Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Wow. So simple yet so utterly delicious. This was one of my favorite Daring Baker's challenges for three important reasons -- 1) I didn't lose sleep over it 2) I didn't almost destroy my kitchen in the process of making it, and 3) it was super delicious.

This month we made Nanaimo Bars, a classic Canadian dessert created in Nanaimo, British Colombia. The bars have 3 layers: a base containing graham crackers, cocoa, coconut and nuts, a middle custard layer, and a topping of chocolate.

We had the option to make gluten-free graham crackers, but I stuck to original (flour) graham crackers (sorry, I forgot to take pictures of them). I wanted to make these desserts for the BF's birthday, and since he is a peanut butter fanatic, I swapped the traditional vanilla flavored custard for a peanut butter layer. I also swapped the almonds in the bottom layer for salted peanuts, and replaced some of the butter with peanut oil.

And OMG. The result was amazing: a bottom chewy yet crunchy layer of chocolatey goodness, a creamy and sweet peanut butter filling, and a hard chocolate shell on top -- AMAZING. Initially, I thought these bars were going to be just like the many American dessert bar recipes that I do love, but have tried several times. But no -- they were really different. The coconut in the bottom layer really added to taste and texture of these bars, making them very different than other bar recipes I've had. The addition of the peanut oil really added a lot of peanut flavor to this recipe, but of course can be replaced with butter.

The original recipe can be found on Lauren's lovely (and gluten-free) blog. Below is my peanut butter version.

Peanut-Butter Nanaimo Bars (loosely adapted from here)


  • 1/4 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk

  • 5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped baking chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, oil, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream together peanut butter, butter, and oil until smooth well. Add the cornstarch and continue creaming. Gradually add half of the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time until smooth. Add vanilla. Continue adding sugar and milk, alternating 2 tablespoons at a time of each. Spread over bottom layer. Spreading this will be a bit difficult at first, since the mixture is very sticky. I let the mixture sit for a while and used a offset spatula to spread it.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.


  1. They look fantastic, and I bet the peanut filling was awesome with the chocolate and coconut base. Glad you liked them! I'll definitely be making the graham crackers again, as they were easy and so delicious!

  2. Wow!!! I love how you changed this recipe and made it your own based on your bf's preferences. How sweet of you! What a great idea. You did an excellent job on this challenge.

  3. Ah! You're a Daring Baker! I've had such fun reading how all of you are making these. Yours is the first peanut butter I've seen. Clever and delicious with chocolate!
    Thanks for visiting me...I'll be back to visit you.

  4. Your Nanaimo bars sound off the hook! Love the peanut butter. Thanks for visiting my blog. Bijol is a mix of mainly corn flour, cumin and annatto. You can find it at markets that specialize in Mexican food.

  5. Oooo Peanut butter! Wow, I bet they tasted as wonderful as they look! Well done. :>

  6. Yum, your peanut butter Nanaimo Bar looks fantastic. I think that is a great combination which I must try. Thanks for stopping by on my blog.

  7. Peanut Butter and Chocolate---your bars must have tasted so wonderful!! I will have to try that combination--it sounds delicious! :)

  8. Your peanut butter nanaimo bars look so yummy! I will try your version next time :)

  9. You Daring Bakers make the most delicious treats! Your bars look fabulous. Love your blog, by the way!

  10. These look terrific -- I bet the peanut butter was fantastic with these!

  11. Chocolate and peanut butter sounds like a classic American nanaimo bar! Hope the BF enjoyed them!

  12. Great idea to add butter butter to the filling and peanuts to the crust. Definitely an addictive treat! You have such nice clean cuts on yours!

  13. That is one heck of a PB bar! It's gorgeous and seductive. ;)

  14. Gorgeous take on my challenge! I love the additions and am so glad that you enjoyed it!

  15. Nanaimo bars are a real taste of home for me... I LOVE that you kicked them up a notch with the peanut butter!!! I cant wait to try them this way! beautiful job!

  16. These look fantastic! I love the idea of peanut butter as the middle layer...it sounds really yummy! :)

  17. I found you thru a link at Saveur (for your Magic Bars- which I've always called Gram Dee's Bars, since my Gram made similar ones!) and was so excited to find you are a Daring Baker like me that loves sweets like me! These Nanaimo Bars were right up our alley in the just a bite or two category... And with peaunut butter they must have been really amazing! I look forward to perusing your back logs...

  18. I have a major chocolate peanut butter craving now. I'm actually looking thru office.

  19. George Washington Carver never saw this one coming! I think he would have been proud.