RECIPE: Nanaimo Bars For Christmas | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures RECIPE: Nanaimo Bars For Christmas | The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures
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RECIPE: Nanaimo Bars For Christmas

Nanaimo (pronounced na-NYE-mo) is a city on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, that has given its name to this delicious holiday bar cookie. If you’re looking for a special recipe, try this one from Jessie Oleson Moore of CakeSpy, via

A no-bake bar, the basic recipe consists of a graham cracker crumb-based layer topped by a layer of vanilla custard, which is then topped with a thick layer of chocolate. There are numerous variations on the recipe, including mint and mocha versions.

While there are differing claims to the cookie’s origin, the earliest printed recipe using the name “Nanaimo Bars” appears in the Edith Adams Prize Cookbook (14th edition) of 1953.*

“Nanaimo bars are unbelievably rich, incredibly indulgent, and completely irresistible,” says Jesse Oleson Moore. “This version embodies the festive flavors of the holiday season. The classic bar gets a minty makeover, yielding a rich, creamy, buttery and refreshing treat that is the kind of confection that peppermint patties hope to be when they grow up.”


How can you resist? Photo courtesy, which has a different, no-mint recipe.


Jesse adapted this recipe from the Official City of Nanaimo recipe. We make our own “technicolor” holiday version with a white chocolate top, tinted with red food color, atop the optional-green-tinted middle layer.

While the peppermint makes them spot-on for the holiday season, the optional-green middle layer also says “St. Patrick’s Day.”


Ingredients For 24 Bars

Bottom Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds

    How can you resist? Photo courtesy King
    Arthur Flour.
      Middle Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (instant vanilla pudding works in a pinch)
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: several drops of green food coloring to color custard layer
    Top Layer

  • 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


    1. PREPARE the bottom layer. Melt butter, sugar and cocoa in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased, parchment-lined 8″ x 8″ pan. Let chill in the refrigerator until cool to the touch.

    2. MAKE the middle layer: Thoroughly cream together butter, cream, custard powder, peppermint extract and confectioners’ sugar. Beat until light; it should be a thick consistency, but still spreadable. If desired, stir in food coloring until completely integrated. Spread over bottom layer, making sure that it is as flat as possible (use a metal spatula to “scrape” it into a flat top). Return to the fridge until the middle layer is completely set; alternatively, you can put the pan in the freezer so the layers will be extremely firm before adding the top layer.

    3. PREPARE the top layer: Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Add the peppermint extract and stir until incorporated. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer, very gently spreading so that it covers the entire layer (you will need to do this fairly quickly so that the second layer doesn’t start to melt or meld with the top layer). Let chill in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. Serve lightly chilled, or let come to room temperature.

    4. TO SERVE: Use a sharp knife to slice the bars; keep a towel on hand to clean the knife frequently between cuts to ensure clean, good-looking bars which showcase the pretty layers.

    Try this alternative recipe from
    *Edith Adams, a fictional persona like Betty Crocker, was the face of the food pages of the Vancouver Sun newspaper from 1924 to 1999. From the 1930s to 1950, the publication issued annual compilation cookbooks of recipes sent in by readers for a chance to win prize money.

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