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Nanaimo Bars. Building a better version.

Nanaimo Bars. Building a better version. Try this revamped version of the classic Canadian treat with a more substantial base layer and an improved filling.

Nanaimo Bars shown on a serving plate.

Nanaimo Bars. New and Improved!

Yes, I dared to toy with a Canadian classic! The recipe has been around forever but this version might be the best I’ve had. Well in my opinion at least… but I think you might just agree.

I’ve had several requests over the years for a standard Nanaimo Bar recipe but I’d never posted one. There are practically thousands of websites and blogs online that have the recipe published, so I figured, why one more?

All of those recipes are practically the same, using all of the same ingredients in almost always the same proportions or even exact measurements. It was a question from a friend who asked about the recipe that got me re-thinking it once again.

I found myself doing so after each similar request. I guess it was nagging away at me subconsciously all along.

Nanaimo Bars. Adding the custard frosting layer.

Nanaimo Bars. Adding the custard frosting layer.

The inspiration for an improved Nanaimo Bars recipe.

My old friend and work colleague, Irene, wrote to me on Facebook, “Hey Super Barry-do you have a recipe for Nanaimo Bars where you can actually taste the custard vs. the typical sugar-y attack on the palate?”

Immediately, I thought she had pinpointed a specific issue that I also often had with the recipe.

Let’s face it, it is going to be difficult to cut the sweetness of a Nanaimo Bar. Because with a filling of thick icing sugar frosting, they are naturally quite rich.

I do like to cut these in smaller portions because of that (I get at least 36 squares out of a 9×9 baking pan).  But I also thought that if I played with increasing the amount of the base layer, that could help to balance the sweeter centre better.

Nanaimo Bars. New and Improved! Close up view of cut cookie bars.

Nanaimo Bars. New and Improved!

After a couple of attempts, I got that part exactly as I wanted it. In order to make the centre a bit more firm, I increased the butter a little and added only whipping cream as the liquid ingredient to bring the frosting together.

I saw this in several recipes I’d seen online. I found that the higher fat cream in a small amount, actually worked better because it did not split the frosting and loosen it, as low fat milk can tend to do.

Improving the flavour.

I also added substantially more custard powder to the recipe than many recipes called for. Irene was right, what’s the point of the custard powder if there isn’t a discernible flavour from it?

Photo of a can of Bird's Custard Powder

You can find custard powder on Amazon by clicking the affiliate link photo.

The result of adding more custard powder also added more firmness and smoothness to the filling.; another bonus.

All in all I was very, very pleased with the result. I shared them with some of my friends who are devoted Nanaimo Bar lovers and they all agreed. Perfection!

Originally published Aug 2017.

Are you a Nanaimo bar lover?

Be sure to check out all the other flavours in our Nanaimo Bars Collection!

The Nanaimo Bar Recipe Collection

The Nanaimo Bar Recipe Collection

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Nanaimo Bars. New and Improved!. Image with title text for Pinterest.

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Nanaimo Bars shown on a serving plate.
Yield: 36 cookie squares

Nanaimo Bars - building a better version.

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Nanaimo Bars - building a better version. Try this revamped version of the classic Canadian treat with a more substantial base layer and an improved filling.


Bottom Layer

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/3  cup sugar
  • 8 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups graham crumbs
  • 3/4 cup fine or medium unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts toasted

Middle Layer (filling)

  • 2 1/4 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup custard powder
  • 2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 2 tbsp whipping cream

Top Layer (chocolate)

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp butter


To prepare the Base Layer

  1. Melt together the butter, sugar and cocoa over low heat.
  2. Add the eggs continue to cook, stirring constantly to fully cook the egg to a soft scrambled texture.
  3. Add the graham crumbs, coconut and walnuts.
  4. Mix together until well combined then, press into the bottom of a parchment paper lined 9x9 inch baking pan.

