Nanaimo Bars

I’ve gotten quite a few comments telling me to make Nanaimo bars. I kept putting it off just because I didn’t think I would like them that much. They didn’t really sound appealing to me.


Over the past few weeks I have learnt that I love Nanaimo bars. The texture AND the flavour is so nice. I am sorry for ever doubting Nanaimo bars.

3 of the Nanaimo bars stacked on top of each other.

Video Tutorial

What are Nanaimo bars?

So I had always heard of Nanaimo bars, but I didn’t really know what they actually were. If you are also like me, let’s quickly talk about what they are.

They’re a popular Canadian dessert that originated in a Canadian city called Nanaimo, hence the name.

They’re made up of 3 layers. The base is a chocolate biscuit base that has coconut added to it, and also I think sometimes nuts are added too.

Then the middle layer is a buttercream filling that has custard powder in it, which give it a nice custard-ey flavour.

Then the final layer is chocolate. I’ve seen some people use melted chocolate, and some people use ganache. 

And that is it. You end up with a dessert that has a coconut, chocolate and custard flavour. It’s so good!

The top of the Nanaimo bars after it was cut into slices.

The base

The first thing we are going to make is the base.

Here are the ingredients you will need for this:

  • Unsalted butter 
  • Light brown sugar – granulated sugar works too, I just used brown sugar for some extra flavour.
  • Cocoa powder – unsweetened cocoa powder is always best to use.
  • Salt – to enhance the flavours.
  • An egg
  • Crushed digestive biscuits – graham crackers are normally used. I’m in the UK, graham crackers are very hard to find here, so I used digestive biscuits instead. Use whichever is easier for you to get.
  • Desiccated coconut – in my video I mentioned that I used toasted coconut. Honestly, I don’t think it really made a huge difference, so regular un-toasted desiccated coconut is good.

A few tips

Don’t let you butter get too hot

The first step is to melt the butter in a pot.

After this has melted, we’re going to mix in the sugar, cocoa powder and salt, then the egg.

We don’t want the butter to get too hot, otherwise the egg could end up cooking when we add it. We don’t want this, scrambled egg inside of our Nanaimo bars would be weird.

So only heat the butter just until it has melted, then take it off the heat.

Constantly stir the mixture when cooking it

After the egg has been added, we’re going to place the pot onto low heat and heat it until the mixture thickens.

Again, we don’t the egg to cook. So keep stirring this mixture, this will prevent it from getting too hot.

The ingredients needed to make the base.

The filling

Now onto the filling.

Like I mentioned, this filling is essentially a buttercream that has custard powder added to it.

It’s extremely easy to make, all you do is throw all the ingredients into a bowl and beat them together until you get a fluffy thick mixture.

This is what you will need for it:

  • Unsalted butter – make sure to used softened butter. It will be extremely hard to mix everything together if the butter is cold.
  • Icing sugar – SIEVE THIS. Normally I think sieving is a scam, but sieving icing sugar makes a huge difference.
  • Custard powder – any custard powder works, but I used the one from the brand Bird’s.
  • Vanilla extract – for some extra flavour.
  • Double cream – also known as heavy cream, whipping cream will also work here. In the recipe card below, I’ve said to use 50ml of cream. I recommend having a little extra just in case you need it. If your filling seems too thick and not spreadable, add a little bit more cream.
The base inside of a square cake tin.
The filling spread on top of the base, in a square cake tin.

The ganache

The final layer is a ganache.

Again, some people just use melted chocolate and some people use a ganache.

I ended up preferring the way they taste with the ganache, just because the ganache was softer, which I liked.

But it is totally up to you, if you want to just melt some chocolate and pour it on top, you can.

Anyway, for the ganache you just need dark chocolate and double cream. You heat these together until the chocolate has melted, and then pour it over the buttercream filling layer.

Do I have to use dark chocolate?

I love using dark chocolate when making desserts. I think it does a great job at cutting the sweetness of the dessert; it stops it from tasting too sweet.

But if you really don’t like dark chocolate, you could use milk chocolate instead.

The only thing is, you need to adjust the amount of cream in the recipe.

In the recipe card I’ve said to use 150ml of cream. If you decide to use milk chocolate, use 75ml of cream instead.

Milk chocolate has a higher dairy content in it, so if you used the full 150ml of cream, the ganache would be way to thin. So remember to half the amount of cream.

The ganache layer before being left to set.

Storing these

Once you have let the layers set up in the fridge for a bit, you can finally cut into it and dig in.

If you have any bars left over, the best way to store them is in an airtight container, in your fridge. 

They will last in your fridge for about 5 days. Or you could also freeze them for up to 3 months!

Here are some other recipes I posted recently, I think you should try these too:

Nanaimo Bars

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  • For the base:
  • 140g unsalted butter

  • 50g light brown sugar

  • 30g cocoa powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 egg

  • 200g digestive biscuits or graham crackers, crushed

  • 100g desiccated coconut

  • For the filling:
  • 180g unsalted butter, softened

  • 250g icing sugar, sieved

  • 60g custard powder

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 50ml double cream

  • For the ganache:
  • 150g dark chocolate, slightly chopped

  • 150ml double cream (if you decide to use milk chocolate, used 75ml of double cream instead)


  • Start by greasing and lining an 8 inch square cake tin.
  • Making the base:
  • In a pot, add the butter. Place this onto medium heat and let this melt. You don't want this to get too hot, so as soon as it melts take it off the heat.
  • Add the sugar, cocoa powder and salt into this, whisk until combined. Now whisk in the egg.
  • Place this onto low heat, and heat whiles constantly stirring, just until the mixture thickens. This doesn't take long so don't walk away.
  • Take this off the heat, then mix in the crushed biscuits and coconut.
  • Add this into your prepared cake tin and press it down until you get a smooth flat layer. Leave this in your fridge whiles you make the filling.
  • Making the filling:
  • In a large bowl, add all the ingredients for the filling.
  • Beat all this together for a few minutes until you get a fluffy, thick but spreadable mixture. If it seems too thick to spread, mix in a little more cream.
  • Add this on top of your chilled base, smooth this out, then place it back into your fridge.
  • Making the ganache:
  • In a bowl, add the chocolate and cream. Heat this in your microwave for 30 seconds.
  • After 30 seconds, take it out and give it a stir. Place it back into the microwave and heat for 15 seconds this time.
  • Take it out and stir again, keep repeating this until all the chocolate has melted and you get a smooth ganache.
  • Pour this over the filling, smooth it out, then place the tin back into your fridge again.
  • Now you just want to leave this in the fridge until the ganache has set up, I recommend leaving it for about an hour.
  • Once it has set, take it out of the tin, cut into it and enjoy!