Classic Canadian Nanaimo Bars (cookies) Recipe

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and
OMG! In the name of sweet lord Jesus! Ok before regular readers get a culture shock hearing this from me, let me explain! I was given a fair warning by fellow dbers. They told me this was a rich dessert. I was neglectful and blase about it. I am not a chocoholic, why I even hate them (except for v few) hence did not think that this so called dessert with chocolates could suck up to my taste buds! But guess what? - I have been smacked left, right and center!

Classic Canadian Nanaimo Bars (cookies) Recipe
Special thanks to Lauren from Celiac Teen who introduced these to me. Yay to you :) Three layers of goodness makes this Canadian dessert what it is. Lets start with the top layer. See all that beautiful chocolate layer ? It had such a caramel taste to it. It was not too sweet and just perfect on my palate.
Classic Canadian Nanaimo Bars (cookies) Recipe
Then comes the middle layer - that custard, butter and sugar....ah! How can anything with such ingredients NOT taste heavenly? It does and by now if you are thinking that you are in total bliss - wait till you reach the bottom! That delicious crunch from the nuts and coconut! I have mentioned in so many of my earlier posts that the only way I would eat chocolates would be if they are filled with nuts or wafers or BOTH! 
  • Cook time:
  • Prep time:
  • Yields: Makes around 16 bars
  • For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
  • 1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
  • 3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour
  • 1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt
  • 7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
  • 5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract
  • (Preparation time: Nanaimo Bars: 30 minutes.)
  • Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
  • 5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
  • 1 Large Egg, Beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous rec ipe)
  • 1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
  • 1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)
  • For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
  • 2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar
  • For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
  • 4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

Method - For the wafers

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate.

2. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
3. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
4. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla.
5. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
6. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour
7. and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.

Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets.

My Notes:

Mine were too sticky and I could not roll it on just floured surface. I placed it instead on a well floured Parchment paper. Placed another parchment paper on top and rolled the flour.

9. Rolled it out to 1/8 inch thickness.
10. It was easier this way and for the first batch of dough, I was unable to take the wafers out that easily. Hence I chilled the dough with the parchment paper itself. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough. 5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). 6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers. 7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows. Batch 1 dough
11. Batch 2 dough

Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.


When cooled completely, place enough wafers in food processor to make 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) of crumbs. Another way to do this is to place in a large ziplock bag, force all air out and smash with a rolling pin until wafers are crumbs.

Additional Information:

These bars freeze very well, so don’t be afraid to pop some into the freezer.The graham wafers may be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Mine lasted about that long.If making the graham crackers with wheat, replace the gluten-free flours (tapioca starch, sweet rice flour, and sorghum flour) with 2 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp of all-purpose wheat flour, or wheat pastry flour. Watch the wheat-based graham wafers very closely in the oven, as they bake faster than the gluten-free ones, sometimes only 12 minutes.For the Nanaimo Bars, if making with wheat, replace the gluten-free graham wafer crumbs with equal parts wheat graham wafer crumbs!

Method - For the Bars

For bottom Layer:

Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut.

14. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

For Middle Layer:

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour.

16. Spread over bottom layer.

For Top Layer:

Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat.

18. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer
19. and chill.
I chilled it overnight since I finished making these only during previous night. I cut them out into squares the next morning.

Classic Canadian Nanaimo Bars (cookies) Recipe
Look at these beauties and tell me honestly - would you be able to resist something like these? Imagine my plight when I had to sit and take photos of them.......Uh huh! Not happening ppl!They almost got over pretty fast.
Classic Canadian Nanaimo Bars (cookies) Recipe
    Notes for gluten-free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars:
  • Glutinous rice flour does not contain any gluten, as it is made from a type of rice called glutinous (or sweet) rice.
  • The graham wafer dough is very sticky. Make sure you are flouring (with sweet rice flour) well, or the dough will be difficult to remove from the surface you roll it out on. Also be sure to keep it cold. You do not want the butter to melt.
  • I chose these flours because of their availability. Tapioca starch/flour and sweet rice flour can often be found in Asian grocery stores, or in the Asian section of you grocery store. Sorghum can be slightly more difficult to find, but it can be replaced with brown rice flour, millet flour or other alternatives.
  • In the Nanaimo Bars, it is very important that the chocolate be cool but still a liquid, otherwise the custard layer will melt, and it will mix with the chocolate, being difficult to spread. Allow the chocolate mixture to come to room temperature but not solidify before spreading the top layer on.

