Nanaimo Bars: A Canadian Treat {Brief History and Recipe}

According to many, this bar originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Mabel Jenkins, a local women from Cowichan Bay, submitted the recipe to the annual Ladysmith and Cowichan Women’s Institute Cookbook.

This cookbook was sold in the early 1950s in the region as a fundraiser. It became popular in many of the province’s households, especially in company towns, and was sold in many of the coffee shops on Nanaimo’s Commercial Street. Tourists in the region came to refer to these as “Nanaimo Bars”.  In Nanaimo and points south however, these were originally referred to as “Mabel bars,” or “W.I. bars”.

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bar

{Photo attribution:  joyosity (CC)}

How this recipe arrived on the east coast of Canada (where I live) is a mystery to me.  There are numerous variations on this Canadian classic; I received my version from my Mom, who received it from my aunt, her sister, Joan. My aunt Joan died many years ago, where she received it, I am sad to say, I do not know.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Nanaimo Bars
A Canadian original!
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 18
  • Stir together. Heat in a double boiler until warm:
  • ½ cup butter
  • 5 Tbsp. cocoa
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • When above mixture is warm, add the following and stir well:
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • Press mixture into parchment lined 8" x 8" pan.
  • Mix together the following and spread on the above base:
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. custard powder (I use Birds brand)
  • 3 Tbsp. milk
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • Refrigerate until firm. Meanwhile:
  • In heatproof bowl over saucepan of hot (not boiling) water, melt 2 ounces of dark chocolate ( I use 2 squares of Bakers semi-sweet chocolate) with 1 Tbsp. butter. Spread over cooled filling; refrigerate until almost set, about 30 minutes.
  • With tip of knife, score into bars; refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 1 hour and then cut bars completely.
  1. In above notes.


{Historical information contained in this post was obtained from Wikipedia.}





  1. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef says:

    I haven’t had one of these for years. Yours look wonderful.

  2. Those look amazing!


  1. […] ← The Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2013 – Road Trip! {Letter “M”} Nanaimo Bars: A Canadian Treat {Brief History and Recipe} → […]

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