Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian treat that originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia. According to local legend, the first recipe was created by an anonymous wife of a Nanaimo city councilman back in the 1950s. Since then, it has become one of Canada’s most beloved desserts!
These no-bake bars consist of three layers: a crumbly biscuit base, a creamy custard centre, and a rich chocolate topping. The base of a Nanaimo bar is traditionally made from a mixture of coconut, almonds, graham cracker crumbs, unsweetened cocoa powder, and melted butter. This is pressed into the bottom of a baking dish and then chilled in the refrigerator to set. The middle layer is a rich and creamy custard filling made from a combination of butter, sugar, vanilla, and custard powder. This is spread over the chilled base and then chilled again until firm. The final layer is a rich chocolate ganache made from melted chocolate and butter. This is poured over the chilled custard layer and then refrigerated until the chocolate is set. Once the bars are firm, they are cut into squares and ready to serve. These delicious treats are perfect for any occasion and are sure to be a hit with anyone who tries them.
A key ingredient for a creamy, dreamy Nanaimo bar centre: custard powder!
I have put a holiday twist on this classic by substituting the almonds for hazelnut. Hazelnuts have an intense nutty flavour that pairs perfectly with the other ingredients in this delicious treat. Pro tip: toasting them before adding them to the recipe will enhance their flavour even more! Simply add toasted hazelnuts when you would normally use almonds in the base – but don’t worry, I’ll cover the details in the recipe down below.
One way to add a visual festive touch to Nanaimo bars is to decorate them with white chocolate in the shape of Christmas trees. This can be done by melting white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and then pouring it into a plastic bag or piping bag. Snip off the corner of the bag to create a small hole, and then pipe the white chocolate onto the top of the Nanaimo bars in the shape of Christmas trees. Once the chocolate has hardened, the Nanaimo bars can be cut into squares and served. Such a simple little addition that adds some holiday flair!
Nanaimo bars are such a popular treat in Canada, and they are often served at special occasions such as weddings and birthdays… so here is my attempt to turn them into a Christmas staple as well! If you have never tried a Nanaimo bar before, be sure to give them a try – you won’t be disappointed!
Here is a short video tutorial showing how to make these delectable bars from start to finish. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced baker, you will find this tutorial easy to follow and the results will be mouthwatering. So grab your ingredients and let’s get started!
Hazelnut Nanaimo Bars
- 1 cup unsalted butter diced into pieces
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 3 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1 cup hazelnuts finely chopped (I use a blender)
- 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1/4 cup heavy cream 35%
- 1/4 cup Bird’s custard powder
- 3 cups icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon hazelnut emulsion
- 225 g semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 55 g about 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup white chocolate melting wafers
- Prepare a 9×13 baking dish by lining with parchment paper and spraying with cook spray.
- Melt butter together with sugar in large heat proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water on medium heat.
- Remove from heat, add in cocoa powder, salt, hazelnuts, and eggs. Whisk until well combined.
- Return mixture to heat and cook until mixture has just thickened.
- Remove from heat and add in graham cracker crumbs and coconut, mixing until fully combined.
- Press mixture into prepared baking dish. Place in the fridge to chill while preparing the filling.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the butter until it lightens in colour. Slowly add in the icing sugar, beating after each addition.
- Add the custard powder, cream, and hazelnut emulsion. Beat until fully combined, and the mixture is light and fluffy. The custard powder will turn yellow when it is incorporated.
- Spread filling into an even layer over chilled bottom layer. Place baking dish back into the fridge while preparing the topping.
- Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips along with butter in a heat proof bowl in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until chocolate chips are fully melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Spread the melted chocolate mixture into an even layer over the filling layer – I like to use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate. Try to do this quickly, as the chilled filling will cause the chocolate to set fairly rapidly.
- Melt white chocolate melting wafers in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each. Pour into a plastic bag or piping bag, and snip off the corner to create a small hole. Pipe little zig zags in the rough shape of a Christmas tree, then use a toothpick to swipe up the centre of the squiggles. *See the video for a demonstration.
- Once fully chilled, cut the bars into squares. Wipe your knife in between cuts for the cleanest looking squares. Bars should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge, but taste best at room temperature – remove from fridge approximately 1 hour before digging in to allow them to come to room temperature.