Has anyone ever heard of a Nanaimo bar? I was recently flipping through a 1988 collective style cookbook of “food editor’s favorites” and stopped on the recipe submitted by the food editor (at the time) of The Vancouver Sun. And just like that, the Nanaimo Bar is now my go-to no bake bar.
^^Not ground beef, I swear.
This thrift-store gem I purchased for $1.49 has all kinds of treats and it’s usually hard to choose one over another. The Nanaimo bar caught my attention solely on the name alone.
I had never heard of a Nanaimo bar, but the editor described it as a dessert bar – a cross between a cookie and a candy – traditional at Christmas time in British Columbia. I also didn’t know there was a coastal city called Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
Why hadn’t I heard of this before? I’m fairly certain that my family and I cruised right along that coastline on the Salish Sea 9 years ago on a cruise to Alaska. At the time, the Nokia cell phone (that I shared with my siblings) wasn’t even capable of Internet access. The best thing on that artifact was the snake game. But if I had had a smartphone, I’d like to think my sticky fingers would have been on the pulse of the best bakeries nearby with a quick Google search.
On that cruise, we departed Vancouver on a Holland America jumbo ship and sailed north along the Inside Passage up to Skagway and hit Juneau and Ketchikan along the way back. I remember it as some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen. We did eat some incredible local halibut in one of the villages where we disembarked. (BRB Googling flights to Vancouver…)
Ok, back to the bars. I’ve made these bars four times now. They are that fantastic. They’re definitely not a quick bar to make but worth the time. The distinct ingredient, custard powder, is difficult to find in the US. I use the suggested substitute, pudding powder, and it works just fine. I also added peanut butter to the top of some of my bars because it’s delicious, but it’s totally optional.
Nanaimo Bars Recipe
Makes one 8×8″ pan.
Use your butter wrappers to butter the pan (or spray with pam) then line with parchment paper.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (toasted for deeper flavor, but it’s not totally necessary)
2 tbsp vanilla instant pudding mix powder (or custard powder if you can find it)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, melted (optional)