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!

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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 :)

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50 Discussions


3 years ago



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?

5 replies

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.

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!


7 years ago on Introduction

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


7 years ago on Introduction

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


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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


8 years ago on Introduction

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.

2 replies

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!


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!


8 years ago on Introduction

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!

1 reply

Fixed and fixed, thanks for letting me know!

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


8 years ago on Introduction

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.

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".

1 reply

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!