These ultra-indulgent Canadian chocolate bars known as Nanaimo Bars, are a treat! The perfect accompaniment to your morning or afternoon tea. They’re made up of a crunchy biscuit base, custard icing, and chocolate ganache topping. Yum!
My favorite thing is the custard filling. It’s so rich and full of flavor. But I also love the biscuit base which kind of reminds me of rum balls in texture.
Chocolate bars, okay but what on earth art Nanaimo Bars?
It’s interesting. Nanaimo bars aren’t based of anything else. They kind of evolved from a simple bar dessert when people were looking for no-bake recipes and started living busier lives. Eventually they became marketed as Nanaimo bars at a world’s fair in the 80’s in Canada.
They’re unique in that, they have a custard icing filling, but the filling isn’t cooked. The custard powder is used purely for flavour. There’s enough in there to add a rich flavour but not enough to make these taste floury.
Couple that with a chocolate biscuit base and chocolate ganache on top and you have something really special!
What do chocolate bars taste like?
I mean, they’re a dessert, so they’re sweet. But let me begin with the base. To me, this reminds me a lot of rum balls. It’s kind of chewy and crispy, but not crumbly. Minus the rum of course!
The custard filling is really yum. Custard powder doesn’t give you an eggy taste, but instead an egg custard taste. Rich in flavour. Before this recipe, I’d never used it uncooked. But it works so well in this recipe. And surprisingly, it doesn’t have a floury, uncooked aftertaste.
The ganache on top helps encase everything nicely and adds some extract chocolate goodness.
What do you need to make chocolate bars?
Unsalted butter – You can use salted butter if you don’t mind the flavour that comes with it. Personally, I probably would use salted butter when I make this again. Cos these are quite sweet.
Caster sugar – in this case it will dissolve into the mixture quicker. But you can use granulated sugar if you don’t have caster sugar. You’ll need to stir longer when mixing it together with the other ingredients.
Cocoa powder – use a really good quality dark cocoa powder in this recipe. Taste’s way better than the cheap stuff.
Egg – just a regular large egg. About 55g. I would recommend beating the egg before using in the recipe to give it a head start before adding to the warm chocolate mixture.
Digestive biscuits – these are like graham crackers.
Desiccated coconut – this is unsweetened coconut. You can use shredded in it’s place.
Slivered almonds – this is optional but it adds a bit more texture in the biscuit base.
Butter – make sure this butter is softened to make it easier to cream into the mixture.
Heavy cream – at least 33% fat content.
Custard powder – this is powder used for making custard desserts. Usually cooked together with milk, sugar and cream, but in this case we’re purely using it for flavour. It has a rich egg custard flavour when used in desserts. We’re not using enough for it to make the icing taste floury. It’s quite pleasant! Unfortunately, for this recipe, there is no alternative to this ingredient. You could leave it out if you prefer and flavour the custard filling (minus the custard powder) in some other way. Can I suggest Nutella?
Vanilla extract – I used my own vanilla extract.
Chocolate – Use good quality dark cooking chocolate. I use the Nestle dark chocolate buttons. They work great!
How to make the chocolate bars
1. Add a heatproof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water
2. Add the butter, sugar and cocoa powder. Stir until melted
3. Add the egg whilst whisking. The mixture will thicken instantly. Continue whisking for 30-60 seconds. Take off the heat.
4. Add digestives, coconut and slivered almonds to the bowl of a food processor and blitz until you reach fine crumbs.
5. Pour the mixture into the chocolate mixture and mix using a spatula until well combined.
6. Line the sides and bottom of a 20 x 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.
7. Pour the mixture into the tin and use clean hands to firmly press into the bottom of the baking tin. Chill in the fridge.
1. Add butter, custard powder and cream to a mixing bowl. Mix using an electric hand mixer until well combined.
2. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and repeat.
3. Add the mixture to the chilled baking tin and spread around evenly using a spoon. Chill in the fridge
1. Add the heavy cream and chocolate to a large mixing bowl and microwave. Stir each time until smooth.
2. Pour into the chilled baking tin and spread around. Chill for a final hour. Slice and serve.
Tips for making chocolate bars
- Make sure you chill the custard layer well before adding the warm ganache. The custard layer has a lot of butter and could melt if not chilled properly when it comes into contact with the warm ganache.
