Nanaimo Bars

This morning I made Nanaimo Bars, a pudding-filled chocolate topped bar cookie very popular in Canada.   The results were crumbly crust, sweet filling and chocolate topping. If you’ve never tried Nanaimo bars, I highly recommend making them at least once. Frankly, I like them but am not crazy about the crumbly crust. It’s traditional, but I think I’d prefer a more fudge brownie-like base.  There are plenty of variations on the recipe, so I’ll probably try a few more.


Speaking of which, we dropped Fuzz off in the classroom this morning where the teacher had a laid coloring page on each child’s desk. Fuzz turned to the kid next to her and asked “Is there some special way we are supposed to color this?” I found that funny. All summer long, she’s been rather non-linear…..and now she needs to know if there’s a special procedure for doing a coloring page.


Nanaimo Bars
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Nanaimo Bars are pudding filled bar cookies with a topping of melted chocolate.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 16
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, lightly spooned
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoon instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter or shortening
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 inch square pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together melted butter, sugar and cocoa. Stir in egg and vanilla. When smooth, add crumbs, walnuts and coconut. Press crumb mixture tightly into the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together butter and powdered sugar, then beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in vanilla, pudding mix and milk. Spread the filling over the cooled crust, then chill for about an hour.
  4. Prepare topping. Melt the butter or shortening with the chocolate chips. Pour over top of bars and chill just until the bars start to set. Before the chocolate gets too hard, score the bars into squares.

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  1. says

    I don’t know if I’ve ever had a Nanaimo bar with pudding. I think it’s usually been the vanilla butter icing, which is part of the reason I don’t like Nanaimo bars. Now I want to try them with pudding!

  2. says

    I’m really surprised that neither of you have tried Nanaimo bars with pudding. I believe that pudding is what makes it a Nanaimo bar. However, the traditional pudding is called Byrd’s custard powder and is widely available in the UK. I can get it here, but it’s expensive. I used the instant pudding powder because it’s widely available.

  3. valchemist says

    even with the pudding or custard powder in the filling, I don’t find the filling to be at all pudding-y in taste or texture. it is just a couple tbsp of the dry stuff, afterall. so maybe that is what is throwing people? I find the filling to be more like a frosting, even with that powder added.

    I loved the fuzz comment! classic and adorable.

  4. Chris says

    I made these on Wednesday and they were a huge hit at my house! I did not have graham crackers, so I used half Nilla Wafers and half animal crackers and used sugar free pudding. Next time, I think I’ll try a ganache on top.

    Today I made a 3-layer caramel cake with a cooked caramel frosting. Looks yummy – will see how it tastes at our picnic tonight. I’m the world’s worse layer cake froster – any advice?

  5. says

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the feedback. I totally agree with your idea of putting ganache on the top because the current chocolate topping is a little too hard. Hope your picnic is fun. No tips from me on icing cakes because I am pretty bad at it as well.

  6. says

    I love these things. I got the recipe, originally, from a family friend near Washington, D.C. who claimed they were a recipe from the Waldorf Astoria hotel. This was in the 1960’s, and included one of those tales of “I asked the chef for the recipe, he asked for my address, he mailed it, with his bill for $1,000.” I can buy Bird’s Dessert Powder here in So. California, so it’s probably available in lots of cities anyway. These bring back great memories. Thanks.

  7. Allen says

    anna, I eat these whenever I am in vancouver. One question: what is release foil? Can i just use regular aluminum foil?

  8. says

    Hi Allen,

    Release foil is a type of Reynolds Wrap. I think it’s a relatively new product and you should be able to find it in the paper goods aisle near the other varieties of foil. It’s like regular heavy duty aluminum foil, but one side has a slick surface that nothing will stick to.

  9. Victoria says

    Ate this at a Native Peoples dinner in BC but the custard part was green and minty, really great!

  10. anna says

    No one has mentioned how impossible it is to get the crust not to crumble, is it just me because it is so frustrating.

  11. says

    I hate crumbly crust…i haven’t tried this recipe yet but maybe instead of the crumbly crust ill try it with a brownie crust.

  12. donna says

    My late mother-in-law always made these bars at
    Christmas time. Our recipe is about the same, I just
    don’t have a 9×9 pan. Since it is a very sturdy bar
    I plan to use the 9×13 pan and make it smaller using
    foil. As to the origin of this recipe, we always thought
    it was Italian, but my m-i-l was from Canadian roots
    by way of her father’s family. The Italian was my father-in-law. Well, this is a very good treat and
    if you want it to be less crumbly ,try an egg in the
    1st layer as we do.

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