Hell Yes: Vegan Nanaimo Bars (from Oh She Glows)

September 5, 2011

Hey readers!

I’ve talked before about my general ignorance of Canadian cuisine, and of the measly repertoire of veganized Canadian dishes that I’ve accumulated since I moved to Toronto (for the record, it’s three dishes long: tourtière, poutine, and bannock). The problem is that I just never come across many distinctly Canadian dishes in person (in fact, the only tourtière and bannock I’ve ever seen are the ones I’ve made myself). But the other day it hit me, quite out of the blue: there was another Canadian dish that I had known of for a long time and just somehow overlooked—namely, the fantabulous sweet treat known as Nanaimo Bars, named after the (I’m assuming) lovely city of Nanaimo in BC. These small little dessert squares are three-layer brownies (or brownie-ish snacks) consisting of a graham cracker crumb layer on the bottom, a flavored custard layer in the middle, and a chocolate layer on top, with plenty of coconut in there and on top as well. If you can’t tell from that description, they are dangerously decadent and delicious. Yet for some reason, I had never given the slightest thought to veganizing them. But once the thought got in my head, there was no way of getting it out, except by making them for myself.

Fortunately, it turned out that vegan Nanaimo bars had already been thought of and created by the wonderful Angela of Oh She Glows, who posted an extensively detailed recipe for them last Christmas. And let me tell you—this recipe is absolutely incredible. It’s definitely one of the most complicated desserts I’ve ever made (though granted, I am not a very frequent baker), but all the work was well worth it. I perhaps made the work a little harder on myself by making my own graham crackers from scratch as well (which you may have noticed in this post), but overall the whole process was fun, and made a little easier by the fact that all the “baking” is actually done in the freezer. The greatest thing about these bars though is that they do not taste at all vegan: the chocolate is rich (and dark, of course), the custard is wonderful, and the graham cracker crust holds together perfectly and tastes great. These nanaimo bars will (and did) knock the socks off vegans and omnis alike.

As this was my first foray into the vegan nanaimo bar scene, there are a few things I will tweak next time I make this recipe. For example, my graham cracker crumb layer turned out way thicker than it should be, and the chocolate layer ended up a little thinner than desired, so I’ll definitely be fiddling some with those amounts in the future. Also, nanaimo bars allow for a lot of fun variations in the custard flavoring, and I definitely want to try them out with a mint or peanut butter center. But for now, I’m more than happy enjoying what little is left of my delicious first batch. Canada rules.

Until we eat again,



  1. So happy you enjoyed the bars! I love that they are Canadian. I made some PB & J ones last week that we went crazy for. I’m going to check out your other recipes for tourtière, poutine, and bannock!

    • Awesome! Honestly, thank you so much for posting your original recipe. You made me the life of like three parties this weekend. Also, be aware that “my” recipes for tourtière, poutine, and bannock, are not really mine but the work of some great other Canadian bloggers (who are all credited and linked to on my pages). If you’re looking to see my take on a piece of Canadian food culture, you may want to check out my vegan spin on Timbits: the high-energy & healthful date bites I like to call Vimbits!

  2. for the record, I do not think there was anything that required tweaking.

    • Really? You’re too kind. I mean, c’mon: that bottom layer was like twice as thick as the thin chocolate coating on top. The taste was certainly incredible, but texture-wise, everything could’ve been a lot better balanced (and I should note that this had nothing to do with the original recipe, but rather with my failure to follow said recipe). At any rate, you should be all for further tweaking, because by encouraging further tweaking, you will only be encouraging me to make more Nanaimo bars and thus to share more Nanaimo bars and thus to give you more opportunity to eat Nanaimo bars.

      • well, if you’re going to put it that way, your nanaimo bars were a complete failure. clearly, you need to start all over, pronto.

        • Now that’s more like it.

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