Classic Canadian Nanaimo Bars (cookies) Recipe

    Fellow amazing daring baker Audax Artifex shares useful tips (dont forget to check out some amazing filling in his variations! Mind blowing!)
  • The dough is very very soft so the best method to use is to roll the dough out using two layers of floured-parchment paper and I found that it was too soft to lift off so I just cut the rolled-out dough into the square shapes and placed the bottom parchment paper onto the baking sheet.
  • After the 25 mins baking time the wafers were still soft on top but became crisp and hard after cooling. They puffed up a lot I just used a clean towel to push the fresh-out-of-oven wafers flat.
  • You need to only make a 1/4 batch of the wafer recipe to make enough crumbs to make the bar.
  • The butter/icing sugar/custard powder layer (the middle layer) whips up to a very light and puffy mixture.
  • Just use volume measurements for the crumbs and the cocoa etc the nature of the bar recipe allows for the use of volumes instead of the normal weight measurements.
  • Australia (Sydney) is so HOT at the moment so the recipe took about seven hours there was a lot of chilling for each of the layers.
  • The resulting bar needs a lot of chilling to be able to be sliced into nice shapes.
  • Most likely the bar will be a little soft if making it in a very hot and humid country like Australia.
  • This bar tasted like the best 'Cherry Ripe' recipe I have very had since there is so much butter and yummy ingredients in the bar wonderful with iced tea on a hot summer's day.
  • I think I will try slicing the bar after it has chilled overnight the picture below is after about 1 hour of chilling.

Classic Canadian Nanaimo Bars (cookies) Recipe

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

I love to hear from you! I read each and every comment, and will get back as soon as I am able to.
Did you try this recipe? Please share your feedback!
Upload Your Recipe Photos

3 Member Reviews

By Wendy on Jun 29, 2011

Made it twice, used the left-over cookies to make it again. Super yummy of course. I'm from Canada, so these are a well known treat.

By Marit on Mar 31, 2011

Hmm. I didn't have any vanilla pudding but I did have intense chocolate cravings so I dug out an old custard recipe, which made an excellent substitute for the middle layer. In fact, my family likes it better than the original! It's a little less sweet and a little runnier at room temperature, so I would suggest keeping the bars chilled right up until serving if you use custard. I also used hazelnuts in the bottom layer, which was good but I think would be better separate from almonds.

Read All 3 Reviews →


By 35 Canadian Snacks Not Available In America | Narcity Toronto on Jul 8, 2016

[…] Photo cred – ChefInYou […]

By dawn on Dec 6, 2012

i have tried twice now , with the icing part , both times chocolate wouldnt spread right, and ive used 4 choc squares and 2 tbsp butter , second time 2 cups choc chip and 2 tbsp butter , and the middle was cool , but when the chocolate hit it all smudged what am i doin wrong ,

By Melisa on Nov 28, 2012

I make thee every year for Christmas & give them as gift's..everyone LOVE'S them! I use Graham crackers in the bottom layer. I usually make them in November & freeze them in airtight containers with wax paper between layers, thaw before serving.

By Isha on Oct 19, 2012

hi DK, i tried making this recipe but since its very hot & humid in mumbai, the middle layer does not hold its consistency, it starts melting very soon...pls guide :(

aaah that sure would be a problem!:( May be keep it in the fridge and working in intervals? Or may be try it when the weather is not so harsh? The problem is countries have their favorites dependent on the climate they enjoy. This is a Canadian favorite and its inevitable that we have issues in Indian weather. Guess the above mentioned would be the only two ways you would have to try...--DK

By elly on Jul 18, 2012

These look just delicious, I am definitely going to make these mouthwatering Canadian Nanaimo Bars! But I didn´t really get if I have to just apply the ingredients layer for layer and let everything cool down (like in the fridge) or do I have to bake the middle-bottom layer- (A stupid question maybe but yeah xD ) ? Thanks for your reply beforehand.

