Nanaimo is a city located on Vancouver Island, just southwest of the city of Vancouver located on mainland British Columbia. Nanaimo is famous for bringing three layers of deliciousness into the world in the form of Nanaimo Bars. The origin of Nanaimo bars is a bit murky, but it seems a homemaker, magazine contest, and (in my opinion) some magic were involved.

I’ve not yet been to Nanaimo, but the city seems pretty serious about these bars. So serious that the home page of the city’s website includes a quick link where you can find pertinent information related to emergency services, transportation, and Nanaimo bars.

The bars start with a chocolate, graham cracker, nut, and coconut crumb base, topped by a layer of buttercream, and finished with a layer of smooth chocolate ganache. If you don’t like nuts or coconut, leave one or both out.  If you really like nuts, add more than one kind (I used walnuts, but other recipes call for almonds or pecans). You might also try marbling dark and milk or white chocolates on the top instead of the flat chocolate layer seen here.  Or give the bars your own special touch by coloring the butter cream filling for a special occasion. If you like sweet, rich desserts, this bar’s for you.

Nanaimo Bars
Recipe type: Dessert
  • First (Bottom) Layer
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (about 5 graham crackers)
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 cup coconut
  • Second (Middle) Layer
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • Third (Top) Layer
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  1. For the bottom layer, combine the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder in a saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until melted.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with a wire whisk, then add to the saucepan and stir to thicken mixture, approximately 60 seconds.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, walnuts, and coconut.
  4. Press mixture into an 8 x 8 pan to form a crust.
  5. For the middle layer, cream the butter and heavy cream.
  6. Add the vanilla pudding mix and confectioners' sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.
  7. Spread mixture over the crust (bottom) layer.
  8. For the topping, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream into a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Whisk until melted and smooth.
  9. Cool slightly, then pour over second layer while still liquid.
  10. Chill until firm.

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