Introduction: Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Picture of Nanaimo Bars Recipe

With 3 layers of goodness this decadent dessert is part bar, part cookie and all delicious!
This easy no-bake recipe has been copied and re-named countless times, and while the origin is sometimes contested it is widely accepted to have originated in Nanaimo, BC sometime around the 1950's. Hence the name, Nanaimo Bars.

The original recipe has a base layer of chocolatey-graham crumbs, a middle layer of custard, then topped with chocolate. Since I'm not a huge fan of custard I modified the recipe to substitute the middle custard layer with peanut butter, along with some other minor tweaks to satisfy my nut obsession and make this recipe my own. If you're looking for the original recipe, you can check out the City of Nanaimo's website, which also includes some history behind this tasty tiered treat.

Introduce this quintessentially Canadian classic and you're sure to make friends wherever you go.

Enough talk, let's make some Nanaimo Bars!

Step 1: Ingredients

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bar Recipe

base layer (crumbly cookie bottom)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups graham wafer crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts
middle layer (peanut buttery filling)
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (icing sugar)

top layer (mmm..chocolate)
  • 1/2 lbs. semi-sweet chocolate

You will also need:

  • mixing bowls
  • stove top pot
  • spatula
  • pan (at least 8"x8", but almost any size will work)

Step 2: Base Layer

Picture of Base Layer

The base layer of a Nanaimo Bar is a crumbly mix of graham and cocoa.

In a bain-marie over low heat combine butter, sugar and cocoa. Stir in egg and mix, the egg will cook and thicken the mix.
Next, remove from heat and add graham crumbs and nuts and combine thoroughly.
Allow mixture to stand for a minute to cool.

While mixture is cooling, line bottom of your pan with a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Then, pour warm mixture into pan, then press to compact the mixture. The crumb base should be a solid thickness should be around 10mm (3/8").

Step 3: Middle Layer

Picture of Middle Layer

The middle layer is a soft filling, typically custard, but can be anything. I chose to make mine with peanut butter to compliment the addition of nuts in the base layer.

In a new mixing bowl, cream butter and combine peanut butter and sugar.
Pour filling onto pan over compact graham base.

Ensure even spread over entire pan.

Step 4: Top Layer

Picture of Top Layer

Like all things awesome, it's time to top our Nanaimo Bars mess with chocolate.

In a new bowl setup a bain-marie over low heat and melt chocolate. Do not let any water into the melted chocolate as it will seize and harden. If this happens, remove from heat and add fat (any kind of oil or shortening) in small quantities, then mix until chocolate is liquid again.

While still liquid, pour chocolate over peanut butter filling. As with other layers of the Nanaimo Bar, ensure an even coating.

Step 5: Fridge It

Picture of Fridge It

Once all layers are added to the pan, place pan into fridge and allow to rest for at least an hour.

Step 6: Share With Friends

Picture of Share With Friends

After an hour, remove Nanaimo Bars from fridge. The wax sheet placed in the bottom of the pan will allow you to remove the entire slab whole. To cut, run a sharp knife under hot water and slowly cut into the slab. Be gentle, as the chocolate is brittle.

Cut into bite-size portions and arrange bars as you like, then stand back; there are going to be hungry monsters wanting to try your creation!
These Nanaimo Bars are sure to go quick, so don't forget to grab one for yourself!

Did you make your own? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you include a picture of your version you'll earn a digital patch and a 3-month Pro membership to Instructables!


rocket made it! (author)2016-06-27

I seriously can't get enough!

mmmelroy (author)2016-06-24


cheesegrater3 (author)2011-09-23

Ok, I tried making this twice now, and both times I have messed up the top chocolate layer. I melted the chocolate, and when I go to add the butter, it would instantly harden up the chocolate. The first time I thought it was just because I didn't melt it enough, but the second time I had it melting a hell of a lot longer then first time. I tried to get it to be like a liquid (so it would be actually pourable) but I could only get it to be more then a little thicker then the middle layer. Should I just try to keep melting it more before I add the butter, or what?

AppyJuice (author)cheesegrater32012-04-04

are you using semisweet chocolate chips? I've had a lot of problems melting baking chips in the past. if you are indeed using chips, try using bars! might work better.

rachl009 (author)cheesegrater32011-09-27

maybe your chocolate is seizing?

cheesegrater3 (author)rachl0092011-09-27

Possible... Next time I will be aware of any water. Thanks :)

hmm, not sure exactly what the problem is. You should melt the chocolate completely in the bain-marie prior to adding the butter, make sure your butter is at room temperature, too.

