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stack of Nanaimo bars on a white plate
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5 from 1 vote

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are a classic Canadian dessert that everyone loves!  The graham cracker and coconut base is topped with vanilla icing and chocolate.  These Nanaimo bars are made without custard powder.  Enjoy this popular treat from Canada!
Prep Time1 hr 5 mins
Inactive Time1 hr 15 mins
Total Time2 hrs 20 mins
Course: Bars
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: nanaimo bars recipe, nanaimo bars recipe without custard powder
Servings: 32 bars
Calories: 176kcal
Author: Emma


For the Chocolate Base

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup sweetened dried coconut flakes
  • ½ cup walnuts chopped
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg beaten

For the Vanilla Filling

  • ½ cup unsalted butter softened
  • 2 ½ cups icing sugar sifted
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

For the Chocolate Topping

  • 5 ounces dark chocolate chips 60% cacao
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Making the Chocolate Base

  • Very lightly grease an 8x8-inch cake pan with butter and line with parchment paper.
  • Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and walnuts in a medium-sized bowl until well blended.
  • Place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and beaten egg into a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of gently simmering water.  Stir the mixture constantly until the butter has completely melted and the mixture has thickened.  It should reach 155°F (68°C) on a thermometer.  Immediately remove from the heat.
  • Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl of cracker crumbs and use your hands to mix it all together.  Be sure that you mix all the way to the bottom of the bowl.
  • Pack the mixture into the prepared pan.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Making the Vanilla Filling

  • Beat the softened butter with a handheld electric mixer, then sift in the icing sugar and cornstarch.  Mix on low speed until somewhat blended, then beat on medium to medium-high speed until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • Pour in the vanilla extract and just enough cream to make the icing a stiff but spreadable consistency.  Beat on medium speed until the icing is smooth and fluffy.
  • Spread the icing evenly over the chilled base, then refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Making the Chocolate Topping

  • Place the chocolate chips and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water.  Stir constantly until the chocolate and butter have fully melted.
  • Let the chocolate cool for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, then spread the chocolate evenly over the chilled vanilla filling layer.
  • Refrigerate until the chocolate has fully set, at least 30-45 minutes.
  • Once the chocolate topping has fully set, lift the bars from the pan with the parchment paper.  Slice into about 32 small pieces with a sharp knife.  Serve chilled.


  • Line the pan with parchment to make it easy to remove the bars.
  • Pack the base tightly into the pan so the bars aren't crumbly.
  • Slice in small pieces, since this treat is very rich.
  • Store leftovers in the fridge if it's hot or on the counter if it's cold.
  • Freeze leftovers for up to 3 months and defrost at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Do not microwave.


Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 22mg | Sodium: 50mg | Potassium: 72mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 204IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg