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.

peanut butter nanaimo bars cut

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.

Recipe Tips

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.

peanut butter nanaimo bars cut

peanut butter Nanaimo bars sliced

Get the Recipe: Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

A peanut butter twist on the classic Canadian treat, these Nanaimo bars feature a creamy peanut butter filling. A great no bake treat, that is great for bake sales!
4.84 stars from 6 ratings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 16 bars

Ingredients

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

Garnish:

  • Sprinkling of Fleur de Sel salt

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

Be sure to read the notes above this recipe card, where I share more detailed  tips, variations and substitution suggestions for this recipe!
Cuisine: Canadian
Course: Dessert, Snack
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 303kcal, Carbohydrates: 32g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 34mg, Sodium: 208mg, Potassium: 134mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 25g, Vitamin A: 310IU, Calcium: 32mg, Iron: 1mg
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