Good luck, I hope the previous attempts were enjoyed!

I'll try room temperature butter next time, thanks.

And it was very much enjoyed :)

rocket (author)2012-02-01

I made these for my coworkers, they were a huge hit!

scoochmaroo (author)2012-01-27

When are you making these again? I want my hand in that picture!

rachl009 (author)2011-11-02

om nom nom here's mine

mikeasaurus (author)rachl0092011-11-02

Looking good!
For posting your results you get a digital patch and a 3-month Pro Membership. Thanks for sharing, way to go!

clibanarius (author)2011-10-01

Okay, this was the inaugural project in my "30 days of instructables" personal challenge (see the TED video here for the inspiration). As you can see below, I might have rushed the chocolate melting in the top layer; it started to seize and became much stiffer than the delicate middle layer (oh, yeah, and I did the unforgivable, using a microwave to melt the chocolate, although it usually works for me). So I did my best to make it look intentional, but they're certainly not the classic Nanaimo bars! Can't wait to try them tonight.

Thanks for the fab recipe.

mikeasaurus (author)clibanarius2011-10-01

I'm really liking the swirled effect, and you really can't go wrong with chocolate and PB. For posting your version of this project here I'm awarding you a 3-month Pro Membership and a digital patch.

Good luck in your 30 days of Instructables, I look forward to see what's next!

clibanarius (author)mikeasaurus2011-10-01

Thanks, Mike! They were a big hit at the party, people who were already uncomfortably full went back for seconds. The swirls and sunken tubes of chocolate were visually interesting, though I'm still going to try (next month!) to make a classic NB!

AdamVigneaux (author)2011-08-29

Great recipe! One small thing you could change is to explain what a bain-marie is (a pot within a pot with water in it, used to heat/melt things such as chocolate), and to small bain-marie correctly in step 4. ;)

I chose to freeze mine because we currently have brownies sitting on the counter, and I would just end up ignoring the brownies and eating these Nanaimo bars!

mikeasaurus (author)AdamVigneaux2011-08-29

Fixed and fixed, thanks for letting me know!

Your Nanaimo Bars look tasty, great work!
Enjoy the patch and the 3 month Pro Membership!

maltesergr8 (author)2011-08-23

I'm sitting here, just about drooling... reading comments & looking at pics of your killer recipe! Must make soon!!

Think it would taste ok without chopped nuts? I just prefer not chomping down on little bits of them.

jmalenfant (author)2011-08-10

Here in Quebec prov., we call them "Dominoes".

OutsideTheBoxx (author)2011-05-31

just got the slice out of the fridge. my brothers wouldnt leave me alone about it since they got home from school. tastes awesome! theres only 2 peices left now (ready for dad when he gets home) lasted about 30 minutes!
recipes going straight to the family "recipe scrap-book".

The only problem with this recipe is that there never seems to be enough. Good to hear that these bars have made their way into your family recipe.

Thanks for sharing your pictures. Enjoy the patch and the 3-month Pro Membership!

Wheatridge (author)2011-05-31

This is a great recipe. You say it is from the 1950's. My Mother-in-law made these each and every Christmas, probably for as long as the 1930's. before I was born. Her middle level was a lemon custard type layer, and she added shredded coconut to her bottom layer. I will try yours with the peanut putter middle level next December when I make Christmas cookies. Thanks...

mikeasaurus (author)Wheatridge2011-05-31

The nice thing about this dessert is that it is widely variable, depending on your tastes. I hope the peanut butter version is a hit with your family this Christmas.

Putts (author)2011-05-29

The bars turned out awesome. Will definitely be making them again, although I might be tempted to try white chocolate for the top layer next time. Thanks so much for the recipe!!!

Putts (author)Putts2011-05-29

Oops, pictures didn't show up last time. Let's try that again...

mikeasaurus (author)Putts2011-05-30

looking goo, thanks for sharing your photos. I'd like to see your white chocolate version if you try it!

Enjoy the patch and the 3-month Pro Membership!

iamchrismoran (author)2011-05-27

I'm always up for a chocolate/peanut butter combo dessert. I made these last night with the following changes:
I don't know what "nuts" you used. I used peanuts because I couldn't find the almonds I thought we had in the freezer. I don't actually LIKE nuts in my baked goods, but what the hey...
I added some cacao nibs to the base mixture. A little more crunch and some extra bitter chocolate flavor.
I must have been an idiot because I couldn't temper the chocolate chips to save my life. I went through 1.5 cups of chips before I just went with what I had and tried to spread the mixture on top. They taste just fine anyway.
Next time... no peanuts though. I will NOT however, look at the potential calorie count on this one... hehehe.