- To get clean cuts, make sure you wipe the knife each time you cut. It’ll give you nice clean looking layers for each side of every bar which makes things look even more appetizing. Let’s face it, they’re simple bars, so they should look neat and not messy. Even though they’ll taste the same regardless.
- Store these in an airtight container and serve chilled. The filling in the centre can soften a lot when not chilled and anyone who bites into these delicious bars will have an explosion of custard filling comes out from all sides.
I hope you guys enjoyed this simple but delicious chocolate bars recipe with me. Please remember to check my other chocolate recipes. Please comment in the comments section below, or feel free to share with your family and friends on social media. I’ll see you all on the following recipe. Happy baking!
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How To Make Nanaimo Bars
- 1/2 cup (125 g) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (50 g) caster sugar
- 5 tbsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 3/4 cups (200 g) digestives biscuits
- 1 cup (100 g) desiccated coconut, unsweetened
- 1/4 cup (50 g) slivered almonds optional
- 1/2 cup (100 g) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup (70 ml) heavy cream
- 3 tbsp custard powder
- 1 2/3 cup (250 g) powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (200 g) dark chocolate
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
Learn How To Make it! [VIDEO]
- Add a heatproof bowl over a pot of gently simmering water, making sure the bottom of the owl isn’t touching the water. Add the butter, sugar and cocoa powder. Stir until the ingredients are melted and combined. Add the egg while stirring and continue mixing. The mixture will instantly thicken. Continue mixing for30-60 seconds. Take off the heat.
- Add the digestives, coconut and slivered almonds to the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until all the ingredients reach a fine crumb. Pour the mixture into the chocolate mixture and use a spatula to stir until well combined.
- Add the mixture to a lined 20 x 20cm square baking tin. Using clean hands, pat the mixture down firmly in the bottom of the tin and place in the fridge.
- Add the butter, cream, custard powder, powered sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixing bowl and use an electric hand mixer to mix until well combined. About 2-3 minutes. Add the mixture to the baking tin and use a spoon to spread evenly. Place back in the fridge.
- Add the cream and chocolate to a heatproof bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time until smooth. Pour over the chilled tin and spread around evenly. Chill for a final 1 hour and then use a large knife to slice into 3 x 3 squares before serving.
Hello I would like to ask why are the adding egg in biscuit base?
It’s one of the characteristics of this cookie. It helps the texture be slightly chewy and makes the flavour more rich. Hope that answers your question! N x
How many grams of digestive biscuit did you use? Is the 1 and 3/4 cups, of crushed digestive biscuits? Or is it 1 and 3/4 cups of whole digestives which are later crushed? Thanks
Ah! Good question! Crushed in cups. 200g crushed or whole which is exactly why grams are a much better way to measure ingredients! N x
If making coconut free bars is it ok to switch the coconut with more degestives? Or half almonds half digestives ?
Hi Fizza, don’t see why not! N x
I can’t have dairy. Do you have a recommendation for a substitution for the heavy cream? I notice it’s in a lot of your recipes 😭
Hi Adrienne! Unfortunately I can’t say what a proper substitution would be as I’ve only tested the recipe using cream. But I’m sure if you google vegan Nanaimo Bars there would be loads of suitable recipes 🙂 N x
Fantastic step by step as usual 👏 I am excited to make these and will report back 😀
Hi Engi! Hope you enjoyed the recipe! They’re so yum! N x
Can you give grams for the chocolate? Is it a cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate? I use chocolate bars so grams or ounces would help. Excited to try this recipe!
Hi Peggy! Theres a little tab in the recipe card that allows you to switch between cups and metric. Just for future reference. But I’m more than happy to answer! Once cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate is roughly the same in grams which is 200g. Hope that helps! N x
Cant wait to try Nanaimo bars! They look amazing!!
Thank you so much for sharing
You are truly incredible!
Aww, thanks Marija! N x
I made it twice, everyone was delighted and I devoured the leftover! Great recipe Nick!
How awesome! N x