By Teeb on Dec 21, 2010

I made these a couple of months back and everyone who ate it went crazy and i seriously mean that! :D So just writing in to say thank you for such a wonderful recipe. Your recipes are amazing, planning to try more! :D And next time when i make these nanaimo bars am planning to change the 2nd layer to something less heavy, maybe just vanila cream, lets see how tht goes too. Thanks again! U rock! :)

By Jay on Aug 5, 2010

I guess it wont harm if I skip the egg for the first layer and should I use energ egg replacer?

I am sure it wont...It wont affect the taste much

By Jay on Aug 5, 2010

After this is done and cut into pieces, can this be stored at room temperature? Whats the shelf life approximately?

I am not sure about room temperature. I would personally refrigerate it. I did it covered in the fridge and stored for like a week since thats how long it lasted!! But I read somewhere that these last for upto 1 month covered in the fridge.

By saritha on Jul 12, 2010

Hi,first of all,great recipe,and beautiful, mouthwateringly delicious pics!!!! i'm a chocoholic so i do intend to make these asap. but i have a tiny problem which is,i do not have an oven to make the graham can i substitute with normal brittania cream crackers or marie biscuits?

Oh yes, you can easily use any digestive biscuits to substitute Graham crackers. Or crush your fav cookie recipe to make the crumbs. You can also use plain cookie such as vanilla wafers, shortbread, ginger snaps, Marie biscuits etc :)

By Isa on Feb 27, 2010

Nanaimo bars are DEADLY! lol Too much sugar for me. :) Does that make me a bad Canadian?

By Lillea Woodlyns on Feb 4, 2010

I grew up in Vancouver BC and Nanaimo bars were one of my favorite treats when I was a kid! The bottom was the best part. Wow, how nice to have a gluten free option. Thank you!

By sara on Jan 31, 2010

Mmmmmm, these look amazing! I agree, the bottom layer was SO fantastic with the coconut and nuts! Yum! :)

By Y on Jan 30, 2010

I love the swirls of chocolate on top of those bars! The bottom layer was probably my favourite too.

By Aparna on Jan 30, 2010

They're perfect. Took these to convert to a chocolate lover, huh? :)

By Lisa on Jan 30, 2010

First off, your write up actually made me crave these, even though they were too rich for Love that you loved them, and they look gorgeous, as in they should be the photo for all Nanaimo bar recipes! Well done!

By Ex on Jan 29, 2010

looks tempting!

By Barbara Bakes on Jan 28, 2010

Love the pretty swirl on your bars! Your grahams look perfect! Great job on this challenge!

By Siri on Jan 28, 2010

When I 'meet' you, make these for me ok.. becoz I think, am too lazy to make them myself.. :wink: they look fabulous DK!..just like you raved about! Hugs, Siri

Pakka :)

By Tonic on Jan 28, 2010

Awsome post, I'm completely mesmerized by the chocolate swirl effect on top! 8-O

By Radhika Vasanth on Jan 28, 2010

They look absolutely delicious so is your description...

By Ramya Vijaykumar on Jan 28, 2010

looks very delicious and neat!!!

By Lauren on Jan 28, 2010

First off, your photos are gorgeous! This has been the most passionate post I've read about my challenge! You made it so beautifully and the love comes through perfectly =D. I'm so glad I could introduce you to these treats!

All thanks to you Lauren :) --DK

By ap269 on Jan 28, 2010

LOL! Loved reading your post. :-P

By bharathi on Jan 28, 2010

looks yummy but what a long process anyway wannna try it :wink:

If you buy Graham Crackers from the shop, then this becomes very easy :) --DK

By kate on Jan 27, 2010

oh my, looks soft and yummmmy, thank you for the recipe, love it

By rachel on Jan 27, 2010

Perfect bars in their look and true to its origins.

