Raw Nanaimo Bars - A Healthier Twist on a Classic

Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo bars are a Canadian classic dessert, named after the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. It generally does not require any baking, and more traditional versions that I have come across are made of a crumb layer with coconut, often with nuts or crumbled graham cracker crumbs, a middle creamy layer, often made with vanilla custard powder, and a chocolate topping. I have made nanaimo bars on more than one occasion, including this classic version, a slight variation of the classic version with a walnut base, and also a version with avocado as the shining ingredient for the filling.

They are a popular treat at coffee shops and are often served around Christmas time, and this year, I made these for our dessert. And fancying a fairly classic version, without refined sugar, I came up with yet another variation, with ground almonds and dates serving as the base, and creamy cashews, coconut butter, vanilla and maple syrup for the custard-like middle, and of course, topped with fine dark chocolate and cocoa. They are every bit as rich as the ones one might expect to enjoy, but much nicer, as these contain no refined sugar at all. And with all of the nuts, they are also packed with protein, so a slightly less guilty indulgence. And they are easy to prepare too, with a food processor on hand, and a bit of patience to put the layers together to allow for chilling time.

Raw Nanaimo Bars

Raw Nanaimo BarsRaw Nanaimo Bars
Recipe by
Cuisine: Canadian
Published on December 30, 2019

A more wholesome version of Nanaimo bars — just as rich and decadent but without graham crackers or refined sugar

Preparation: 30 minutes

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  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 2/3 cup dried unsweetened grated coconut
  • 3/4 cup dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup cacao or cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 teaspoons water, or more as needed
  • 2/3 cup raw cashews
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut butter
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3.5 oz (100 g) dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup cacao or cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Begin by making the crust. In a food processor, pulse together the almonds and coconut until finely ground. Add the dates, hemp seeds, cacao powder, salt, coconut oil and water. Process until the dough is moist and begins to hold together. Add another teaspoon of water if needed. Press the mixture firmly and evenly into a 8 × 8-inch baking pan. Transfer to the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

  • To make the filling, wipe the food processor clean. Pulse together the cashews, water, maple syrup and turmeric until smooth. In a small saucepan, melt together the coconut butter, coconut oil and cornstarch over low heat, whisking constantly. Transfer to the food processor, add the vanilla extract, and pulse further until blended. Spread this mixture evenly over the crust and transfer the pan to the freezer for a few hours to set. Then transfer the pan to the refrigerator for an additional 4 to 6 hours.

  • To make the topping, whisk together the chocolate, cacao or cocoa powder, maple syrup and coconut oil over medium heat until smooth. Quickly pour this mixture over the filling and spread evenly. Transfer the pan back to the refrigerator until set.

  • When ready to serve, run hot water over a sharp knife, wipe clean, and cut into small 1 1/2- to 2-inch squares. Store remaining bars in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap or foil so they don't dry out.

Makes about 16 bars

Vegan Nanaimo Bars

Other decadent desserts to try from Lisa's Kitchen:
Raspberry and Blackberry Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart with a Teff Crust
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Filling and Ganache
Raw Cocoa Gingerbread Brownies
Raw Peanut Butter Fudge
Vegan Chocolate-Coconut Butter Fudge with Dried Cherries


Barbara said...


Lisa Turner said...

You could use walnuts, or almonds or macadamia instead.

Anonymous said...

These are delicious! Thank you so much!