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Nanaimo Bar

The Nanaimo bar is a type of bar cookie of Canadian origin. This bar cookie ,widely popular in much of the North American continent is a non-baked dessert cookie named after Nanaimo- a city in the West-Coast of British Columbia. This three layered dessert has wafer crumbs for the base layer, custard flavored butter icing or light vanilla for the middle layer, and chocolate bars for the final layer. Different types of crumbs, icing and chocolate flavors are used to make the Nanaimo bars. Mocha and Mint flavored icing are the two traditional flavors of this bar cookie.

Origin of Nanaimo Bar

This bar cookie was first prepared by Mabel Jenkins, who lived at Ladysmith, Vancouver Island – south of Nanaimo. The recipe of this cookie bar was first publicized, when Mrs. Jenkins, submitted it for publishing in Ladysmith and Cowichan Women’s Institute Cookbook. The cookbook was marketed for fundraising in 1950’s. This cookie bar became a regular snack in many coffee shops of the commercial area of Nanaimo, and tourists fondly called it Nanaimo bar. However, in areas south of Duncan and Nanaimo, these bars were referred to as Mabel Bars (in homage to its creator). The first confirmed printed recipe for the Nanaimo bar was published in 1957 in ‘ His/Her Favourite Recipes’, Compiled by the Women's Association of the Brechin United Church. The recipe was modified and offered by different culinary experts from time to time and it was sometimes known as Mables square, chocolate slice or chocolate squares. Some culinary experts attribute its origin to New York. Some New Yorkers refer to them as “New York Slices”. Some unconfirmed sources have related its origin to the 1930’s,when the bars were called chocolate fridge cake.

Nanaimo Bar Recipe: Ingredients and Method of Preparation

Today almost 100 variations of these cookie bars are popular across the world. The original recipe believed to be formulated by Ms. Mabel Jenkins, actually had base layer made up of graham wafer crumbs, middle layer of vanilla custard, which was topped with a layer of chocolate.

As per the original recipe the base of this bar cookie is prepared using unsalted butter, cocoa, sugar, graham wafer crumbs, eggs, coconut and finely chopped almonds. The cocoa, unsalted butter and sugar are combined at the top of double boiler and mixed with other ingredients. The base mixture is firmly pasted to the bottom of ungreased pan.

The second layer is created using cream, unsalted butter, icing, and vanilla custard powder. All the ingredients are creamed lightly and spread over the first layer.

The third layer of Nanaimo bar is created by combining ingredients like unsalted butter and semi-sweet chocolate. The chocolate and butter are melted and poured over the second layer and the dessert is then subjected to refrigeration.


  • This cookie bar was elected the “Canada Favorite Confection” through a public poll in 1980’s. The search to find an ultimate Nanaimo bar recipe was initiated by Mayor Graeme Roberts in 1985. Over 100 entries were submitted in response to this competition and the recipe submitted by Joyce Hardcastle was selected as the ultimate Nanaimo bar recipe.

The name Nanaimo bar occurs in the Canadian version of Oxford dictionary.