Nanaimo Bar Recipe

Legendary Dessert Recipe

Official Nanaimo Recipe

The story of the Nanaimo Bar:

According to a local story, about many years ago a Nanaimo (Vancouver Island, B.C.) housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. She chose to name the entry after the city where she lived. The entry won the prize. These dessert bars were born!

Some American tourists claim sovereignty over the dessert, referred to as a "New York Slice" which is sold in many other places in the world. Nanaimo residents naturally disagree with this theory, however.

In 1986, Nanaimo Mayor Roberts held a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar Recipe. During the four-week long contest, almost 100 different variations of the famous confectionery were submitted. The winner: Joyce Hardcastle.

The bars start with a crumb base, followed by a layer of light custard buttercream, and the crowning glory is a smooth and glossy layer of semi-sweet chocolate.

Actually and honestly, I remember my Mother making these cookies years before that 1986 contest. The restaurant recipe is the same as my Mother's and Joyce Hardcastle’s.

Nanaimo Bar Recipe

by Joyce Hardcastle
( The official Nanaimo Bar recipe
has become a tourist handout.)

Preparation time: 40 minutes. Serves 12.


Bottom Layer Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup coconut


Bottom Layer Instructions:

  • Melt first 3 ingredients in top of a double broiler
  • Add egg and stir to cook and thicken
  • Remove from heat
  • Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts
  • Press firmly into an ungreased 8 x 8 inch baking pan


Second Layer Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cream
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Second Layer Instructions:

  • Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well
  • Beat until light
  • Spread over bottom layer


Third Layer Ingredients:

  • 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 ounce each)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Third Layer Instructions:

  • Melt chocolate and butter over low heat and cool
  • Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator

The restaurant dessert recipe for these cookies uses walnuts, not almonds, and uses a simplified method rather than three steps. Try them both and see which one works best for you.

Nanaimo Dessert Bar Recipe

Famous Restaurant Dessert Recipe

Preparation time: 30 minutes. Serves 12.


  • 1/2 cup butter (I use regular butter)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts



  • Put butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and cocoa in top of double boiler
  • Stir well over simmering water until like a custard
  • Add crushed cracker crumbs, walnuts and coconut
  • Pack mixture in 8 X 8 inch baking pan
  • Cut into 12 squares
  • Ice with white butter icing and sprinkle with coconut and refrigerate

Now you have two really good recipes for this famous dessert. Enjoy the recipes and the company of those you share them with!


“Seize the moment! Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Erma Bombeck