Saturday, December 8, 2012

All Natural Nanaimo Bars

rawnaimo bars

When I think of nanaimo bars, I think of afternoon tea fundraisers and Winnie the Pooh.

My mother used to bring me to the teas held by the Cancer Society, and there were always trays of sweets laid out on tables, each piled high with little squares of sweetness in various forms. Nanaimo bars were always my favourite - three layers of intensely sweet deliciousness. I would eat each layer separately, in a routine-like fashion.

The first thing was to peel off the thin layer of smooth chocolate ganache from the top, sometimes break in two, and either devour immediately or let it melt on my tongue. The filling was the best part: creamy, rich, and so sweet it led to an instant sugar rush. Then the base, which helped me come down from my sugar-load filling experience. It was chewy, less sweet, and full of coconut - a satisfying finish.

And once I was high on nanaimo bars, I'd hit up the movie station and watch Winnie the Pooh movies. They were kind of the bomb.

So yes, I had a bit of a thing for nanaimo bars as a kid. I'd head straight for them at teas, Christmas parties, and showers like a homing pigeon.

I still have a fondness for nanaimo bars; every once in a while I'll buy one of those giant squares from a coffee shop, eat it too quickly and then spend the rest of the day in a sugar coma.

Then, a while back, a craving for nanaimo bars hit me, but instead of heading to the nearest Starbucks, I decided to make my own version - one that wouldn't have me sugar crashing within ten minutes of eating. I came up with a dessert that's fairly similar to the original, but not nearly as sweet, and with enough "good" things in it that I didn't feel bad eating more than one...or three...

And judging from my roommates' reactions to them, I'd say they felt the same way too.

"Rawnaimo" Bars
This interpretation of the classic nanaimo bar is much less sweet than the original, but still manages to be rich and satisfying without giving you a toothache. Because the cashews need to soak, it does need a little bit of preparation in advance, but I promise you, it is worth it.

1 cup Almonds, raw
2 cups Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
1/2 cup Cocoa
1 tsp Salt
2 cps Dates, pits removed

This makes a very thin filling, so for an even richer & thicker filling, just double these measurements.
1 cup Cashews, soaked
2 tbsp Maple Syrup or Honey
2 tbsp Coconut Oil, melted
1/4 tsp Salt

1 cup or 6 oz. Chocolate (I used dark chocolate chips)

Makes enough to fill one 8x8 pan.

a cascade of cashews soaking cashews almonds, au naturel
unsweetened coconut cocoa powder dates

1. Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water, then let soak for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

2. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper and set aside.

3. Place almonds in a food processor and process until finely ground.

4. Add coconut, salt, and cocoa to the ground almonds, then pulse to combine.

5. Add the dates to the almond mixture and process until the mixture begins to clump together. Note: If your dates are dry and not very sticky, before you add them to the food processor, soak them in warm water for 5 - 10 minutes, or until they soften and become malleable.

6. Dump the mixture into your parchment-lined pan, then press it into the pan until evenly distributed. Transfer the pan to the fridge or freezer to let the base harden.

7. For the filling, drain and rinse the soaked cashews before placing them in a food processor or blender. Add the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and salt, then blend all the ingredients on high until smooth and creamy.

8. Remove the base from the fridge or freezer, and pour the filling mixture over the bottom layer. Spread it out evenly with a spoon or a spatula, then transfer back to the freezer to let the filling harden, about 20 - 30 minutes.

9. To make the topping, simply melt your chocolate in a double boiler over low heat, then pour the melted chocolate over the set filling. Transfer the bars back to the fridge or freezer once more to let them harden. In the freezer, this step should take about 15 minutes; in the fridge, about 30 minutes.

10. Once completely set, remove the pan from the freezer or fridge, then hold onto the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Transfer to a cutting board, and slice into bars. Keep the bars stored in the fridge or freezer. Enjoy!

crumbs crust in the making
crust, ready to be pressed pressed crust
all natural nanaimo bars


  1. These sound amazing! I'd love to try making them but I don't have any coconut oil. I can go buy some but is there anything I could substitute for that?

    1. You could use coconut butter, but the cashew cream would still turn out fine if you left the coconut oil out altogether. I added it for creaminess and also to help keep the cashew cream solid at room temperature. However, if you keep these stored in the fridge or freezer, that shouldn't be a problem. :)

      Hope they work out for you! :)

  2. Those bars look great. When I make dessert, I usually go for cakes: they're safe and tend to not fail but it's time to broaden my horizons and try out these bars!

    1. I hope you like them! They're really a total cinch to make - just a matter of throwing things in a food processor and hitting a button. :)

  3. This looks so good! I've never heard of nanaimo bars but now I want to make them!

  4. I made these as part of my holiday "baking" (did mostly raw goodies) and they were a hit. The only thing I will do next time is double that delectable, delicious cashew filling. Thanks for a beautiful recipe!!!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And yes, the cashew filling is pretty delectable. :)