Being a born and raised Indiana girl, I can safely say I had never even heard of a Nanaimo Bar—a classic Canadian dessert bar—until I met a cute Canadian boy who would eventually become my husband. The first bite I ever had of a Nanaimo Bar was in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, and let me tell you, I fell deeply in love with the boy AND the dessert all at the same time!
I immediately went to work crafting my own Nanaimo Bar recipe, and by the time my soon-to-be-husband had immigrated to the States, I had perfected my very own piece of Canadian food culture for us to enjoy while away from the Great White North. I’ve now been making my Nanaimo Bars (and married to my husband) for closing in on 15 years, and these bars get raves every time I serve them.
We’ve fully indoctrinated my Indiana family to the joys of Nanaimo Bars, and I always get requests for “those Canadian chocolate bar things” at family gatherings. I even entered them in a local baking contest a few years back where they received the grand prize, and I received lots of requests for my recipe! Let me show you how to make these family favorite dessert bars.
What are nanaimo bars?
A nanaimo bar is a classic Canadian dessert bar that consists of three-layers—a chocolate graham cracker crust, a velvety vanilla custard filling, and a rich chocolate ganache.
What do they taste like?
Nanaimo bars taste like classic chocolate and vanilla. They are also super rich! Cut them into small, small pieces so that nobody gets overloaded before they get to try everything else on the cookie plate!
How do I make nanaimo bars?
You’re going to be making three separate layers, so let’s walk you through each of them!
First up, the chocolate graham cracker crust. For this one, you’ll:
- Melt the butter and whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder.
- Temper some egg and add it in. This just means that you are whisking the egg with a little of the warmed butter before you mix it into the whole butter bath. Don’t skip this step! If you drop the egg in all at once, you’re going to end up with scrambled eggs in your crust.
- Add the rest of the crust ingredients and stir.
- Press the crust into a pan and refrigerate while you make the other layers.
Don’t skip the tempering step, or you’ll end up with scrambled egg pieces in your crust!
Next up, the custard layer! This one is super simple: beat all the ingredients together, and spread the vanilla custard over the crust layer.
Classic nanaimo bars use custard powder for the middle layer, but that can be hard to find in the United States. Instant vanilla pudding mix works just fine as a substitute!
Finally, we have the chocolate ganache layer. Melt the chocolate and butter together, and smooth over the other two layers. Let the bars cool completely before slicing. Ta-da! You just made nanaimo bars.
You can also flavor the filling, like we did with our mint nanaimo bars.
Uh, won’t the eggs still be raw?
Since you are tempering the egg with hot, melted chocolate, the egg won’t be raw, per se, but it isn’t fully cooked through either. If you’re freaked out about the undercooked egg from a food safety perspective, you can use pasteurized eggs. You should be able to find them in major supermarkets!
How do you store nanaimo bars?
Because they contain undercooked egg, the refrigerator is the best place to store your bars. They will last for up to a week.
Can I freeze nanaimo bars?
Yes—they freeze beautifully! I recommend cutting them and wrapping in plastic wrap individually. Store them in a zip-top bag or food storage container in the freezer until you are ready to eat. Let them warm up at room temperature on the countertop for about a half hour before serving.
Cut the nanaimo bars into small pieces—they are super rich!