how to make the best nanaimo bars ever

The Best Nanaimo Bars Recipe Ever | Canadian Dessert

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In honor of Canada Day (July 1), I want to share a truly Canadian recipe for all of you. Because it’s one of my favorite Canadian desserts, I am sharing how to make Nanaimo bars

This recipe is so Canadian (and was literally shared with me by Jenn from Saskatchewan) that many of my friends from around the world have never even heard of it! That, my friends, is truly a great sadness. Nanaimo Bars are a true Canadian delicacy and everyone should be able to experience their deliciousness!

Once you make these, you will be making them all the time. They are just so easy (really they are a no bake dessert bar) and yummy. Let’s spread the word on these delicious dessert Nanaimo bars so the rest of the world can enjoy some Canadian heritage too!

The Nanaimo Bar history

Before I share our recipe, I want to share a bit of history and trivia on Nanaimo bars.

Where did Nanaimo bars come from?

The Nanaimo bar originated in Canada and was named after the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, which is located on Vancouver Island.

What are Nanaimo bars made of?

Nanaimo Bars are a no-bake dessert bar delicacy which is one of Canada’s greatest recipes of all time. This dessert is best known for its layered sweetness which includes cocoa and coconut, powdered sugar and custard, then topped with a thin layer of chocolate. The custard layer adds some vibrant yellow making this dessert appealing to the eye as well.

How do you even pronounce Nanaimo bars?

It looks like it may sound strange, but it really doesn’t! It’s pronounced “nuh-NYE-mo” with emphasis on the second syllable.

Nanaimo bars are a true family favorite (or favourite, if you’re Canadian) in our home and are made quite often. This recipe is a perfect way to celebrate Canada Day and all your other favorite holidays!

Nanaimo bars Recipe

The Best Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Prep Time

40 minutes

Supplies to Get Started

  • 8×8 pan
  • a spatula for spreading
  • a few sizes of mixing bowls
  • dry measuring cups
  • liquid measuring cup
  • measuring spoons

The Best Nanaimo Bars Ingredients

The Best Nanaimo Bars ingredients


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla


If custard powder isn’t available in your area, you can substitute like this: for each Tablespoon of custard powder in your recipe, make your own custard mix with 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch plus 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of fine salt.


  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate baking squares (4oz)
  • 1 tbsp butter

How to Make Nanaimo Bars

When I plan on baking I like to start with a clean kitchen, empty dish rack and a sink full of hot sudsy water. For this recipe I reuse the bowls for the different layers, and because I do not want the color to mix I give them a quick wash in between and rinse them off. Therefore, having my soapy water ready makes it a quick job so I can get back to making the dessert.

Simple Nanaimo Bars Base

combine melted butter sugar and cocoa

In a small bowl combine cocoa powder, white sugar, and melted butter. Mix well until dissolved and lump-free. Then set aside.

mix graham crackers, coconut, egg and vanilla

Mix graham cracker crumbs, coconut, egg, and vanilla in a medium-size bowl until well blended.

combine cocoa mix with graham wafers

Combine cocoa mixture with coconut mixture then mix well.

press nanaimo bars mixture into pan

Using a spatula press Nanaimo bar base into an 8×8 pan ensuring to spread well. Then place the pan in the refrigerator allowing to chill.

Nanaimo Bars Filling

combine ingredients for filling

In a medium-sized bowl soften butter and then combine with powdered sugar, custard and milk. I find using a silicone spatula works the best to smash out any lumps.

spread custard layer on nanaimo bar base

Once lump free, spread custard mixture onto the chilled base and place dish back in the refrigerator.

The Best Nanaimo Bars Topping

melt ingredients for nanaimo bar topping

In a small bowl, melt the semi-sweet chocolate with butter. Microwave at 30-second intervals, being sure to stir in between until completely melted.

Mix until smooth.

spread on custard layer

Spread on top of the chilled custard layer then return to refrigerator.

Depending on your refrigerator temperature, let the bars chill for approximately 1 hour or until firm. It takes 45 minutes to set in our fridge, but it feels like forever because I want to eat it!

serve up your nanaimo bars

Then slice, serve, and enjoy this delicious Canadian delicacy!

Enjoy the Best & Easiest Nanaimo Bars!

how to make the best nanaimo bars ever

I was so excited to get some beautiful pictures of my Nanaimo bars but while I was on a phone call my family found them and started to devour them immediately! They are just that much of a hit in this old house that I can not even get a picture before they are dug into haha.

They are really quite easy to make, even though a lot of people think they are difficult. In reality they are simpler than a cake made from scratch!

Now the best & easiest Nanaimo Bars are right at your fingertips. I hope you enjoy making these as much as I do.Thanks so much for joining us for another Easy Recipe for Busy Moms! Be sure to check out our Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe for another easy to make sweet tooth recipe! Bon Appétit!

Until next time,

Amanda Seghetti signature - Amanda Seghetti
Best nanaimo bars recipe 1 - Amanda Seghetti

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    1. Yes, raw egg is included in authentic Nanaimo bar recipes. It is typically safe to consume, but you can also bake briefly if you’re concerned about the raw egg. It tastes amazing either way! 🙂

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