Have you ever been curious about the story behind rich and decadent Nanaimo bars?

The Nanaimo bar is right up there with poutine.

Well, if you suspected that it may have originated from the Pacific coastal town on Vancouver Island known as Nanaimo—you’d be right! Yep, we can add these to the list of Canadian specialities to boast about. And although you can apparently find something that resembles a Nanaimo bar in New York by the name of the ‘Manhattan bar’, we’re going to go ahead and call dibs on the creation of this Canadian favourite—besides, we’ve got the proof to back it up.

Where did Nanaimo bars come from?

Although it’s hard to pinpoint exactly who came up with the original Nanaimo bar recipe, we can trace some early appearances back to the early 50’s. As far as historians can tell, the first recorded recipe for the Nanaimo bar was printed in the 1952 Women’s Auxiliary in the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook, where it was labelled “Chocolate Squares”. A year later, another recipe showed up in Edith Adam’s Cookbook, a Vancouver publication. From there, we have to assume that the Nanaimo began to become normalized as a favourite.

And how could it not? Originally, the Nanaimo bar consists of a wafer crumb-based layer topped with a layer of custard and butter icing, which is then covered by another thick layer of chocolate icing. Many variations exist, particularly when it comes to the crumb base. Recipes will opt for peanut butter, mocha, coconut, and more, to give the Nanaimo bar their own personal spin.   

Raw? Vegan? A healthier way to treat yourself. 

And speaking of personal spins. Here’s ours. Coming at you with a completely raw, vegan recipe for Nanaimo bars that is every bit as delicious, yet filled with that much more whole food nutrition. Preparing this recipe will easily take you under 20 minutes, and then it’s just a waiting game in the freezer. Enjoy!


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Raw Vegan Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Prep time: 10 Minutes

Yield: Makes 12-16 Raw Nanaimo Bars

Chocolate Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup soaked dates
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • Dash of salt

Cream Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews
  • 3 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream (pre-refrigerate)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Topping Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  1. In a food processor, blend all cream layer ingredients until completely smooth. You may have to stop mid-way to scrape down the sides. Place ‘cream’ into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Place all of the chocolate topping ingredients into the food processor, and blend until smooth. Place into bowl and set aside.
  3. Place crust ingredients into food processor and blend until you have a dough-like consistency. Place into bowl and set aside.
  4. In an 8×8 baking dish or pan (you can choose your dish size depending on how thick you’d like your bars to be), pack the crust mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the pan, and press down to ensure firmness.
  5. Spread cream layer over crust layer. Use a spatula to spread evenly.
  6. Top cream layer with chocolate layer.
  7. Cover dish and freeze for at least 3 hours.
  8. Remove from freezer, cut into squares and serve. Store in freezer for up to three weeks!


Have you had much success transforming classic treats into raw dessert creations? We’re always looking for more inspiration. Share your go-to recipes in the comments!


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