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mint chocolate chip nanaimo bars

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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.

mint chocolate chip nanaimo bars

mint chocolate chip nanaimo bars

Yield: 24 small squares
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Line an 8x8 square baking dish with parchment paper, set aside.
For the Bottom Layer
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add in the coconut, graham cracker crumbs and pecans. Stirring until all is coated in chocolate.
  4. 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
  1. In a stand mixer, cream butter on medium speed until smooth and pale yellow.
  2. Add in confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, until well combined.
  3. 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.
  4. Spread middle layer on top of chilled bottom later evenly using a spatula. Place in fridge while preparing last layer.
For the Top Layer
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Have you ever had a Nanaimo bar before?

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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25 Responses
  1. This Canadian loves Nanaimo bars too! As a kid I used to eat them one layer at a time and always saved the middle for last ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve never made them though and prefer to wait until one shows up on a plate of cookies at Christmas time – then I snatch it up as quickly as possible!

  2. Jenny

    perhaps this is a ridiculous question….once this is cooled and cut into squares does it need to be stored in the fridge? just wondering if this would be appropriate for sitting out on a dessert buffet for a few hours or if it would get all melty and messy. thanks, as always, for the great recipes!

    1. Cassie

      They do get a little soft, but not so much that they are inedible. I usually keep them in the fridge until time to serve, and then they can hang out on the buffet for a few hours.

  3. Jocelyne

    Being Canadian, I have had my fair share of nanaimo bars…I didn’t even realize they were a distinctly Canadian food until a few years ago. One of my grandmothers was a master holiday baker and I LOVED her mint nanaimo bars. I missed them so much every Christmas after she was gone.

  4. Ali

    Hi! I’m a new reader (I linked over from Daily Garnish) and I’m loving your blog. As a Canadian, this post makes me especially happy. I grew up in Ottawa and I am currently living in Vancouver, so yes, I’ve had a nanaimo bar or two :). Love your take with the mint chocolate chip!

    In the theme of sharing great Canadian desserts, how about a butter tart recipe sometime? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Cassie

      You know, I’ve never made a butter tart! Actually, I’m not sure I’ve even ever had one. The Canadian husband tells me that they are almost exactly like pecan pies, but without the pecans. Definitely an awesome idea. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Cassie

      It’s so crazy how tastes change, isn’t it? I had that happen recently with sauerkraut! I hated it as a kid and just tried it again. I don’t love it, but I definitely can see it’s benefits in small amounts.

  5. cass, i just made these – and they are B O M B BOMB! i am bringing them to our office “top chef” dessert contest tomorrow and i know that everyone will LOVE them. (and if they don’t then i’ll eat the rest !! )

  6. danielle

    hi there! i’m going to be making these and i am pretty sure i am right but 1 stick of butter is 1/2 a cup of butter for us canadian measurers?

  7. Cassie

    Being Canadian, I go to the site where the chocolate is made – Hershey Canada Inc. This is a recipe right on their package of Mint Chocolate Chipits. It is delicious!!! Been making them for a few years now with quite a few compliments….. Just copy and paste to word, or whatever format you are comfortable using ๐Ÿ™‚

    Chocolate Chip Nanaimo Bars
    Yield: approx. 20 bars

    Ingredients:
    Base:

    1 c Chipits Semi-Sweet Mint Chocolate Chips
    ยฝ c butter
    1 ยผ c graham wafer crumbs
    1 c flaked coconut
    ยฝ c finely chopped walnuts or pecans

    Filling:

    2 c icing sugar
    ยผ c butter (softened)
    3 tbsp milk
    2 tbsp custard powder
    1 tsp mint extract
    Several drops of green food colouring

    Mint Chocolate Glaze:

    ยพ c Chipits Semi-Sweet Mint Chocolate Chips
    2 tsp vegetable oil

    Instructions:

    1. BASE: In medium saucepan over low heat (or in large bowl in microwave), melt mint chipits and butter. Stir in graham wafer crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press evenly into 9โ€™ square pan. Chill in refrigerator for about 30 mins.

    2. FILLING: In small bowl, blend icing sugar, butter, milk, custard powder, mint extract and food colouring. Spread evenly over chilled base.

    3. GLAZE: Melt mint chipits with vegetable oil over hot water (or in microwave). Spread evenly over filling. Chill. Cut into bars.

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