Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

Yield: 15-20 bars
Recipe: 28/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 67

Peanut butter bars

    With Easter weekend coming up, I evidently wanted to bake something to bring to the family dinner. I would not be myself if I did not bring a dessert for such a supper. This peanut butter Nanaimo bar recipe came in second last week when I told my roommate that I would make the desert of her choosing. Hence, this week I decided to make this seemingly complex recipe to bring home to my family (of course as my official food tester my roommate would have no choice but to have a piece anyways…). Albeit it does seem very intricate, the instructions provided in the recipe are well detailed and can be accomplished if one only follows it. The result was a rich, decadent and chocolatey peanut-filled dessert. Without a doubt, these peanut butter Nanaimo bars comprise one of my favorite desserts from Back to Baking thus far!

Ingredients for base:

  • 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (e.g. the shells of Oreo cookies)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dry-roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Ingredients for filling:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder (optional)
  • ⅓ cup peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons half-and-half cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for topping:

  • 6 oz. (175 g) semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, making sure that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. To prepare the base, stir the cookie crumbs, sugar, cocoa powder and coconut together by hand.
  3. Stir in the melted butter, followed by the egg and vanilla extract. Mix with a hand or stand mixer to combine all the ingredients.
  4. Add the peanuts and stir well.
  5. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. The crust will be soft and manageable, so you can use your fingers to press it down evenly. Bake the crust for 15 minutes, then cool while preparing the filling.
  6. To prepare the filling, beat the butter, icing sugar and custard powder together with a hand or stand mixer until it forms a thick paste.
  7. Add the peanut butter, cream and vanilla extract and beat until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Spread this mixture on the cooled chocolate crust and cover with plastic wrap directly on the peanut butter mixture. Press down and rub on the plastic wrap to even out the mixture. Chill in the fridge until firm, about 2 hours.
  8. For the topping, place the chocolate and butter in a metal or glass bowl over a saucepot of barely simmering water and stir until melted. Alternatively, the chocolate and butter can be melted in the microwave at 30-second intervals. Spread this mixture over the chilled peanut butter centre and chill again until firm, about an hour, before slicing into bars. The bars can be cut as small or big as you wish, but keep in mind that this is a rich and decadent dessert, so less may be more.

Notes from Anna:

  • The custard powder, although one of the key ingredients that qualify the Nanaimo bars as such, can be omitted from this recipe without compromising taste or texture.
  • Nanaimo bars originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and have now evolved into a treat that we regard as part of Canadian food culture!