Nanaimo Bars

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I’m sorry I didn’t post a new recipe last week; we’ve had some unexpected events pop up and I didn’t have a chance to write up any food posts, which is why I simply informed my Aussie followers that you can now buy Biscoff in Australia!  But just because I didn’t post a new recipe doesn’t mean that I wasn’t making recipes!

Check out this wonderful apple and blackberry pie I made, completely from scratch, last week…

I ended last week on a healthy note, though, with these simple no-bake granola bars…

The base recipe is from Minimalist Baker, then I mixed in handfuls of dried blueberries, puffed quinoa and chopped Lindt dark chocolate.

Not only was I making stuff to eat, I was also making stuff to wear…

The art of Japanese braiding – kumihimo!  Inspired by this post, I made a few of my own bracelets, as well as some for my daughter, my son and would you believe, my husband even wanted one (I made his with a spiral pattern in manly earthy brown colors)!

This is my purple one, but I also made a minty green one and a watermelony pink one for myself…

And within the past couple of weeks, our darling 16-month-old got his first ear infection and first course of antibiotics.  This was the worst week of my life (or at least the worst week of my life in recent years!) because he wasn’t sleeping, he was extremely cranky, extremely clingy and he refused to happily take his antibiotics.  I was so tired, so miserable and I just hated to force that medicine into him.  Eventually he came right again and our world returned to normal.

Except then the dishwasher started leaking huge puddles of water and we had to buy a new one, which actually is another whole story in itself!

Anyway.  Nanaimo bars.  You’ve seen them around the food blogosphere, right?  They’re three layers of sweet unhealthy bliss with a cookie crumb base, a custard buttercream filling and a melted chocolate topping.  They’re called Nanaimo because that is believed to be where the recipe originated – Nanaimo, on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada.

Nanaimo bars look quite over-the-top and time-consuming so I never bothered to read a recipe for them, but after seeing this vegan version from Vegan Miam on FoodGawker, I could resist no longer.


Just because these are vegan, doesn’t mean they’re any healthier, mind you.  I’m sure you could replace a handful of ingredients with something or other for a slightly healthier option, but I went all out and just followed the recipe.  Although I will note that not all of the ingredients I used are officially vegan.

Quick note… I used a butter that was salt-reduced, not unsalted, to try to help offset the sweetness, as there is a lot of sugar in this recipe and I could foresee it being too sweet for my taste.  It is not clarified in the recipe whether to use salted or unsalted.

And another note… I halved the original recipe and used an 8×8-inch square pan.

For the base layer, butter, sugar and cocoa powder are melted together.  A blend of desiccated coconut, crumbed cookies and walnuts are then stirred in.  To bind the entire mixture together, a flax egg is used.  Flax egg?  This is a brilliant concoction of ground flax seed and water that can be used in place of real eggs, which is even more brilliant if you happen to be vegan!  The mixture is then pressed into a pan and chilled for an hour (I chilled my cookie base in the freezer for 20-30 minutes).

The filling is essentially a custard-flavored buttercream.  This part of the recipe calls for vegetable shortening, but I live in Australia and there doesn’t seem to be any such thing that exists here.  I simply replaced the small amount of shortening with more butter.  I couldn’t decide what type of custard powder to buy, as there was a quick custard powder, and a custard powder that needed to be cooked.  After re-reading the recipe instructions, I decided to go with the quick custard powder.  The filling is the sweetest part of the recipe, in my opinion, and contains a large amount of icing sugar.  The filling is spread on top of the cookie base and then set aside while the topping is made.

The topping is simply a mixture of melted chocolate and butter.  Knowing how much sugar was in the cookie base and custard filling, I used a Lindt chocolate block with 70% cocoa content to try to offset that sweetness.  The melted chocolate mixture is spread on top of the custard buttercream and allowed to set for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.

Cutting the bars is the most fun part because you get to see those beautiful layers!  Make sure you use a sharp knife and clean it after each cut to help keep the layers looking great.


The recipe was easy to follow and didn’t take anywhere near as long as I expected.  These Nanaimo bars would be a great crowd pleaser; I could even see them doing well at bake sales!

If you’d like a bit of variation, you can also switch the custard powder out for coffee, mint or peanut butter.

When the recipe is followed exactly, these are bars are 100% vegan.  They can also be made gluten-free by using gluten-free cookies in the cookie base.

Keep these little gems stored in the refrigerator; they’ll last up to 3 weeks.

For the recipe, which originally comes from the soon-to-be-released cookbook, Ms. Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town!, visit Vegan Miam.  Rika is also giving away two copies of the cookbook on her blog!

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  1. Chloe says

    Hey there, love your blog! In regards to vege shortening in the land of oz, copha, that magical stuff that you make chocolate crackles with is vegetable shortening :)


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