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Nanaimo Bars

You and I both know I’m a cake girl. I don’t care about the flavour, store-bought, or homemade. I will never turn down a slice of cake. But, when it comes to dessert squares, my heart will forever be held by Nanaimo Bars. These delicious little bars of no-bake goodness are my weakness. I literally can eat an entire tray of these bad boys. No jokes. A whole tray. They are that good.

For those unfortunate souls who have not had the experience of devouring a Nanaimo Bar let me give you a quick little run down of them. First up you have the base layer of graham cracker, nutty, coconut, and chocolate goodness. The middle layer, and my personal favourite layer, of custard buttercream. And last, but certainly not least, is the top layer of straight-up chocolate. How can one go wrong with this combination of confectionary delight?!

Note: This post contains affiliate links to which I earn a small commission, but don’t worry there’s no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting CAKED by Katie.

Base Layer

Don’t get intimidated with all this layer talk. These squares don’t need any baking and come together pretty quick. And trust me when I say that they are worth every single bit of energy expended while making them. Let’s start with that beautiful base layer.

First, in a medium saucepan melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder on medium-low heat until fully melted and combined. Next, add in the beaten egg and stir until mixture starts to thicken. This should take approximately 2 minutes. Once it has thickened remove from the heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut, and chopped cashews. Third, mix everything together and dump into a prepared 8×8 inch baking tray. I like to line my baking tray with parchment paper for easy removal.

Here comes the part of the recipe that’s going to require the most work from you. You have to firmly, like really firmly, press this base layer down. What I do is get another piece of parchment paper and lay it down on top and with a flat bottom-heavy glass I “put my back into it” so to speak.

Evenly and with all your muscle (go ahead and call this your workout for the day) press down until it is solidly packed. If this base isn’t firmly pressed down the bars will crumble when you cut them. And that would be sad. Still delicious, but super sad. So go ahead and show this base layer who’s boss.

Custard Buttercream

Next up is that dreamy whipped custard buttercream that will have you either swooning or spooning it straight into your mouth. No judgement if you both swoon and spoon simultaneously. This layer comes together like any traditional buttercream.

Start by creaming the shortening and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer on high until light and fluffy. Add in the icing sugar, custard powder, and heavy cream and mix on low until combined and then turn up to high for 5 minutes. I add a drop or two of extra yellow gel food colouring to really amp up that custard colour but it’s completely optional. Finish by spreading this evenly over the base layer and put in the fridge to chill while you prepare the third and remaining layer.

Chocolate Ganache

Last, but not least, is the third and final layer of this triple-decker dessert, the chocolate. In a microwave-safe bowl, add the chocolate and butter. Heat in 30-second intervals, stirring between each time. Once fully melted and combined spread evenly over the chilled custard buttercream and base layer. If you would like to add a splash of fun colourful sprinkles, do so now. If not, chill the tray in the fridge for at least 1 hour to fully cool and set. Remove carefully from the pan and slice into 16 squares.

Now here is the hardest part…try to refrain from eating every single Nanaimo Bar. It will take an act of sheer Zeus level willpower to not devour every morsel of custard delight. And if by some miracle, you can save some to enjoy the next day, send me a message and teach me your ways.

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Nanaimo Bars

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 5 reviews

  • Author: Katie
  • Total Time: 1 Hr 30 Min
  • Yield: 16 1x


The most delicious dairy-free recipe for the iconic Canadian dessert known as Nanaimo Bars. Three layers of no-bake delight!




  • ½ cup dairy-free salted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup chopped cashews


  • ¼ cup dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 tbsp. dairy-free milk
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp. custard powder
  • optional: yellow food colouring


  • 4 oz. dairy-free semisweet chocolate
  • 2 tsp. dairy-free salted butter
  • optional: ½ cup Sprinkle Pop sprinkles




  1. Parchment line an 8×8 inch pan.

  2. In a medium pot, melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa powder over medium-low heat.

  3. Add in the beaten egg and mix until it thickens. Remove from heat.

  4. Mix in the graham crackers crumbs, cashews, and coconut until combined.

  5. Dump into the prepared baking tray and very firmly and evenly press the base layer down.

  6. Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer on high until light and fluffy.

  7. Add in the icing sugar, custard powder, milk, and food colouring (if desired) and mix on low until combined then high for 5 minutes. Spread evenly on the base layer and refrigerate.

  8. Heat chocolate and butter in the microwave in 30-second intervals until fully melted and smooth.

  9. Spread evenly on cooled base and buttercream layer and add sprinkles if desired.

  10. Allow to fully cool and set in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

  11. Cut into 16 squares and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Enjoy!

  • Prep Time: 30 Mins
  • Cook Time: 1 Hr (To Chill)
  • Category: Squares
  • Cuisine: American

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  1. This is my FAVORITE recipe ever! Nanaimo Bars are my all time favorite treat. I never knew making them was so easy. I love that this recipe is Dairy free so I can share with my friend that is lactose intolerant. Lord knows I don’t need to eat all these Nanaimo Bars to myself.. although, I probably could.

  2. These are really good, Katie! The recipe worked perfectly, but I am having trouble cutting them without the chocolate layer breaking really bad – which is making them look very irregular…do you have any suggestions? Yours look so nice on the edges.

    1. Cutting them is definitely tricky. Slow and steady wins the race. I skor the chocolate top where I want to slice and then heat up my knife.

  3. Just made these and they’re so good! Normally, I’m not a Nanaimo bar lover. At all. But these have swayed me. Five stars!

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