Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian Christmas dessert. The holidays wouldn't be the same without them. This is my mom's recipe and it is less sweet than most. That's a good thing! They are made with a chocolate graham cracker, coconut, and walnut crust then topped with a layer of buttery custard and chocolate. They're amazing!

A close up of classic Canadian Nanaimo bars with one on its side so you can see the yellow custard.

It's Christmas baking season! Christmas cookies! Christmas bars! Christmas sweet everything!

And yes, I did just use four exclamation marks in a row. In case you didn't notice, I'm a bit excited.

The first time I shared my mom's Nanaimo bar recipe with you was back in December 2011, a few months after I started this blog. It was my favorite Christmas baking recipe then, and six years later, it's still my fav.

I'm bringing these babies back for Throw Back Thursday (the 28th #tbt post!) partly because I really want you to make them (you won't regret it!) and partly because it gave me an excuse to make a couple of batches. ← Truth!

This classic Canadian treat made by smothering a graham cracker, coconut, and walnut crust with lightly sweet and buttery custard and topping that with chocolate. If you haven't made my mom's recipe before, can you promise me you will this year? You will love it!

(BTW: if you want to see the first pics I took of these Nanaimo bars, I've hidden them a few photos down.)

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian Christmas dessert. The holidays wouldn't be the same without them. This is my mom's recipe and it is less sweet than most. That's a good thing! They are made with a chocolate graham cracker, coconut, and walnut crust then topped with a layer of buttery custard and chocolate. They're amazing! | theendlessmeal.com | #nanaimobars #christmasbaking #christmastreats #christmasrecipes #holidaybaking

The first step is making the base. You'll want to melt some butter and whisk some cocoa powder, sugar, and an egg into that. (The heat from the melted butter cooks the egg.) Then you'll stir in some graham crackers crumbs, coconut, and walnuts until you have a thick batter.

That batter gets pushed into a baking pan to form the crust.

Step 1 = done!

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian Christmas dessert. The holidays wouldn't be the same without them. This is my mom's recipe and it is less sweet than most. That's a good thing! They are made with a chocolate graham cracker, coconut, and walnut crust then topped with a layer of buttery custard and chocolate. They're amazing! | theendlessmeal.com | #nanaimobars #christmasbaking #christmastreats #christmasrecipes #holidaybaking

The next step is making the middle custard layer. If you can put things into a bowl and mix them together using electric beaters (or a stand mixer, if you're one of the lucky devils who has one), then you can make this.

You want to make sure the butter is nice and soft, which can be a little challenging if your house is winter chilly. I like to cut the butter into cubes and put it in the bowl I'll use to make the custard. Then I put that bowl into my oven with the oven light on (don't turn on the oven!) and let the butter stay there a while. The heat from the oven light will soften the butter without melting it. If you don't have a cold house, you can leave the butter on your counter.

My mom always used Bird's Custard Powder in her Nanaimo bars, and I've done the same. It's that stuff in the red, yellow, and blue box tin that looks like the branding hasn't changed since 1952. The ingredients are simply: cornstarch, salt, color (annatto, a natural color), and flavor (vanilla). If you can't find it, you could substitute corn starch, a tiny pinch of salt, and some vanilla. But for ‘authentic' Nanaimo bars, do see if you can find it.

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian Christmas dessert. The holidays wouldn't be the same without them. This is my mom's recipe and it is less sweet than most. That's a good thing! They are made with a chocolate graham cracker, coconut, and walnut crust then topped with a layer of buttery custard and chocolate. They're amazing! | theendlessmeal.com | #nanaimobars #christmasbaking #christmastreats #christmasrecipes #holidaybaking

The final step is the chocolate. I got in the habit of buying dark Callebaut chocolate in bulk when I had my supper club, so that's what I use. My mom always used Bittersweet Baker's Chocolate. You can use chocolate chips in a pinch, but they will make the chocolate a lot sweeter.

You'll want to melt the chocolate with some butter in a pot over low heat. Don't rush this step; funny things happen to chocolate that melts at too high a temperature. Put the chocolate on right after you put the custard in the fridge to set, that way you won't feel rushed. Put the chocolate and butter in a pot and turn on the element to the lowest heat. Then walk away for a while. Trust me on this one.

