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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 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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    Tuesday 6th of December 2022

    I always have a problem cutting the Nanaimo squares without having the top chocolate layer crack and end up not having nice looking pieces...How does every one avoid that?? Would a person score the layer before it is chilled too much??


    Tuesday 8th of November 2022

    Can a liquor be added to a Nanaimo bars 😁 of course only for special occasions. 😁

    Irene Kennedy

    Sunday 19th of December 2021

    Could you please consider posting your recipes with weight amounts and not just cups. It seems to me that I am not very good at measuring with cups. I enjoy your recipes and I do thank you for posting them.

    Tara Cross

    Saturday 18th of December 2021

    The print button does not work

    Susan Graham

    Saturday 4th of December 2021

    I had to add 6 TBS whipping cream to get the right consistency in the custard layer. Other than that, it's my favourite Nanaimo Bar recipe.

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