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3 nanaimo bars pieces in a tower.

Nanaimo Bars

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Nanaimo bars are one of Canada’s most popular sweet recipes – they are a no-bake dessert made up of three layers: a graham/nut base layer, a custard middle-layer, and a chocolate upper-layer.


Units Scale

Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped fine
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Custard Buttercream – Middle Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Chocolate Ganache – Top Layer

  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (around 60% cacao)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


Bottom Layer

  1. Prepare an 8-inch x 8-inch baking pan with lightly buttered parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, melt butter, sugar, and cocoa powder together over a double boiler. Add the egg, making sure to stir (if you don’t stir, you’ll end up cooking the egg!). Remove the mixture from the heat. Stir in graham crumbs, shredded coconut, and walnuts. Once combined, spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, and press to shape an even bottom layer.

Custard Buttercream – Middle Layer

Cream the butter, whipping cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together. You’re looking for a light spreadable buttercream to work with. Spread evenly over the bottom layer. Once spread, chill before adding the chocolate.

Chocolate Ganache – Top Layer

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a double boiler (if you’re confident, you can use a microwave as well). Set it aside to cool slightly. Once the melted chocolate has had a chance to cool (but is still liquid), pour it evenly (and gently…you don’t want any craters!) over middle layer. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Remove from the baking pan, slice with a hot knife, have a bite…and find yourself refusing to share with anyone else.


  • If you don’t have any parchment paper on hand, you can make this recipe without it. However, the parchment paper is what makes it easy for you to remove the completed Nanaimo bars from the baking pan. You have been warned!
  • Be careful when adding your beaten egg to the mixture. If the bowl or the melted cocoa butter mixture are too hot, you’ll end up cooking the egg. Make sure to stir the egg so that it stays cool enough to incorporate without scrambling…but warm enough to still cook safely.
  • You can use your preferred nut, but walnuts and almonds are standard. From what I understand, walnuts are a bit more traditional, while almonds are a more modern take. Hazelnuts could be fun.
  • Bird’s Custard Powder is known as the most traditional custard option, but it’s fine to use whatever you have available or enjoy. If you don’t have access to custard powder, instant vanilla pudding powder is a popular 1:1 substitute. (I’ve also read that you can swap it out for a quarter cup of powdered milk mixed with 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. But I’ve never tried this.)
  • You can swap out the semi-sweet chocolate for bittersweet or dark chocolate. However, I’d urge you to avoid using milk chocolate unless you like your desserts extra sweet.
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Chill: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: No-Bake
  • Cuisine: Canadian
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