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Nanaimo Bars [Vegan]

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Nanaimo Bars, named for the British Columbia town where they first appeared, have become a ubiquitous Canadian sweet snack. They are so popular that there isn’t a single grocery store here that doesn’t carry a mass-produced version of them. Homemade is always better, of course, and with this super easy no-bake recipe, you'll be whipping these up in no time – and making a lot of new friends in the process. All these require for sweet perfection is a little chilling time and, before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a diabolically sweet treat – and I mean diabolical. If you have a sweet tooth, these are your dream come true.

Nanaimo Bars are a three layer, bar-style dessert. Your sweet masterpiece starts with a chocolaty, nutty, graham crumb base, followed by a vanilla custard-like buttercream layer, and topped by a gloriously rich and smooth layer of chocolate glaze. Warning: Nanaimo Bars are dangerous to have around. Resistance is futile.

Nanaimo Bars




16 bars


Bottom Layer:

  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp flax meal
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups crushed (vegan) graham crackers, or crumbs
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Middle Layer:

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla custard powder (I used Bird’s brand – or substitute (vegan) instant vanilla pudding powder)
  • 3 Tbsp non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened soy milk)

Top Layer:

  • 4 oz. good quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)


To make bottom layer:

  1. Very lightly grease a 9-inch square cake or casserole pan and line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper. The grease helps the paper to stay in place while spreading the batter out and you can use the paper to lift everything out of the pan afterwards. This makes cutting the bars much easier and you won’t scratch up your pan.
  2. In a small bowl, beat the flax meal and water together until frothy and set aside.
  3. In a sauce pan over low heat, combine 1/2 cup Earth Balance, sugar, cocoa and vanilla. Add the flax mixture and stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Add graham cracker crumbs, coconut and chopped nuts, stirring to combine.
  4. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and use a silicone spatula to press the mixture into it firmly and evenly.

To make middle layer:

  1. In a large bowl, beat together 1/4 cup Earth Balance, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla custard powder (or vanilla pudding powder, if using) and non-dairy milk until creamy.
  2. Spread custard mixture over graham cracker base in pan. Refrigerate until firm (at least one hour).

To make top layer:

  1. Melt semi-sweet chocolate and 1 Tbsp Earth Balance. Pour over chilled bars and spread evenly over top.
  2. Return to refrigerator to chill until firm (at least 30 minutes) – but be sure to check the setting of the chocolate layer after only 5-10 minutes of cooling: as soon as the chocolate has firmed enough to hold a score mark, use a clean, sharp knife to score the entire top into the amount of squares you desire (to make 9, 12, or 16 squares, for example). Clean your knife after each score mark, and be sure to cut right through the chocolate layer. Doing this will ensure neat, easy cutting of the final squares and will prevent your hardened chocolate layer from shattering or cracking when it has cooled completely.
  3. When cooling is complete, gently run a knife along the sides of the pan to release the squares and use the parchment paper to careful release them from the pan. Following your score lines, use a clean, sharp knife to press straight down and complete cutting the squares.





Marika Collins is a writer, photographer, and food stylist with a sweet tooth who cares deeply about animal rights, social justice and the environment. A longtime vegan and animal advocate, Marika documents her adventures in vegan baking on her blog, Madcap Cupcake, where she spreads a positive message and celebrates all things sweet.



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26 comments on “Nanaimo Bars [Vegan]”

Click to add comment
4 Years Ago

I followed the instructions yet the result is horrible. The problem is mainly with the custard layer which is not fluffy and/or creamy at all. It is a sticky and sugary mess. The vegan butter that I used was out of fridge and soft. Could this be the problem? (I am an experienced vegan baker.) I had a high expectation for it and so disappointed now.

Lindsay Lou
4 Years Ago

sugar isn't vegan. ! ? coconut sugar or raw

Chloe Brown
4 Years Ago

Lisa Ny

Scott Lawlor
4 Years Ago


Jennifer-lee Sinclair
4 Years Ago

Jacqui Brookes Kiri Bartholomew

Jacqui Brookes
02 Jun 2014

Gemma loves this - might give it a go - looks good. We were in Nanaimo 2 weeks ago.

Kiri Bartholomew
02 Jun 2014

I saw this last night! Looks awesome. ;) thankyou as always!

Riana Hanle
4 Years Ago

That's where my favorite uncle lives

Jennifer Moffett
4 Years Ago

'They are so popular that there isn’t a single grocery store here that doesn’t carry a mass-produced version...' Now, why can't we have things like that here in the US? Everything is processed garbage.

Meg Merringer
4 Years Ago

Audrey Shepard is it too early to think about Christmas cookies?????

Audrey Shepard
02 Jun 2014

why wait for Christmas?

Jeremy Nichols
4 Years Ago

Advertising the white poison? How is pushing 'food' that has little-to-no nutritive value and gives you health problems in any way 'green' or even remotely healthy?

Joanna Denise Spooner
4 Years Ago

Piggy alert !!! ^.^


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