Not Too Sweet Nanaimo Bars

Not Too Sweet Nanaimo Bars

When I was 16, my then boyfriend and I ate a whole container of Nanaimo bars that my mother had made ahead and frozen for Christmas. I won’t admit to why we felt like munching on so many sweets. In an effort to hide the evidence, I dug up her handwritten recipe. The filling in the middle called for a custard. This was before the days where a quick Google search could have answered any of the questions I could not ask the person I was trying to pull a fast one on. Questions like, “what’s custard, anyway?” I searched the pantry and came up with a solution that was runny and pudding-like. Then I did what any teenager worth their weight would do: I assembled the misshapen, soggy bars and quickly put them in the freezer, delaying any possible punishment.

Ten years after that incident (or 8 years or maybe 12 years, I struggle with linear time) my mother passed on the recipe, this time with a chuckle and some advice about the custard in the middle of Nanaimo bars.

Not Too Sweet Nanaimo Bars

5.0 from 2 reviews
Not-too-Sweet Nanaimo Bars
A traditional Canadian Christmas treat
Makes: Makes about 20
Bottom layer:
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1¾ cup Graham cracker crumbs
  • ¾ cup fine coconut
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
Middle layer:
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tbsp vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar
Top layer:
  • 5 squares of semi-sweet baker’s chocolate (or ¾ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
Bottom Layer:
  1. Melt first 3 ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan on medium-low heat
  2. Add beaten egg and stir till thickened, about 1 minute
  3. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients
  4. Press firmly into a 9″x9″ ungreased pan
Middle layer:
  1. Cream butter in a medium sized bowl
  2. Add remaining ingredients and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute
  3. Spread evenly over bottom layer
  4. Place in fridge for at least 20 minutes before adding top layer
Top layer:
  1. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat in double boiler until just melted
  2. Pour evenly over middle layer
  3. Chill in refrigerator
  4. Once the chocolate is set soft, cut into bars and return to fridge.
Make sure you cut the bars before the chocolate is set firm, or the chocolate will crack.
This freeze very well.

About Kristen

Kristen Stevens is the creator and editor of The Endless Meal. She is also the owner of a small underground restaurant in Vancouver, Canada.
Subscribe to The Endless Meal
Receive recipes straight to your inbox and get a FREE cookbook for signing up!


  1. Linda says

    This recipe is similar to my grandmothers (90 yrs old), but her secret ingredient was adding chopped dates to the first three ingredients in the sauce pan. This simple addition kept the base moist and the taste of graham wafers was balanced. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nancy says

    This is my mother’s recipe! Hers were called Flanagans Fancies. I will only eat these as I find that the storebought Nanaimo’s are way too sweet for me. They are a Christmas tradition, however, I have to hide them from my sons as they will eat them all if they can find them!

  3. Evelyn says

    Hahaha….I so remember coming home to finding your first attempt at these…still makes me laugh that you ate all of them!! Lv you, xo

  4. Erin says

    Are these the same as M&M Meat’s naniamo bars? I used to be able to get them when I lived in Buffalo, NY but now I live in Las Vegas with my husband and we clearly can’t just drive over the boarder to grab a box!

    • Kristen says

      Hey Erin,

      I’ve never had naniamo bars from M&M Meats before. My hunch is that these would be similar, but better since homemade treats always taste better than store bought :) Let me know if they taste the same as you remember!

    • Kristen says

      Hi Dianne,

      Custard powder is basically corn starch with a little flavouring added. You can buy it in the baking section of almost all grocery stores. The brand I use is Birds, but I’m sure all brands would work well. Here’s a link to Birds Custard Powder website so you can see what it looks like. If you make the naniamo bars, let me know what you think of them. They’re one of my favourites!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe:  

CommentLuv badge