Nanaimo Bars: a True B.C. Contribution to the Culinary Arts

“What do you find in a Nanaimo bar?” I heard Bob Bossin shout out this question in the Hudson Bay Coffeehouse in Quesnel when he and Stringband were playing little towns across British Columbia in the 1980s. Here is the culinary answer.

According to Wikipedia, this is the first Nanaimo-bar-like recipe that appeared in print.

Chocolate Squares

½ cup butter
¼ cup berry sugar
4 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Place in bowl and melt over hot water and add 2 cups graham wafer crumbs, ½ cup cocoanut, ½ cup chopped walnuts. Mix together and pat in pan size 8×8.



¼ cup butter
1 ½ cup icing sugar
2 tbsp. Birds custard powder
and add a little milk

After mixed spread on top of other mixture. Melt 3 sq. of Bakers chocolate with one tbsp. of butter and spread on top and place in fridg. overnight. — Jean Martin

Recipe source is The Women’s Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Hospital Cook Book (1952). Compiled and published by the Women’s Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Hospital, Nanaimo, B.C. (n.p.)

The Laura Secord Canadian Cook Book was prepared by the (now defunct) Canadian Home Economics Association in 1966 and had at least six printings. The foreword to the Nanaimo Bar recipe credits “the Canadian kitchens of a well-known food company” with supplying the name. The Laura Secord Cook Book is one of the best, if unrecognized Canadian cookbooks around. You can still find it on used book sites.

Laura Secord Canadian Cook Book (1966). Canadian Home Economics Association. McClelland and Stewart:  Toronto/Montreal. p. 130.

There is an official Nanaimo Bar recipe, as selected by the City of Nanaimo in a 1986 ultimate Nanaimo Bar contest. It was attributed to Joyce Hardcastle.

See The Legendary Nanaimo Bar at the City of Nanaimo’s website for more information.

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