The Best Nanaimo Bars

Okay, I told myself when I started this blog that I would never call a recipe “the best”, or “perfect”, or anything along those lines.  Because there will always be someone who disagrees.  We all have different opinions on what “the best” of something is.  So I wasn’t going to go there.

And I’ve already gone back on that.  Because sometimes you just need to be honest.  These are the best.  And I will adamantly adhere to that opinion no matter what anyone else says.

Because they are.

The Best Nanaimo Bars - Bake.Eat.Repeat.

I’ve had a lot of nanaimo bars in my day.  Lots and lots and lots.  But I hadn’t had an absolutely amazing one until I tried my mother-in-laws nanaimo bars the first Christmas spent with my husbands family.  They were perfect.  And I may have eaten far too many of them.  In fact, now that I have this amazing recipe in my grasp, I just may eat far too many of these things every Christmas.  Especially since they’re incredibly easy to make!

Nanaimo bars were actually not a dessert that I considered a Christmas treat until I was married.  Although I’m certainly on board with that little tradition.  We never made them because my mom actually hates coconut in anything.  How, I’m not too sure.  It completely baffles me because I love coconut in pretty much anything.  She’s missing out.

The Best Nanaimo Bars - Bake.Eat.Repeat.

Especially when it comes to these little delights.  And the great thing about making them every year now is that I’m no longer too terribly tempted by nanaimo bars when I see them at restaurants.  They’re always a bit disappointing.  These are the best, so why bother with any others?

If you love nanaimo bars, you need to try these.  Trust me, you’ll agree, they’re the best!

The Best Nanaimo Bars - Bake.Eat.Repeat.

The Best Nanaimo Bars
Yield: 36 bars
Note: I’ve used both unsalted and salted butter for these and both are fine, so use your preference. I use baking chocolate for both the base and the glaze. You could certainly use chocolate chips instead, but I wouldn’t recommend it as they don’t melt as well as the baking chocolate.
For the base:
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons pasteurized egg whites
  • 2 cups graham wafer crumbs
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut
For the filling:
  • 4 tablespoons custard powder
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • ½ cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
For the glaze
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  1. Place the 2 ounces of chocolate in a medium microwave safe bowl and microwave for 2-3 minutes at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds, until the chocolate is almost melted. Continue to stir until it is completely melted. Add the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, egg whites, graham wafer crumbs and unsweetened coconut and mix well. Press into a 9x13 inch pan and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the custard powder and milk. Mix in the butter as well as you can, it will look a bit lumpy, that’s okay. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread the filling evenly over the chilled base. Chill for another 15-20 minutes.
  3. In a microwave safe bowl, place the 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate and the butter and heat at 50% power for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds until the chocolate is almost melted. Continue stirring until it is completely melted. Spread evenly over the chilled custard layer. Chill for several hours or overnight.
  4. Cut into bars and store covered in the refrigerator for a week, or remove from the pan and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. I actually prefer these just slightly thawed straight from the freezer!
Source: Slightly adapted from my mother-in-laws amazing recipe. The only change was using pasteurized egg whites rather than a whole egg.

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  1. says

    These are excellent! My husband is very picky when it comes to Nanaimo bars because they are his favorite dessert. However, he says this one has the perfect ratio of base, filling, topping. He’s actually said these are the best he’s ever had! Everyone is always wow-ed with how glassy the top layer looks too! The only thing I changed was baking the base at 350 for about 8 minutes. The raw egg thing always weirds me out! Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • stacey says

      Thanks Mallory – so glad you love them! They’re my absolute favourite treat too, and these are the best I’ve ever had – which is why I love this recipe so much! I don’t like using raw egg either, that’s why I use the pasteurized egg whites instead of a whole egg. As long as they’re pasteurized they’re completely safe. Nice that it still works with baking the base for a few minutes though! :)

  2. Lori says

    I am another Canadian living in the States (California…..a little warmer!). I love, love, love, Nanaimo bars). I normally save them and Butter tarts for Christmas time but after seeing this I’m not going to wait another 9 months. This is the same recipe my mum had when I was growing up. You’re right, it is perfect.
    I have had my sister send me custard powder every other year or I stock up when I go home. In the past I have used vanilla pudding mix in place of the custard powder. They still taste good but not perfect.
    Happy I found blog this on Pinterest! I’m all about Canadian goodies, maple and sweets in general.

