Ah Dessert…what a wonderful word.

Something sweet on the tongue after an extraordinary meal is much like cooking while drinking wine…

It’s not necessary…but it sure does make life, that much better.

Naniamo Bars have been at the top of my list of favorite bars/cookies for years.  After moving back from Sweden in 2006, I worked for The Real Food Store in Helena. They make some of the best Nanaimo bars I have ever tasted.

What is a Nanaimo bar you ask?

It’s a dessert bar of Canadian orgin, consisting of a chocolate coconut cookie crumb crust, and vanilla custard filling, topped with a chocolate ganache. It really is…heaven in a bar.

I decided a few years ago that I was going to make a version without gluten, dairy, and refined sugar. It proved to be a little bit harder to remake than I originally thought.  The first time I made them a few years ago, the chocolate topping was super brittle, and was very hard to cut without cracking the bars. The second attempt was better, yet I still needed to work a bit on the custard filling.


The third time was a charm. Sometimes it pays to be picky, especially with recipes. This being one of my all-time favorite desserts, I knew it had to be perfect, and I didn’t want anyone to be able to guess that the creamy custard filling was dairy and sugar-free.

Now the only challenge is to hide them from my husband so they don’t all get eaten in one go. Good luck with that one.

Nanaimo Bars

Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Canadian
Serves: 9-18
Prep time:
Total time:

  • for the crust:
  • 1½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1½ cup blanched almond flour
  • ½ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ¾ cup coconut sugar
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder(or raw cacao powder)
  • 10 dates, pitted
  • a few pinches of sea salt
  • for the cashew custard filling:
  • 2 cups cashews,(soaked in water for 2 hours or more)
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of ¼ vanilla bean
  • ½ cup melted coconut butter or oil
  • a1/4 tsp sea salt
  • for the chocolate ganache:
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt

  1. For the crust:
  2. Add everything to your food processor, and process for at least 20 seconds, or until it is thoroughly combined into a dough. It should stick together slightly when pinched. If it doesn’t, you can add a tablespoon of water or a few more dates to the mix. Press into a 9×9 baking pan. Place the crust in the fridge or freezer to set while you make the cashew custard filling.
  3. For the cashew custard filling:
  4. add cashews, water, maple syrup, vanilla, coconut oil, and sea salt to a high-speed bender. Blend until smooth and creamy. Pour over the crust and smooth evenly with a spatula. Place in the freezer to set for 2 hours.
  5. To make the chocolate ganache:
  6. Place the maple syrup, coconut oil, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and sea salt in the blender until creamy and emulsified. Spread evenly over the cashew custard filling and chill for another 4 hours.
  7. Cut and serve.


eat. love. nourish.



6 Thoughts on “Nanaimo Bars with Vanilla Cashew Custard (Raw,Vegan, Paleo, Dairy-Free)

  1. Wow, these look and sound incredible. And very clever too! I can imagine it took a lot of experimenting to get them spot on so thank you for the recipe :-)

  2. I”m going to give this filling a try. I like making Nanaimo bars at Christmas but want to make them a little less diabetes inducing. Plus, I don’t like the taste of icing sugar.

  3. I made these, exactly as the recipe stated. They are delicious and well-loved already! Thank you for the great recipe that satisfies my nanaimo-bar cravings, especially around Christmas time!

  4. recipe was easy to follow and delicious! thanks!

  5. Melody on January 29, 2014 at 3:48 pm said:

    Flipping crazy delicious!! Nice job, and thank you for the recipe. I made a thicker chocolate layer and added a few dates to sweeten (a little less maple syrup and coconut sugar). We keep them in the freezer…even more delicious!!! Now I need to check out all your other posts! I wanted to write that ‘you know how to cook!’, but these aren’t cooked. Ha. Thx again!

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