Nanaimo Bars recipe - no bake Christmas dessert! - The Recipe Rebel (2024)

The Recipe Rebel / Desserts

written by Ashley Fehr

4.50 from 4 votes

Prep Time 20 minutes mins

Total Time 25 minutes mins

Servings 36 bars

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Last updated on May 21, 2020

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see our disclosure policy.

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian no-bake bar cookie, made with a chocolate coconut base, creamy custard filling and chocolate ganache.

Nanaimo Bars recipe - no bake Christmas dessert! - The Recipe Rebel (2)

It’s been too many years that I’ve had this blog here and haven’t shared a Nanaimo Bar recipe, especially since Nanaimo Bars are one of my all time favorite Christmas desserts!

I have this No Bake Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake, which if you ask me, is all of the incredibly parts of a classic Nanaimo Bar plus cheesecake, so it really doesn’t get any better.

But sometimes you just need a smaller bite for a tray of goodies around the holidays, and you want a classic Canadian Nanaimo Bar. The perfect little bite!

If you’re doing some holiday baking (or no baking!) this year, be sure to add these Nanaimo Bars to your list!

Nanaimo Bars recipe - no bake Christmas dessert! - The Recipe Rebel (3)

And if you’re a mint chocolate lover like me? Try these No Bake Mint Chocolate Bars, which are essentially a mint version of a Nanaimo Bar.

What is a Nanaimo Bar?

A Nanaimo Bar is a classic Canadian treat that originated in Nanaimo, BC — hence the name!

Nanaimo Bars are the ultimate bite-sized treat:

  • a chewy, chocolatey base (no bake, but we do have to cook it on the stove!), made with graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut, finely chopped almonds
  • a creamy custard filling made only with Bird’s Custard Powder (affiliate link) (you can cheat and use instant vanilla pudding mix but it won’t be the same!)
  • a thin layer of chocolate ganache

Tips for making the best Nanaimo Bars:

  • Use a pan with straight edges, and line with parchment paper or wax paper (since we won’t be baking them) so that you get perfectly even layers that come out of the pan without much trouble
  • Chill well before slicing, for even layers and clean edges
  • Use good quality chocolate for the top layer — because it’s going to taste like whatever you use! I prefer to buy a solid bar of dark chocolate instead of using chocolate chips
  • Find or order Bird’s Custard powder for the filling — it really is what makes this recipe unique!
Nanaimo Bars recipe - no bake Christmas dessert! - The Recipe Rebel (4)

Variations on this Nanaimo Bar recipe:

  • Add a teaspoon of mint extract and green food coloring to the filling for a mint Nanaimo Bar
  • Add a tablespoon or two of peanut butter to the filling for a peanut butter chocolate Nanaimo Bar
  • Add some cocoa powder or melted chocolate to the filling for a triple chocolate Nanaimo Bar
  • Add in 1/4-½ teaspoon of almond extract to the filling for a stronger almond presence
  • Add in some orange extract or zest and orange (or red and yellow) food coloring to the filling for a chocolate orange Nanaimo Bar
  • Have a little fun with it! Dream up some flavor combinations of your own 🙂

How to store Nanaimo Bars:

In the refrigerator:

Store in an airtight container up to 1 week in the refrigerator — if they last that long!

In the freezer:

Slice into squares and freeze in an airtight container, not quite touching, so that it’s easy to just grab a few when you’re hangry or when you need to fill out a holiday baking tray or tin.

They thaw quickly and are amazing straight out of the freezer!

Nanaimo Bars recipe - no bake Christmas dessert! - The Recipe Rebel (5)

More no bake bars and cookies you’ll love!

  • No Bake Samoa Cookies
  • 35+ Easy Christmas Treats (no bake!)
  • Fudgy Mint Chocolate No-Bake Cookies + VIDEO
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge with Pretzels + VIDEO
  • 25 No Bake Cookies Recipes

Nanaimo Bars recipe - no bake Christmas dessert! - The Recipe Rebel (6)

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Nanaimo Bars

written by Ashley Fehr

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian no-bake bar cookie, made with a chocolate coconut base, creamy custard filling and chocolate ganache.

Nanaimo Bars recipe - no bake Christmas dessert! - The Recipe Rebel (8)




Prep Time 20 minutes mins

Cook Time 5 minutes mins

Total Time 25 minutes mins

Cuisine canadian

Course Dessert

Servings 36 bars

Calories 289.96cal



  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 2 cups shredded coconut


  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup Bird's custard powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered icing sugar


  • 200 grams dark chocolate (about 1.5 cups chopped)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream



  • In a large, deep pan, melt butter, sugar and cocoa together over medium heat, whisking often.

  • Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in eggs, beating constantly.

  • With a spatula, stir in graham crumbs, almonds and coconut.

  • Press firmly into a parchment-lined 9×13" pan — lining is optional but will make getting the bars out much easier!


  • In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.

  • Add in cream, custard powder and vanilla and beat until smooth.

  • Gradually add in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition.

  • Spread filling evenly over crust and pop in the freezer while you make your ganache.


  • In a small pot, melt chocolate and cream together on low heat, stirring frequently. Let cool for 10 minutes.

  • Remove bars from freezer and pour ganache evenly over bars, spreading into a thin even layer.

