Nanaimo bars are one of the greatest desserts of all time, and devastatingly seem to only be known in Canada. Originating from the town of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, these treats are typically a no-bake bar with three layers: chocolate coconut graham cracker almond base, custard buttercream middle, and chocolate topping. They are the perfect combination of nutty, creamy, and rich. So, why turn them into cookies?
One of the best parts of Nanaimo bars is that they just melt in your mouth. But this also means that they often melt in your hand… and are not the easiest to transport. I decided to go for a sandwich, to surround the creamy filling and melt-prone chocolate with a layer of cookie. Plus, baking the cookies brings out a chewy, caramelized flavour in the coconut that is irresistible!
The recipe has a classic cookie base: butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Then we add in graham crumbs, almond flour, and cocoa powder along with the flour, and mix in coconut and chopped almonds.
The dough is pretty thick, so I like to scoop it out with an ice cream scoop, making golf ball sized dollops. Then I press it down with my hand – the cookies don’t spread much, so this will be the approximate size and shape of the final baked cookie.
Once the cookies are baked, the dip and filling can be prepped while waiting for them to cool. Classic Nanaimo bars are topped with a layer of chocolate mixed with butter; however, I opted for coconut oil to follow with the coconut theme! I dipped the bottoms of half of the cookies, then laid them down non-chocolate side up to cool and set.
The filling is very close to a classic American buttercream, but with a special ingredient. Custard powder may be hard to find depending on where you’re located, but it is the key to this recipe! This is the thing that makes the filling so creamy and gives it a unique flavour. I use “Bird’s” brand (and this is actually the only brand I’ve ever seen!).
The final step is to pipe the filling onto half the cookies, and close them up sandwich-style. I used a large star piping tip, but any shape will do (or even just spreading the filling on with a knife/spoon!).
These cookies should be stored a sealed container in the fridge, and are good for up to 2 weeks (although best if eaten within a week, as they may start to dry out). As with any dessert involving frosting, these should be enjoyed at room temperature – so take the cookies out of the fridge about an hour before you want to dig in!
Not sure where to get silicone baking mats, cookie scoops, or custard powder? Check out my Amazon store: https://www.amazon.com/shop/influencer-c72e6af5
Nanaimo Cookie Sandwiches
- ¾ cup butter room temperature
- ¾ cup brown sugar packed
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg room temperature
- 1 cup flour
- ⅓ cup graham cracker crumbs
- ⅓ cup almond flour
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ cup shredded coconut
- ⅓ cup chopped almonds
- ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- ½ cup butter room temperature
- 1½ cup icing sugar
- ¼ cup custard powder
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add egg and vanilla, beating until smooth.
- Add flour, graham crumbs, almond flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Beat until just combined.
- Fold in coconut and almonds with a spatula.
- Use a cookie scoop or tablespoon to scoop out golf ball sized dough balls, and press them onto the prepared cookie sheets, squishing to flatten them to about 2cm thick. You should get about 24-26 cookies from the dough.
- Bake for 12 minutes. Allow cookies to cool while you prepare the dip and filling.
- Melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in the microwave, stirring until smooth.
- Once the cookies have cooled, dip half of them into the chocolate mixture and place back on the cookie sheet to allow the chocolate to set.
- 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, vanilla, and salt. Beat until fully combined, and the mixture is light and fluffy. The custard powder will turn yellow when it is incorporated.
- Using a piping bag, pipe a ring of filling onto each chocolate dipped cookie. Then, sandwich it closed with one of the un-dipped cookies.
- If transporting, allow cookie sandwiches to cool in the fridge for an hour (so the frosting can set, and the cookies won't slide apart).When eating, allow cookies to come to room temperature for the best bite!
Submit your review