Healthy No-Bake Nanaimo Bars | gluten free, sugar free, high protein

Healthy Nanaimo Bars

Chewy. Gooey. Messy. Rich. Satisfying. Chocolatey.  That’s what these Nanaimo Bars are.

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.

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?

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!

Healthy Nanaimo Bars - Naughty or Nice Cookbook

Naughty or Nice Cookbook: The ULTIMATE Healthy Dessert Cookbook – Jessica Stier of Desserts with Benefits
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Healthy Nanaimo Bars

Servings: 16 bars


Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts
Healthy Nanaimo Bars
Amount Per Serving (1 bar)
Calories 190 Calories from Fat 104
% Daily Value*
Fat 11.5g18%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Cholesterol 20mg7%
Sodium 80mg3%
Carbohydrates 13g4%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 9g18%
Calcium 60mg6%
Iron 1.4mg8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Bars, Blondies & Brownies

Naughty or Nice Cookbook: The ULTIMATE Healthy Dessert Cookbook – Jessica Stier of Desserts with Benefits


Be happy.

Live fully.

Feel naughty, eat nice.


– Jess



Be sure to follow @DessertsWithBenefits on Instagram!  If you try this recipe, make sure to snap a picture of it, tag me @DessertsWithBenefits, and hashtag #DessertsWithBenefits.  I’d love to see it and feature you on #FanFaveFridays!


22 comments on “Healthy Nanaimo Bars”

  1. 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. 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?

    • 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!)


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

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

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

  4. 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!

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

  6. 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.

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

  8. Oh WOW that’s a nice camera!

  9. 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 !

  10. What is butter extract?! 😮

  11. 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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  13. 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!

  14. 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.

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