  • Place bars in the refrigerator to set completely before slicing, at least 4 hours.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 289.96cal | Carbohydrates: 29.17g | Protein: 2.34g | Fat: 19.18g | Saturated Fat: 11.3g | Cholesterol: 46.18mg | Sodium: 53.78mg | Potassium: 117.12mg | Fiber: 1.75g | Sugar: 23.34g | Vitamin A: 427.7IU | Vitamin C: 0.04mg | Calcium: 27.3mg | Iron: 1.28mg

Keywords nanaimo bars, no bake dessert

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Nanaimo Bars recipe - no bake Christmas dessert! - The Recipe Rebel (9)

Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

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Reader Interactions


  1. Karen says

    I found the filling and ganache to work just great. I was pleasantly surprised with the filling ratios to work, but it did. My one disappointment was the base I have never seen a Nanaimo bar crust with 2 eggs in it and I did find it made too much of a mushy base to set. I will stick to one egg. All in all not a bad recipe to replace my lost one. Thank you!


    • The Recipe Rebel says

      I’m sorry to hear you had trouble with the recipe Karen. The ingredients and amounts have worked well for myself (and others) so I wished it would of been a hit for you too!


  2. Kathryn says

    I just made this recipe yesterday. For me, both the filling and the chocolate ganache are very runny when I try to cut them. I left them overnight in the fridge and then even tried to stick them in the freezer, but still no luck. Mine are definitely super messy, but the taste is great!!


    • The Recipe Rebel says

      I’m sorry to hear that you had trouble with the recipe, Kathryn. I have no idea why your layers would of been running. Ganache typically sets up perfectly after it’s melted properly and cooled. The other layer almost sets up like cheesecake. Did you happen to use the custard powder?


  3. Taenia says

    I am so grateful for this receipe! My mother found this in a magazine when I was little, we lived in California then. My mom made this every Christmas! I lost my mom this April and was making a list of Christmas dessert and could not find this bars! I made your receipe and it is perfect and a memory food for sure!!!


    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Taenia! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!


  4. Amy says

    I make these every year for Christmas. They taste amazing! They just don’t look pretty. I have tried many different techniques for cutting them to try not to have the chocolate top layer crack when cut. Help!


    • Suzanne says

      A heated knife might work.


      • The Recipe Rebel says

        Great suggestion! Thanks Suzanne!

  5. Kelly says

    My custard separated when I mixed in the whipping cream, powder and vanilla. I’m so confused….


    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Kelly! The cream, custard powder and vanilla are mixed into the butter. Are you saying it separated when you mixed it into the butter?


  6. Janice says

    Nanaimo bars are usually made in an 8 or 9 inch square pan and in the 60 years or so that I have been making them, I have never seen a recipe that uses more than 2 Tbsp. Bird’s custard powder. Even taking into account the larger size pan, a half cup of custard powder would make the icing inedible.


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Nanaimo Bars recipe - no bake Christmas dessert! - The Recipe Rebel (2024)


Which bar dessert was named after a city in British Columbia? ›

The Nanaimo bar (/nəˈnaɪmoʊ/ nə-NY-moh) is a bar dessert that requires no baking and is named after the Canadian city of Nanaimo in British Columbia. It consists of three layers: a wafer, nut (walnuts, almonds, or pecans), and coconut crumb base; custard icing in the middle; and a layer of chocolate ganache on top.

How long does cheesecake take to set in fridge? ›

Many recipes say to let the cheesecake sit in the turned-off oven with the door cracked for about an hour, then let it cool completely on the counter. It also needs to spend four hours, or ideally overnight, in the fridge before slicing and eating to ensure the perfect velvety smooth texture. Speaking of slicing…

What is the story behind Nanaimo bars? ›

The first known recipe for Nanaimo bars appeared in the 1952 Women's Auxiliary of the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook and was labelled “chocolate square.” One year later, a similar recipe was published in Vancouver's Edith Adams' Cookbook, this time going by the name “Nanaimo Bar.” These are the bar's earliest known ...

What are Nanaimo bars called in the USA? ›

This creamy, chocolatey treat's origin is elusive, shrouded in mystery, and claimed by many as their own. Of course, we know that Nanaimo Bars originated in Nanaimo, or they would be called New York Bars, or New Brunswick Bars.

How do you thicken a no bake cheesecake? ›

Thickener. In a no-bake cheesecake, there are three typical ways that you create structure: folding in stiffly whipped heavy cream, folding in an alternative stabilizer like Cool Whip, or gelatin.

Why is my no bake cheesecake not firm? ›

In some cases, your filling just needs more time to chill. No-bake cheesecakes generally need at least 4-6 hours in the refrigerator to set properly. If your filling is still runny after that time, try chilling it for another 2-4 hours.

What brand of cream cheese is best for cheesecake? ›

Philadelphia cream cheese is a popular brand of cream cheese that is often used in cheesecake recipes, but there are many other brands of cream cheese that can be used as well.

What desert is in British Columbia? ›

The desert-like south Okanagan Valley is one of the most remarkable grasslands in British Columbia. It is not quite dry enough and too cold on average to be a true desert and is often called a "pocket desert." It is more correctly termed a shrub-steppe.

What is the cake named after a town? ›

The Eccles cake is named after the English town of Eccles, which is in the historic county of Lancashire and in the ceremonial county of Greater Manchester.

Where did Nanaimo bars get its name? ›

A B.C. baker's "ultimate" Nanaimo bars

It was first deemed the Nanaimo bar by Vancouver Sun columnist Edith Adams in 1953 when she wrote that the dessert came from Nanaimo. This is important to note, Newman says, because other places such as Mississauga and England have tried to claim it as their own.

What dessert is named after Queen Victoria? ›

Queen Victoria and the Victoria Sponge

One truly had a sweet tooth, indeed! However, it was the sweet and simple sponge cake that reigned supreme on her table above all others. As the recipe evolved with the invention of baking powder, it's no surprise that the sponge cake was renamed in honour of its royal patron.

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