When the chocolate has melted and the custard is firm, you can pour the chocolate on top. Smooth the top with a spatula and then tap the pan on your counter a few times. Gently! This will help to level the chocolate so you have a smooth top.

Wait until the chocolate is soft set then cut your Nanaimo bars. Either dig in right away or let the bars set completely in your fridge. My vote is you sneak at least one before putting the rest back in the fridge.

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian Christmas dessert. The holidays wouldn't be the same without them. This is my mom's recipe and it is less sweet than most. That's a good thing! They are made with a chocolate graham cracker, coconut, and walnut crust then topped with a layer of buttery custard and chocolate. They're amazing! | theendlessmeal.com | #nanaimobars #christmasbaking #christmastreats #christmasrecipes #holidaybaking


Original post date: December 20th, 2011

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 what we were smoking before 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.

The original pictures of my Mom's Nanaimo Bars:

Not Too Sweet Nanaimo Bars


If you’re interested in learning a few tricks that I did to improve my food photography, check out the posts 10 Food Photography Tips for New Food Bloggers and The 10 Best Food Photography Props to Improve Your Food Photography and The Food Photography Equipment I Use.


Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian Christmas dessert. The holidays wouldn't be the same without them. This is my mom's recipe and it is less sweet than most. That's a good thing! They are made with a chocolate graham cracker, coconut, and walnut crust then topped with a layer of buttery custard and chocolate. They're amazing! | theendlessmeal.com | #nanaimobars #christmasbaking #christmastreats #christmasrecipes #holidaybaking

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A close up of classic Canadian Nanaimo bars with one on its side so you can see the yellow custard.

Mom's Nanaimo Bars Recipe

  • Author: Kristen Stevens | The Endless Meal
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 20 large bars (or 40 more reasonably sized ones) 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Cuisine: Canadian

Description

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian Christmas dessert. The holidays wouldn't be the same without them. This is my mom's recipe and it is less sweet than most. That's a good thing! They are made with a chocolate graham cracker, coconut, and walnut crust then topped with a layer of buttery custard and chocolate. They're amazing!


Scale

Ingredients

Bottom layer:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoons (5 tablespoons) cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cup Graham cracker crumbs (gluten-free, if needed)
  • 3/4 cup fine coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Middle layer:

Top layer:

  • 8 ounces shaved dark chocolate or chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Instructions

Bottom Layer:

  1. Lay a piece of parchment paper in a 9×11 inch pan, letting some hang over the sides. (This makes it easier to remove the Nanaimo bars.)
  2. Melt the butter in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar. Remove the pot from the heat then add the egg and whisk until it had thickened, about 30 seconds. Stir in the Graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and walnuts.
  3. Press the crust firmly into the prepared pan.

Middle layer:

  1. Add all the middle layer ingredients to a large bowl and cream them together using electric beaters. Pour the custard over the first layer and smooth the top.
  2. Place the pan in your fridge for at least 20 minutes, or until the custard is firm.

Top layer:

  1. Add the chocolate and butter to a medium-sized pan over low heat and let both melt. Whisk to combine then pour the chocolate over the custard. Smooth the top first with a spatula then by gently tapping the pan on your counter.
  2. Chill in your fridge for about 20 minutes, or until the chocolate is soft-set. Cut the Nanaimo bars into bars then place them back in your fridge until they are completely set. (Cutting the bars first prevents the chocolate from cracking.)

Store the bars in a covered container in your fridge for a week or up to three months in your freezer. The bars can be eaten cold or at room temperature – they take only about 10 minutes to warm once out of the fridge.

SAVE FOR LATER! Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian Christmas dessert. The holidays wouldn't be the same without them. This is my mom's recipe and it is less sweet than most. That's a good thing! They are made with a chocolate graham cracker, coconut, and walnut crust then topped with a layer of buttery custard and chocolate. They're amazing! #theendlessmeal #nanaimobars #naniamobars #crackbars #milliondollarbars #christmas #christmasbaking #holidaybaking #canadian #chocolate #glutenfree