Introduction: Nanaimo Bars Recipe

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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

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

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

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

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

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.

Happy making :)