From their chocolate-y crust, to their chocolate glaze, to the custard filling in the middle, Vanilla Bean Nanaimo Bars are a no-bake cookie sure to please dessert lovers everywhere!
My Dad grew up in northwestern Washington (state, not District of Columbia) and, throughout my childhood, spoke fondly of the Nanaimo Bars he ate growing up.
Nanaimo Bars are native to Canada, and were very popular in that area when he was young—they’ve since become more known all over and I’ve been seeing recipes for them everywhere for a few years now.
But when I was in high school recipes were harder to come by. This was before EVERY recipe ever was available online, and back in a time when internet recipes were kind of untrustworthy. (Some refer to this time as the dark ages of the internet, but I prefer not to think of any point in my life as a dark age. I don’t feel old enough for that yet.)
But I digress.
When I was like 15, my dad found a Nanaimo Bar recipe in a magazine and, of course, asked me to make them; I was ecstatic. I wanted to taste this thing with the funny name I’d been hearing about my entire life. He hovered in the kitchen watching my every move and of course I scrambled the egg in the crust the first time and had to start over.
I’d blame his watchful eye but in truth I’m just spazzy in the kitchen.
Neither of us could wait to try the finished product. And they were gross. Dry and crumbly and overly sweet while at the same time, somehow flavorless. My dad said the recipe must not be fully authentic and didn’t blame my culinary skills for their ickiness. But I thought maybe he was just romanticizing Nanaimo Bars in his mind and that they were always just so-so.
After that disappointment I hadn’t wanted to give Nainamo Bars a second look until recently. I came across a Nanaimo Bars recipe in a magazine a few weeks ago and then couldn’t get them out of my mind. I believe in second chances so I ordered custard powder from Amazon and, exactly two days later, was ready to go.
That recipe also had an egg in the crust so I decided to wing it and make my up my own recipe, hoping to avoid scrambled eggs. And since I had a vanilla bean lying around, I threw that into the custard filling. More vanilla makes everything better. #truth
And do you know what? I loved them. LOVED THEM! This crust was a little crumbly, but in a good way. A graham cracker-y way. The custard filling was sweet but didn’t make my teeth shiver, and the chocolate glaze on top added that little extra oomph that only a chocolate glaze can.
The best part about this recipe, though, is that it’s NO-BAKE. One hundred percent oven-free, just perfect for the heat over here in Phoenix at the moment. (Oh hey, have I mentioned that none of the windows in the new house have blinds? We ordered last week but they won’t be here for a month. So no-bake is a very good thing right now.)
Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you have a chance this week to make yourself a batch of Nanaimo Bars. I promise you won’t regret it!
Vanilla bean Nanaimo bars are delicious From their chocolate crust to their chocolate glaze to the custard filling in the middle. They're a no-bake cookie sure to please!
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1 cup shredded coconut unsweetened
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into cubes
- 5.5 ounces dark chocolate finely chopped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 vanilla bean pod scraped
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons custard powder
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 ounces dark chocolate finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a few inches of excess paper hanging over the edges. Spray lightly with cooking spray and set pan aside.
Place the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, pecans, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture becomes fine crumbs.
Combine the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Stir the graham cracker crumb mixture into the chocolate mixture and mix until well combined. Press mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.
Place the butter, vanilla bean seeds, and vanilla extract in a small mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer set to medium until butter becomes very light in color. With mixer on low, gradually add the powdered sugar and custard powder and beat to combine—mixture will be very dry but this is fine; just keep going.
Beat in the milk and salt. Turn mixer to high and beat, stopping to scrape the bowl several times, until mixture is very thick and no lumps of powdered sugar remain. Spread the filling over the crust in an even layer and refrigerate to set, about 1 hour.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in corn syrup until combined. Pour over the filling and spread with an offset spatula. Refrigerate bars for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Cut into bars and serve.