Nanaimo Bars

These no-bake three-layer bars are named for a city in British Columbia. In our home, we consider them Christmas cookies, but there is no reason you shouldn’t make them today!


Base layer

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup white sugar (or a little less)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups finely ground graham wafer crumbs (I use gluten-free)
1 cup fine coconut (I use unsweetened)

Buttercream layer

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
2 tablespoons vanilla pudding mix (I make this, to avoid artificial flavoring, etc.)
3 tablespoons milk

Chocolate topping

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar

How to make it

Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper overhanging the side for easy removal of bars. (Or grease pan with butter and serve bars straight from pan.)

To make the base layer, melt butter with sugar in double boiler over hot water.


  • egg
  • vanilla
  • cocoa

Cook for a few minutes while stirring.

Remove from heat and add:

  • graham wafer crumbs
  • coconut

Press mixture into pan. Chill (about 15 minutes) while you make the buttercream layer.

To make the buttercream layer, whisk together:

  • powdered sugar
  • butter
  • pudding mix
  • milk

Note: Some recipes suggest whisking this mixture until it is fluffy. My family favors a dense buttercream layer, so we whisk minimally.

Spread buttercream on top of base layer and chill for 30 minutes or so, to set.

To make the chocolate topping, melt chocolate and butter in double boiler, and add powdered sugar.

Remove from heat. Pour chocolate topping over set buttercream layer and quickly spread it evenly.

Return pan to the refrigerator and chill until chocolate forms a hard shell.

If you used parchment paper, lift Nanaimo block out of pan and cut into small squares to transfer to storage container.

We tend to cut these into 1-inch square bars. But it really doesn’t matter, because you won’t eat just one anyway!

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