Healthy Nanaimo Bars - Desserts with Benefits

Chewy.  Gooey.  Messy.  Rich.  Satisfying.  Chocolatey.

That’s what these Nanaimo Bars are.

Healthy Nanaimo Bars - Desserts with Benefits

I am from Canada (born and raised), but I have never actually eaten a Nanaimo Bar before these.  Supposedly they are a Canadian classic, but that’s news to me!  Before moving to the United States (and discovering FoodGawker), I had never even heard of Nanaimo Bars.  I’m glad I did eventually, though!  Better late than never, I suppose.

So pardon me if these don’t taste like any Nanaimo Bar you’ve tasted.  I tried to emulate other recipes but they all varied so drastically.  Some use nuts in the base and don’t get baked while others use two sticks of butter and are baked until firm.  Some fillings use cream cheese while others fillings use cups and cups of powdered sugar.  Some prefer a thin layer of chocolate to top it off while others prefer dense, thick layers (like I do… clearly!).  But I tried my best.  And they are delicious.

Healthy Nanaimo Bars - Desserts with Benefits

They are soft and chewy, despite the fact that I ate them cold, straight out of the fridge.  I think it was the coconut butter.  There is something very warm and comforting about these Nanaimo Bars.  I think it’s because of their large size and substantial height.  Or maybe it’s because of their seemingly endless supply of chocolate…  I was shocked at how the flavors went so well together.  The cluster of ingredients that didn’t seem to match very well, surprisingly did.  Who woulda thought that “graham crackers,” coconut, vanilla custard and chocolate would go well together?

Healthy Nanaimo Bars - Desserts with Benefits

As you can see, the middle layer is soft and gooey (despite this, it never “leaked out,” it stayed in the bar).  I was aiming at creating more of a “fondant” but that didn’t turn out too well… it came out more like a thick (yet tasty), toffee-like paste.  My goal was to make these reduced sugar, that is why I didn’t go with my classic fondant recipe, but you are more than welcome to use that fondant instead of the filling recipe provided below if you want more of a classic Nanaimo Bar feel.  Either way, they are gonna taste great when you make them!

Nanaimo Bars

Yield: 9 large bars or 16 small


  • 160g (1/2 cup + 2 tbs) Coconut Butter
  • 1/4 cup Light Coconut Milk, canned
  • 14g (2 tsp) Molasses
  • 1 tsp Hazelnut Extract (or vanilla)
  • 1/2 tsp Coconut Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Stevia Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Butter Extract
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 30g (6 tbs) Regular Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
  • 32g (1 scoop) Chocolate Protein Powder
  • 48g (1/2 cup) Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • Filling: (feel free to use this recipe instead if you want to avoid the gooeyness)
  • 1/2 cup Plain, Nonfat Greek Yogurt
  • 96g (1/2 cup) Powdered Erythritol
  • 128g (4 scoops) Vanilla Custard Protein Powder
  • 28g (2 tbs) Coconut Oil, soft
  • 26g (3 tbs) Dried Nonfat Milk
  • Ganache:
  • 4oz 100% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tbs Light Coconut Milk
  • 1/4 tsp Stevia Extract
  • 48g (1/4 cup) Powdered Erythritol


    For the Crust:
  1. Line a brownie pan with parchment paper both ways
  2. Melt the coconut butter in a large microwave safe bowl (it took me about 60 seconds total at 30-second intervals)
  3. Stir in the coconut milk, and add the molasses and extracts
  4. Stir in the salt and cocoa powder. Then, stir in the protein powder. Fold in the oats. Press into the prepared brownie pan (I used a pastry roller. If the filling is sticking to the utensil you are using, wrap your fingers in plastic wrap and press down on the mixture until it reaches all corners and make sure it's level). Refrigerate while you make the filling.
  5. For the Filling:
  6. Put the greek yogurt into a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the powdered erythritol, stir until erythritol dissolves
  7. Fold in the protein powder with a rubber spatula. When the mixture is thick and sticky, add the coconut oil and fold it in. Add the dried milk and fold that in too (the mixture should be very sticky, so don't touch!). Scoop into the brownie pan and try to level as best as you can with the rubber spatula (it doesn't have to be perfect, it will naturally settle into a level layer). Refrigerate while you make the ganache layer.
  8. For the Ganache:
  9. Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at 30-second intervals, stirring in between each one, until melted
  10. Whisk in the coconut milk. When the mixture is even and lighter in color, whisk in the stevia and carefully stir in the powdered erythritol. Pour into the brownie pan and spread by gently shaking the pan back and forth until the ganache reaches the corners. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, then slice and eat away!


This recipe is: no bake, low sugar, high fiber, high protein, gluten free!

I can finally cross Nanaimo Bars off my Recipe Wishlist!

