This classic Nanaimo bar recipe has been handed down through Canadian families for generations!

Rich and creamy, chocolatey and crunchy, Nanaimo bars are a must-have on a cookie tray any time of year!

Make a big batch and keep some for the freezer, because you’ll always want to have these irresistible treats on hand!

squares of Nanaimo Bars

What is a Nanaimo Bar?

  • Named for the city of Nanaimo in B.C., Canada, Nanaimo bars are 3 layers of rich and deliciously distinctive stacked-up flavors in one easy-to-make, no-bake bar!
  • A top layer of rich chocolate covers a creamy middle layer of cocoa buttercream which is spread over a bottom cookie layer made with chocolate-coconutty goodness.
  • No-bake and easy to make and Nanaimo bars freeze beautifully so why not keep some on hand for last-minute treats?
ingredients to make Nanaimo Bars including powdered sugar, graham cracker crumbs, egg, sugar, coconut, vanilla, butter, milk, cocoa powder, custard powder, walnuts, and chocolate

What’s in a Nanaimo Bar?

Three layers create a perfect combination of crunchy, creamy, and crispy chocolate!


The base can be baked, or unbaked. The combination of cocoa, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and walnuts provides a chewy and dense base similar to a brownie that’s perfect for piling on two more layers of good stuff! Gluten-free graham crackers can be used or you can make a flourless peanut butter base and create a Reese’s Nanaimo bar!


Custard powder, powdered sugar, and butter make up the melt-in-your-mouth middle layer that makes Nanaimo bars so famous. Look for custard powder in the pudding section of your supermarket or buy some on Amazon. A bit of mint extract and some green food coloring will make a minty-flavored Nanaimo bar that’s perfect for St. Patrick’s Day or summertime parties!


This recipe tastes best when you use the best ingredients! Good quality chocolate chips or baking squares help marry all the other flavors together. You can even double the recipe to create an extra tall, extra decadent bar.


It’s easy to switch up the ingredients or add mix-ins to this Nanaimo bars recipe. Use pecans or pistachios instead of walnuts in the base, and a rum, maple, or bourbon extract in the buttercream filling, or pour a thin layer of white chocolate on the topping and make decorative swirls with a toothpick. Make them without nuts and use seeds or even homemade granola.

How to Make Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are a must-have on a cookie tray any time of year!

The Base:

  1. Heat butter, sugar, and cocoa in a pan and stir until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, as directed in the recipe card below.
  2. Stir in graham crackers, coconut, and walnuts. Press into the bottom of a pan and refrigerate.

The Filling:

  1. Cream butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, custard powder, and milk and beat until smooth.
  2. Spread the custard mixture evenly over the crust and refrigerate.

The Top:

  1. Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave at intervals until melted and smooth.
  2. Gently spread the chocolate topping over the custard.

Tips For Success

  • Use a wooden skewer to make small lines in the top layer. Scoring the top keeps the chocolate from breaking while you cut them.
  • Make sure each layer is cooled completely or the buttercream middle layer will melt.
  • Refrigerate Nanaimo bars until they are set before cutting into squares and serving.

Best Way to Store Nanaimo Bars

Keep Nanaimo bars in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to 4 days.

Freeze bars by wrapping them in plastic wrap and placing them in a zippered bag. Thaw in the refrigerator.

stack of Nanaimo Bars on a wooden board

Other Decadent Desserts!

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squares of Nanaimo Bars
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Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are a rich and creamy, chocolatey and crunchy must-have on a cookie tray any time of year!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Refrigerate 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 25 servings
Author Candace


Bottom Layer

Middle Layer

Top Layer


Bottom Layer

  • Line an 8×8 inch pan with foil or parchment paper.
  • In a medium pot on low heat, warm butter, sugar, and cocoa and stir until smooth, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in egg and vanilla until well combined. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in graham crumbs, coconut, and walnuts until well combined. Spread in prepared pan and refrigerate to set while preparing the middle layer.

Middle Layer

  • Using a stand mixer and bowl (or hand mixer and medium bowl), cream butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar, custard powder, and milk and beat to combine, about 2 minutes.
  • Using an offset spatula, spread custard mixture over the bottom layer, smoothing the top, and return to the refrigerator to set while preparing the top layer.

Top Layer

  • To a small bowl, add chocolate and butter. Microwave on 50% heat for 15 seconds and stir. Microwave in 10-second increments until chocolate is melted and smooth. Carefully spread hot mixture thinly over the custard layer*. 
  • Refrigerate until chocolate is firm. Cut into small squares and serve**.


*To spread easily, working quickly, pour the chocolate on the Middle Layer and tip the pan in all directions to spread the chocolate.
**For the cleanest cuts, run a long (serrated) knife under hot water. Dry with a towel, and cut pressing straight down on the knife. Clean and run under water for each cut.
  • Double the top layer to make it easier to spread and if you like more chocolate.
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Nutrition Information

Calories: 187 | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 98mg | Potassium: 77mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 192IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information does not include optional ingredients or garnish and is an estimate. It may change based on actual ingredients and cooking methods used.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American

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“Nanaimo Squares.” Recipes for Young Adults; Selected by Manitoba Suburban Home Economics Teachers. Fort Garry: The Manitoba Beet Growers’ Association and the Manitoba Sugar Company, 1970. 87. Print.


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About the author

I am a wife, mother of two, and professional accountant. I love fantastic food, and it is so often the center of our lives, from everyday dinner, to family gatherings, and special evenings at fabulous restaurants. I have always loved cooking and baking, with my mom and grandma, and now, with my daughter and son. I love trying new recipes while enjoying my favorites too. I’m so happy to share them with you.
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