    • stacey says

      They ARE the best! We always make them and butter tarts at Christmas too – it doesn’t quite feel like Christmas without both those treats! Hope you love them as much as we do! And I wouldn’t wait another 9 months either if I didn’t have them at Christmas! :)

  3. RK says

    Stacey, they are a Canadian thing. I’m a Canadian living in Texas & there are several Canadian treats I miss in addition to Nanaimo bars …. butter tarts, smarties (they have smarties here but a completely diff candy), ketchup chips, Big Turks, and Purdies hedgehogs! I’ll have to try your recipe, looks delicious :)

    • stacey says

      Thanks so much! I knew all those other things were Canadian, just for some reason had never realized nanaimo bars were only made in Canada! Everyone else is missing out I think, because they’re amazing! Let me know if you try them! :)

  4. Andrea says

    You’re recipe definitely looks worth a try. Yes, Nanaimo bars are Canadian (Nanaimo is off the coast of BC) and I believe up until recently you couldn’t actually purchase custard powder in the US. I use cocoa in my base layer but look forward to trying your version.

    • stacey says

      Thanks Andrea! Actually it’s funny, my in laws actually live a half hour from Nanaimo, so I’ve been there many times, just never realized that that was actually where they originated! I didn’t know that you couldn’t get custard powder in the States though, usually it’s the other way around when it comes to not being able to get something! Hope you enjoy this version!

  5. Shirley says

    I had trouble when I made these before because when I cut them, the chocolate had hardened and they would crack and not cut into nice bar shapes.
    Is there a trick to cutting them?

    • stacey says

      I just let them sit on the counter for about 10 minutes before cutting them so the chocolate isn’t quite so cold. And then I dip the knife in hot water before each cut which seems to work well. There were a couple in the corners of the pan that cracked a little, but most were fine. It’s a fairly thin layer of chocolate in this recipe too, which isn’t the case for all nanaimo bar recipes. And cut slow!

        • stacey says

          Hi Sasha, the original recipe calls for one whole egg instead of 4 tablespoons of pasteurized egg whites. I changed it to avoid having raw, unpasteurized egg in the bars as they aren’t baked. I’ve eaten them both ways though and can’t tell a difference!

  6. says

    If you say they’re the best, I believe you! They certainly look like the best ones I’ve seen. Haven’t had these in a while, but now I’m inspired!

    • stacey says

      Thanks Kelley! That seems to be a common theme! They must be a Canadian thing, who knew?! Let me know if you try them!

  7. says

    I’ve never heard of nanaimo bars myself but after reading your post, I’m sold! I like coconut too but for those who don’t…I wonder if you could substitute some crisped rice and make it taste like a gourmet Nestle Crunch Bar? Thanks for sharing!

    • stacey says

      Thanks Jim! Crisped rice would be an okay substitution, but I don’t think it could be called a nanaimo bar then, the coconut is a pretty integral flavour in them! But it would be tasty I’m sure! To make them coconut free though, I might be more inclined to just increase the graham crumbs, then the texture would still be the same, although the flavour would be different. Maybe I’ll have to make them that way some time and see!

    • stacey says

      They’re so good right?! I haven’t actually made them anytime but Christmas in years, but I certainly wouldn’t say no to one anytime of year!

    • stacey says

      Thanks Annie! You’re the third person to say you haven’t heard of them, so I’m guessing they’re a Canadian thing! I had no idea. You guys have been missing out then, cause they’re amazing!

  8. says

    To be honest, I’ve never heard of a nanaimo bar before, Stacey! But I’m loving the looks of these! The filling sounds delicious! I’ve never used custard powder before, is that similar to a pudding mix? These bars look chewy and so full of flavor, especially with the chocolate on top!

    • stacey says

      Really? Are they a Canadian thing? I didn’t know that! I actually just went and looked at the custard powder can so I could tell you what it is! It’s basically cornstarch and flavouring, so not really like pudding mix I don’t think. It’s just sold in the baking aisle, the one I use is Bird’s Custard Powder, made by Kraft, I would imagine it’s in the US too. It’d be weird if we had something you didn’t! It’s main use would be for making custard, but I’ve only ever used it for nanaimo bars. The base is pretty chewy, basically chocolate and coconut, and the middle is a similar consistency to frosting, but tastes more like custard. I love these, if you can find custard powder you should definitely try them!


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