A delicious Canadian sweet, these Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars are a twist on the classic. The conventional custard filling is replaced with a creamy peanut butter layer in this classic no-bake treat.
It’s no secret that I like to bake, but sometimes, I like to not bake. As in no-bake. As in these delicious, no-bake peanut butter Nanaimo bars.
For those that aren’t familiar, Nanaimo Bars are a sweet Canadian treat, usually filled with a thick vanilla custard/pudding in the middle. They are named after the beautiful British Columbia city of Nanaimo, where they originated (pronounced “na-n_eye-mo”, emphasis on the middle syllable).
Truth be told though, I’ve never really been a fan of that custard filling. So for years, I’ve been making a peanut butter version and since I no-baked up a batch over the weekend, I thought it was time I shared.
These bars are super easy to make. Simply mix up and add each layer and chill in between.
Ingredients and Substitutions
Peanut Butter – you can use any kind of peanut butter, but generally a smooth standard supermarket brand of peanut butter (like Jif™) is probably the best choice.
Chocolate – standard semi-sweet chocolate chips are all you need here for the chocolate topping.
Cocoa Powder – any cocoa powder will work here, so you can use natural or Dutch-processed.
Graham Cracker Crumbs – if you don’t have graham cracker crumbs on hand, make your own by running graham crackers through a food processor until you have fine crumbs.
Peanuts – you can use salted or unsalted peanuts here. If you don’t have peanuts, you can substitute walnuts or pecans, if you like.
Coconut – again, you can use any kind of coconut here, sweetened or unsweetened, shredded or flaked.
The first tip is just to be conscious of keeping a nice sweet/salt balance. You have several ingredient options here that may or may not include salt – the peanuts, the butter, the peanut butter. To keep that nice balance, you may need to add a bit of salt to the bottom and middle layers. This is particularly true with the peanut butter. While you can use any kind – smooth or crunchy, standard supermarket brand, natural or even homemade, the only thing I suggest is that you taste your peanut butter filling and add a bit of salt, if necessary.
Secondly, I thought I’d pass on a little tip for cutting these bars. To avoid the chocolate layer cracking when you cut it, run your knife under hot water for 30 seconds or so, quickly wipe dry and then cut. It’s not foolproof, but it works a lot better than cutting cold.
Get the Recipe: Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars
For the bottom layer:
- 1/2 cup butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup coconut
- 1/2 cup peanuts, salted or unsalted, finely chopped
For the middle layer:
- 1/2 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
- 2 cups icing/confectioner's sugar
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 Tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt, taste first, then add as needed
For the top layer:
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 4 oz semi sweet chocolate or chocolate chips, about 2/3 cup regular sized chips
- Sprinkling of Fleur de Sel salt
- Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan by lining with parchment paper.
- For the bottom layer: In a large bowl mix together the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and finely chopped peanuts. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, stir together the butter, sugar, beaten egg and cocoa. It will be a bit stiff, but it's important to start with the beaten egg in a cold pan and allow it to warm gently, to avoid scrambled eggs. Place saucepan on stove, over low heat and stir constantly for 5 minutes, until smooth and slightly thickened.
- Add the butter/egg mixture to the graham cracker mixture and stir until well combined. Press this mixture evenly into the parchment lined 8-inch square pan and chill for 15 minutes. (*Tip: for firm, even layers, use a small object with a flat bottom like a drinking glass, to tamp down the bottom and middle layers).
- For the middle layer: Beat together the peanut butter, butter, icing sugar, vanilla and milk until smooth. Taste test and if necessary, add salt, to taste. Spread this mixture over the chilled base. Smooth top and chill for 30 minutes or until firm.
- For the top layer: Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double-boiler over hot water or in the microwave. Spread melted chocolate over the chilled middle layer. Sprinkle with a generous sprinkling of Fleur de Sel salt, if desired. Chill again until firm and then cut into squares.
- *Tip: The easiest way to cut these, to avoid the chocolate cracking, is to run your knife under hot water for 30 seconds first, quickly dry off then use to cut the squares.
Hi! I’m Jennifer, a home cook schooled by trial and error and almost 40 years of getting dinner on the table! I love to share my favourite recipes, both old and new, together with lots of tips and tricks to hopefully help make your home cooking enjoyable, stress free, rewarding and of course, delicious!