsports, and anything that sparkles. She lives in Indiana with her family on a small homestead.