I brought Nanaimo Bars to my holiday work potluck this year. When I told people what they were called, most people said, “Huh?” Apparently Nanaimo Bars aren’t well known in the Heartland. In my family, however, Nanaimo Bars were typically made for Christmas. My grandmother always made them, and we think she acquired the recipe from a Canadian friend. These decadent bars are named for a town in British Columbia.
My Grammy’s recipe appears to have been altered somewhat from the Canadian version. She used dry vanilla pudding mix instead of custard powder, and this is a common alteration I’ve seen in recipes coming from the lower 48. I’ve made a few twists of my own. My grandmother always used walnuts. I’m not a big walnut fan, so I substituted Oregon Hazelnuts, a nod to my Pacific Northwest roots. Another change I made was using unsweetened coconut instead of a sweet coconut. I also substituted four ounces of dark chocolate chips for semi sweet chocolate squares. I like my desserts to be a little less sweet if possible, and these are still plenty sweet.
- ½ cup butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
- ⅓ cup cocoa
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- 2 tablespoons vanilla pudding mix
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 4 oz dark chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon butter
- In a bowl, combine crushed graham crackers, chopped hazelnuts, cocoa, and coconut. Set aside.
- In a double boiler, melt ½ cup butter. Add the sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla, continue to heat over simmering water. Slowly add the beaten egg and stir until thickened (about 2 to 3 minutes).
- Remove from heat and combine with the graham cracker crumb mixture.
- Press into a 9" x 9" pan. It will be easier to remove the bars if the pan is lined with parchment paper or foil. Chill.
- Cream ¼ cup softened butter, 2 tablespoons vanilla, 2 tablespoons dry vanilla pudding mix, and milk. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until fluffy. When the first layer is cool, spread the second layer over the top. Chill again.
- Melt 4 oz dark chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon butter. Spread over the second layer and chill.
- Cut into squares and enjoy!