Labels: Bars-Blondies-and-Brownies, Chocolate, Coconut-Butter, Coconut-Milk, Coconut-Oil, Erythritol, Gluten-Free, High-Fiber, High-Protein, Low-Sugar, Molasses, No-Bake, Oats, Yogurt

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Comments (22)

  1. Emilia: February 29, 2012

    What a great post! I’ve heard of nanaimo bars through foodgawker, but never tried them because the list of ingredients frightened me a bit. I’ll definitely be trying these though, they look delicious!

  2. Ryan: February 29, 2012

    I’m from Nanaimo and these look good, but Nanaimo Bars they are not. The Nanaimo Bar should have a thin, almost brittle layer of dark chocolate on top, not a spongy, airy layer as shown here. The middle layer should not be gooey; it should be the consistency of icing and should be a little grainy from the sugar. And the bottom is definitely baked. You would call something a Tiramisu and then change every element, would you?

  3. Anonymous: February 29, 2012

    Don’t be a tool. They look great! interesting interpretation of a deliciously sinful dessert!

  4. Anonymous: February 29, 2012

    oh please- i cant tell you how many ‘philly’ cheesesteaks ive seen/had that are seemingly nothing like an actual philly cheesesteak! a rose by any other name would smell as sweet right?

    these look and sound delicious! cant wait to try this recipe :)
    (so glad foodgawker brought me to your blog!)


  5. Ambika: March 1, 2012

    Such gorgeous clicks!! I have also never tasted Nanaimo bars and have been wanting to make them forever now! Yours look amazing, wish I could grab one from my screen right now!

  6. Jennifer: March 1, 2012

    These were a favourite treat my mom used to make us growing up in BC. These look so yummy!

  7. Hey Ryan,
    My grandpa lives in Nanaimo too :)
    I know these aren’t the classic Nanaimo bars (like I said, I’ve never really had one…), all I know is that these are delicious, similar to many other recipes I found and were definitely worth posting! I said in the post that if you want a more classic Nanaimo bar feel, use the fondant recipe I linked as that DEFinitely has a sweet, icing-like texture. You can surely change the chocolate topping to the thin chocolate layer you talk about, but I like chocolate and used more ;)
    I don’t mean to offend you by naming the recipe “Nanaimo Bars,” but these bars have the same flavors associated with real Nanaimo Bars, that’s why I kept the name.

  8. Thank you so much, Anonymous! Your comment made me smile :)
    Enjoy the recipe, hope you love it as much as I did.

  9. Rachel Egan: March 2, 2012

    Your picture come out so great! Do you use a special lighting? or camera?

  10. Rachel Egan: March 2, 2012

    Oh WOW that’s a nice camera!

  11. Nope, just the nice Arizona sun :) My dorm is too small for lighting equipment and accessories :(
    I use a Canon Rebel T3i with a 50mm lens.

  12. AZshab: April 4, 2012

    These bars are just delish !! I am not from canada but from east coast america and made the nanaimo bars from scratch in year ’09 for international day ( I did have canada Though !) and after that everyone was hooked on them and even had requests !! they were beyond perfect and made even the most anti coconut folks I know go coconuts (ehm..plz excuse the cheezy pun !)

    love the pics and love the {much healthier.and very tasty looking ! alternative} mine was a (super sweet and shiny)chocolate bar type coating on top,surprisingly not so oozey – vanilla custard and the grahm crackers mixed- in chcolate with a lil coconut razzled in it bottom layer.

    Btw.. the best recipe requires no baking … peeps always try to make stuff more complicated- I’ll send a pick form my remake ….one un-prorastinated day !

  13. Anonymous: June 2, 2012

    The recipes look great but a little surprised that there is not any nutritional information with them.

  14. Sara: June 10, 2012

    What is butter extract?! :o

  15. Butter extract is just like vanilla extract, but butter flavor! Some brands make it with milk, but its usually just oil with some added flavor to taste like butter. I absolutely love the stuff ;)

    I used to use this brand:

    But I recently found out that I’m allergic to dairy, so this is the kind I use now:

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  17. My mother-in-law is from Vancouver, BC and just loves Nanaimo Bars. The whole family loves them. I have been looking for recipe and can’t wait to try these.

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  19. Sheila: November 1, 2013

    I’m also from Canada (Montreal), and I, too, have never heard of Nanaimo bars until I moved to the States (NY). I tried the real thing, and they are to die for! Thanks for a healthier version, going to try this recipe out!

  20. Carol: December 17, 2013

    I LOVE nanaimo bars and so CANADIAN. Very difficult to find a HEALTHIER version of this recipe. I want to surprise my daughters class for a Christmas treat. Thank-you for posing, Carol.

  21. dessertswithbenefits: December 17, 2013

    Awww what a kind mother you are!! I hope you all like the recipe :D

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