To prepare Filling

  1. With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, custard powder and icing sugar until it starts to come together.
  2. Add the vanilla paste and whipping cream and beat well until smooth.
  3. This frosting should be very stiff but spreadable. ( Much thicker than you would use to frost a cake for example) If you think it's too thick, you may add a few drops of whipping at a time to bring it to the right consistency.
  4. Spread evenly over the bottom layer. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours before adding the chocolate topping.

To prepare the Chocolate Topping

  1. Melt together the chocolate chips and butter over low heat, just until the chocolate is melted, don't over heat it.
  2. Spread quickly over the chilled frosted layer. Return to the fridge until the chocolate sets.
  3. Cut into squares or bars. These freeze very well.

The nutritional information provided is automatically calculated by third party software and is meant as a guideline only. Exact accuracy is not guaranteed. For recipes where all ingredients may not be used entirely, such as those with coatings on meats, or with sauces or dressings for example, calorie & nutritional values per serving will likely be somewhat lower than indicated.

    Nutrition Information



    Serving Size

    1 cookie bar

    Amount Per Serving Calories 187Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 7gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 32mgSodium 113mgCarbohydrates 18gFiber 1gSugar 13gProtein 1g

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    Thursday 25th of March 2021

    Seems hard to improve upon a Nanaimo bar, but I guess I'll give it a chance! 😊


    Thursday 14th of May 2020

    I have made Nanaimo bars for many years.. I made them once with instant pudding and they were not as good. I stayed with my favoured Birds custard powder. An excellent product. I always have a can on hand to make a trifle, or to serve over fruit. As soon as husband's birthday cake is gone it will be time to make these delicious Nanaimo bars.


    Monday 16th of September 2019

    When I saw a link to this recipe on Pinterest, I wondered who was claiming to make better Nanaimo Bars?

    I spent a summer making these from the original recipe, less the nuts for a B&B. 3-4 batches per week. We left out the nuts, as we were not always there to tell guests there were nuts in the bars.

    The original recipe had a raw egg in it to hold the base together. It was from back in the day when we were not all freaked out about raw eggs.

    When we make Nanaimo Bars, we use Dark or bittersweet chocolate bars instead of chocolate chips for the topping. We also make it a thick Ganache, so it is easier to cut. It is also a much better quality ingredient than most chocolate chips.

    I can not understand why anyone would use Oreo or other chocolate cookie crumbs in this recipe. It will not be the same taste as using graham wafer crumbs. If you want a less sweet base, then use less sugar. You cannot control the amount of sugar in cookie crumbs.

    If you leave out the nuts or coconut you will have a less thick base, and it will not have the texture contrast that you get with them in there. It is easy to substitute other nuts, I prefer pecans, even though they are not original to the recipe. I only use Walnuts when I can get local fresh ones.


    Saturday 5th of October 2019

    Hi Michelle: I really don't think anyone can make a better Nanaimo bar, than Barry. But I'm always open to new/old things. Would you share your recipe?

    Judy Ashdown

    Monday 24th of June 2019

    Quick question wondering why the base isn't baked I know everyone has their own recipe but the egg soft scrambling sounds so odd. Could I bake your base mixing dry ingredients and add melted butter and egg combine and bake 10 min, also just to throw a wrench in the oven i have an 8 x 8 or 10 x 10 going to use the 10" since your recipe is larger ....any thoughts. I just don't want to go buy another pan thanks so much Judy

    Barry C. Parsons

    Thursday 27th of June 2019

    I always calculate the area of the pans when trying to adapt recipes to different sized pans. That way, you can actually see how close they are in size in square inches or centimeters. And they told me I wouldn't use grade 5 math ! LOL! There is no need to bake the base. The egg will be sufficiently cooked.

    Rosemary Hogan

    Sunday 28th of April 2019

    Do you have the recipe for different flavours for the custard layer

    Barry C. Parsons

    Thursday 9th of May 2019

    Search "Nanaimo Bars collection".

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