Nanaimo Bars

When somebody asks me what the food of Canada is, I never know what to answer.  Living in Toronto, one has access to food from a variety of cultures found around the world.  Chinatown, the Danforth for Greek food, Little Italy for phenomenal gelato, Vietnamese Pho …. and the list goes on.  But something specifically Canadian? A little harder.

I would say there’s more provincial food, like Poutine from Quebec, beef from Alberta, lobster from Nova Scotia; and we can’t forget one of the most famous,  the ever popular Nanaimo bar from, you guessed it, a little town called Nanaimo, British Columbia.  Every Canadian baker should know of this no-bake bar.  It’s easy, unique, and a crowd pleaser.

I wish I could make it more often here in Mexico because sometimes a no bake treat when it’s 35 degrees is the only option.  Unfortunately, there is limited access to graham cracker crumbs.  So I get my trusty friends to pop a few bags into their suitcases every once in awhile.  There is a brand of cookies here that many people have told me they grind up and use in replacement, but to be honest, I’ve never tried.  Maybe one day in desperation I will and let you know how they compare.  Or if you are an expat somewhere, you can tell me what worked for you.

The next time you want a fast, no-bake treat that’s guaranteed to please, try these Nanaimo bars.  And then when somebody asks you if there’s any authentic Canadian food, you can say you’ve had at least one.



  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 TAB cocoa
  • 1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 TAB whipping cream
  • 2 TAB vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted


  • 1 1/3 cup dark, milk, or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 TAB butter


Bottom Layer: Melt butter, sugar, and cocoa in a medium sized saucepan over low heat.  Add egg and stir one minute to thicken.  Remove from heat.  Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts.  Press firmly into an ungreased 8×8 pan.

Middle Layer:  Cream all ingredients together until smooth and light.  Spread over bottom layer.  Refrigerate until solid, about an hour.

Top Layer:  Melt chocolate and butter over low heat, double boiler makes sure the chocolate won’t seize.  Cool slightly.  Pour chocolate over the top and spread evenly.  Refrigerate until cold and easy to cut.

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