By sheba on Jan 27, 2010

The bars look fabulous..i enjoyed making them ur detailed pics.

By BHUVANESHWARI on Jan 27, 2010

hi divya nice way to start a monday morning for me. Ur Nanaimo bars are an excellent treat to the 5 senses.... i wonder how you drew on the top layer of the bars. The frills and the texture are surely adding much palatability to any viewer of these. And not to ignore, ur photos are really very inspiring. Infact i showed your thattai photos to my hubby and he was like "i want to eat thattai right now". Now to my doubts.... can i use any ordinary wheat bread crumbs instead of the Graham gluten-free wafer crumbs? Bye 4 now, :wink: awaiting ur reply, Bhuvaneshwari

Thanks so much Bhuvaneshwari :) :) As for the wafers, use any digestive biscuits or cookies instead - Marie biscuits probably would work equally well. Hope that helps :) --DK

By Nancy on Jan 27, 2010

Nanaimo bars are a Canadian invention, eh? Nanaimo is on Vancouver Island. Oh Canada!!

By Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) on Jan 27, 2010

Well done! I now dub you an honourary Canadian!

LOL :) I am honored :) --DK

By Suz on Jan 27, 2010

I'm so impressed with your beautiful chocolate swirls in the top layer and you definitely caught the delicious-ness (!) in your photos - I'm drooling here. :-P I love that so many people have non sweet-tooth family members and friends who have fallen for this dessert too. It's amazing. I'm planning batch number two as I type. Great post. :D

By Malar on Jan 27, 2010

I wonder where you get time and patience.You have mentioned that you are lazy in couple of your postings.Not true :wink: Great job.

Oh well, this was made in the middle of my lazy dont get cheated by that ;) --DK

By Liz on Jan 27, 2010

They look fantastic - great photos.

By Pavani on Jan 27, 2010

They look absolutely stunning.. You definitely managed to capture the deliciousness of the bars. Store-bought graham crackers should work fine.. Right?? Don't think I have the patience/ time to make them from scratch, but the bars look too tempting not to attempt..

Oh yes! Store bought ones will def. work. This is gluten free that's why need to make it from scratch. You are right when you say these are too good not to make!:) --DK

By fairy_mi on Jan 27, 2010

yummmm, your nanaimo bars version looks really great! Love the presentation and the making of pictures are fabulous. Great job! Inbal (also a DB)

By mridhu on Jan 27, 2010

Not fair Dhivi!! you dont even like sweets that much ... pure torture for ppl like me.. :(( This recipie looks toooo good

By Indhu on Jan 27, 2010

that's a lot of work... but the end result - OMG!

If you buy the store bought graham crackers, then it becomes one of the easiest desserts to make..give it a try :) --DK

By Mary on Jan 27, 2010

That is a very strong endorsement for Nanaimo bars! Glad you enjoyed one of our Canadian treats. The swirled chocolate on top looks delicious! I went with a chocolate drizzle instead.

By Feng on Jan 27, 2010

these look gorgeous! well done! :-P

By Yaelian on Jan 27, 2010

Wow,these look so yummy! Thanks for the great step by step recipe :-P

By deepti on Jan 27, 2010

Admiring ur patience...Excellent clicks !! Ur Nanaimo Bars are so tempting...But not sure Ive this much patience :-P Kaaaaash u could send it over :wink:

send me your address ;) --DK

By Asha on Jan 27, 2010

Love the step by step pics. Good looking bar, want to marry it now! 8-O

By aargee on Jan 27, 2010

Lovely! lovely! And I should bow to your patience!! great job and they look wonderful and yummy!

By Priya on Jan 27, 2010

Wat a tremendous work DK..Nanaimo bars looks excellent and gorgeous..

By Chafing Dish India on Jan 27, 2010

Now the best thing is hasnt got any eggs perfect recipe for veggies like me. And they look great..I am sure would taste as much delicious. But where the name Nanaimo originates from.

It has one egg - but can be easily substituted with flax seed. I dont think skipping it would hurt either :) --DK