If there’s one dessert my mom repeatedly asks me to make, it’s these Vegan Nanaimo Bars. Every time I have a baking hiatus, she’ll casually mention that I haven’t made Nanaimo bars in a while and that I should make an extra large batch of them while I’m at it. Coughyesmothercough.
My brother had this Nanaimo bar phase a few years ago where he’d ask for a box of Nanaimo bars from the grocery store every time we walked past them. He was the only one interested in eating those over-the-top sugary desserts so that one box would sit in the fridge for weeks. Being the health nut I was (and still am), I pointed out all the nasty ingredients and the ridiculous amount of sugar and fat in the product in hopes of discouraging my mom from buying them again; just trying to keep my family healthy! I vowed to create my own version of the dessert to satisfy my brother’s cravings and my own diet beliefs.
Fun fact: Nanaimo bars originated from the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, which is just a ferry ride away from where we are! Therefore making this a local dessert. This no-bake bar is traditionally composed of a nutty cocoa biscuit base, a custard centre, and a chocolate topping.
Vegan-izing the Nanaimo bar was not a difficult task and the there was no deliciousness compromised whatsoever. From the raw brownie base to the macadamia cream and the chocolate truffle topping, each layer is equally decadent. The product is only as good as the ingredients used, and by using only the best such as macadamia nuts from Hawaii, Medjool dates from Palm Springs, organic coconut oil, and local BC honey, these bars are guaranteed to impress. And yes, I am aware that honey is not exactly vegan. Please don’t hesitate to substitute with another liquid sweetener like maple syrup.
Needless to say, this vegan version is waaaaaay tastier than the store made ones. Like, macadamia nut cream? HELLO. Who needs butter and cream? Not us. Oh and don’t worry if there seems to be too much crust mixture; use as much as you please and press the rest into a separate pan or silicone muffin cups for a raw brownie snack. Two recipes in one, score! I’ve been secretly sneaking pieces of the leftover brownie into my breakfast bowls…shhhh
Two years later, this recipe remains a family favourite. I’d label it as one of my ‘signature’ dishes too! It also has Chew’s vegan stamp of approval. I promise that these bars will be worth every effort to make. Only using one bowl is a bonus too!
And one last tip, after making a batch of these, you’ll want to hide it deep in the back of the freezer, where only you know they exist. But if a clever family member or friend discovers them, don’t tell them I told you to hide them!
- “Cream” Layer
- 1 cup raw macadamia nuts*, soaked overnight
- ½ cup melted coconut oil
- ¼ cup liquid sweetener of choice (I used honey which is not vegan)
- ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- A tiny pinch of pink salt
- ⅔ cup sliced almonds, toasted**
- ⅔ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted**
- 8 Medjool dates
- ⅓ cup cocoa powder
- A tiny pinch of pink salt
- Water as needed
- Chocolate Ganache
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup liquid sweetener of choice (I used honey which is not vegan)
- Scant ½ cup melted coconut oil
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, slightly warm***
- Line an 8-inch square pan with plastic wrap for easy removal.
- In a food processor fitted with an S-blade, combine all ingredients for the "Cream" layer and process until as smooth as possible. Transfer mixture to a separate bowl.
- Without cleaning out the food processor, make the crust next by pulsing the almonds and coconut until relatively fine. Add the dates, cocoa powder, and salt and process until the dates are finely chopped and evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
- Test the consistency of the mixture by pressing a small amount between two fingers; if it holds together, it's ready! If it's still crumbly, add water 1 tbsp at a time until it is sticky enough.
- Press the crust mixture evenly and firmly into the bottom of prepared pan.
- Spread the macadamia "Cream" mixture over the crust, using a spatula to even out the surface. Place in the freezer as you make the final layer.
- Again, without cleaning out the food processor, add the cocoa powder and liquid sweetener and pulse to combine. Scrape down the sides before adding the coconut oil.
- With the motor running, slowly add in the coconut oil through the chute. The mixture will likely cease up, but don't worry!
- Once the coconut oil is incorporated, add the warmed milk in the same method: down the chute.
- Spread the Chocolate Ganache mixture over the top of the "Cream" Layer to complete the Nanaimo Bar. Freeze for a few hours until firm before cutting into squares/bars. Store in the freezer.
**Recipe can be kept raw by not toasting the nuts and coconut. Almonds can be substituted with any type of nut.
***I warmed the milk in the microwave for 10 seconds; this prevents the coconut oil from re-solidifying