Mom’s Nanaimo Bars
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!
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 years later, it's still my fav.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Remember to subscribe to THE ENDLESS MEAL’S NEWSLETTER for FREE to get healthy and delicious recipes each week + our cookbook!
Popular Christmas Baking Recipes:
- Melt in Your Mouth Shortbread Cookies
- Cranberry Coconut Macaroons
- Holiday Spiced Almond Shortbread Cookies
- Cranberry and White Chocolate Butter Cookies
- Cranberry and White Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes
Mom's Nanaimo Bars Recipe
If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!
- ½ cup butter
- 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 ¾ cup Graham cracker crumbs, gluten-free if needed
- ¾ cup fine coconut
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup Bird's vanilla custard powder
- 8 ounces shaved dark chocolate or chocolate chips
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 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.)
- 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.½ cup butter, 5 tablespoons cocoa powder, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 1 large egg, 1 ¾ cup Graham cracker crumbs, ¾ cup fine coconut, ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- Press the crust firmly into the prepared pan.
- 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.3 cups powdered sugar, ¾ cup butter, ¼ cup milk, ¼ cup Bird's vanilla custard powder
- Place the pan in your fridge for at least 20 minutes, or until the custard is firm.
- 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.8 ounces shaved dark chocolate or chocolate chips, 4 tablespoons butter
- 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.