Thanks for sharing! The nuts I used were mixed (about 50% peanuts, remainder were filberts, cashews, pecans, and others) found in the bulk section of the local grocery. Your addition of cacao nibs sound like a fine addition!

Tempering chocolate is easy, but does require some practice. For this recipe though you can get away without tempering it, this dessert is flexible like that.
Enjoy the patch and the 3-month Pro Membership!

thanks for the gifties :)
It turned out fine enough. I bet hazelnuts would be an amazing addition.
As for the nibs... my wife bought them for me eons ago and they've been in the freezer waiting for a purpose - this is only the 3rd recipe I've put them in. I do notice them.

EXCiTiNG (author)2011-05-27

So I made my own. The bottom is the same as your recipe. The middle is Skippy with butter but no added sugar. For the top, I used 12 oz of chocolate (the whole bag of chocolate chips). Let it all set in an 8x8 dish. Turned out great! 
Higher Res pic:

mikeasaurus (author)EXCiTiNG2011-05-27

mmmm, chocolaty-peanutbuttery-Nanaimo Bars, thanks for sharing your results!
Enjoy the patch and and the 3-month Pro membership!

EXCiTiNG (author)mikeasaurus2011-05-27

Thank you for the Pro membership! Took some to school (I'm a junior in high school) and my friends devoured them. Thanks for sharing your recipe! (author)2011-05-27

I saw this popping up on my facebook newsfeed and they sounded so delicious I knew I just HAD to make them!! Made them this morning, popped out to have lunch with some friends, and when we returned 3 hours later they were ready to have for desert. What can I say, they are all MINE!! Just need to make sure I beat my husband to the fridge... :-D

Here are a couple of pictures of what mine turned out like. The chocolate wasn't as runny as your version so had a bit of trouble spreading it, it ended up mixing up with the middle layer in places but actually, that gave it a bit of a marbled effect which I thought looked quite pretty :-)

YUM. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

mikeasaurus (author)waterlily.nz2011-05-27

Love the swirling effect (and some might say it looks better that way)! Better gobble them up before hubby gets to them!
Enjoy the patch and the 3-month Pro Membership! (author)mikeasaurus2011-05-27

lol, awesome, thanks! :-) We're VERY tempted to skip dinner and just go straight for desert tonight!

Thought I'd add, in case it helps anyone, I didn't have a clue what graham wafers were (not sure we have them on this side of the world), so I used plain hobnobs instead. Seemed to work well :)

dar1bak (author)2011-05-27

Please don't call these Nanaimo Bars -- that recipe is on the can of custard powder and hasn't changed in decades. Anything else is not a Nanaimo Bar. Call them Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars and yours will still come up in searches.

mikeasaurus (author)dar1bak2011-05-27

did you even read the intro?

randofo (author)2011-05-24

Oh... my mom makes something like that, but with more everything! So good.

Lindie (author)randofo2011-05-27

Yes, these look almost the same. Yummy!

Slim49 (author)2011-05-26

I am Definetly goint to make this!!! :-)
I may use a carmel / peanut butter mix for the middle.
Mr. Steve

bobbelsekwol (author)2011-05-26

These look fab. I'll get the ingredients tomorrow and get making. They look very slimming, perhaps i'll eat half and have the other later. Mmmmmmm

Thur (author)2011-05-26

Maybe I'm being too much of a purist, but it just doesn't seem right to call these Nanaimo bars. Delicious? Ohmygodyes! Nanaimo bars? I don't know, mang.

depotdevoid (author)2011-05-25

Oh man, those were magically delicious! Thanks for posting instructions, I'm definitely going to have to make those!

mikeasaurus (author)depotdevoid2011-05-25

I'm amazed I didn't eat them all before I shared them!

ChrysN (author)2011-05-24

Yay, Nanaimo bars! The peanut butter version sounds great.

mikeasaurus (author)ChrysN2011-05-25

Who can say no to Nanaimo Bars?
To me, peanut butter makes everything better. It's a borderline problem, my relationship with nuts.

angelabchua (author)2011-05-25

I think im going to make some of these for the lab!

mikeasaurus (author)angelabchua2011-05-25

Please do, and tell me how they turn out!
I brought some with me to Maker Faire and left them behind the booth, did you manage to grab one then?

Cabe (author)2011-05-25

See, those hands, they missed a trick, if you go for the plate THEY CAN ALL BE MINE BWAAAAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

scoochmaroo (author)2011-05-24


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