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Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

I first began hearing about Nanaimo Bars a few years ago, when they started popping up on some food blogs and all over Pinterest. They were new to me, and I quickly learned that they are a Canadian dessert, made popular in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, by a local housewife who submitted the recipe for a cookbook back in the 1950′s. The original bars were made of a chocolate crumb base, topped with a vanilla custard filling and then a chocolate ganache. I’ve been wanting to try them for some time now, and then received an email from a sweet reader who offered me a peanut butter version of the famous bar. It took me all of two seconds to respond with an enthusiastic, “yes, please!” You know I can’t turn down peanut butter recipes!

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

It probably comes as no surprise that I absolutely LOVED these bars. The base is a wonderfully dense and chewy chocolate mixture that includes coconut and graham cracker crumbs. The base is topped with a peanut butter filling that reminds me of a Reese’s peanut butter cup, and then a final layer of chocolate ganache is spread over top. Aside from the base, the rest of the bar tastes very similar to the Buckeye Brownies that I made earlier this year. The base of these aren’t as rich as a traditional brownie, but the combination of flavors is phenomenal.

Now I can’t wait to make traditional Nanaimo bars!

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

One year ago: Hamburger Buns and Mojito Cupcakes
Two years ago: Sweet and Salty Brownies
Three years ago: Pea in a Pod Baby Shower Cookies

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars

Yield: 24 bars

Prep Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

A peanut butter version of the popular Nanaimo Bars.

Ingredients:

For the Base:
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¾ cup shredded sweetened coconut
⅓ cup cocoa powder

For the Filling:
1¼ cups creamy peanut butter
⅓ cup unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
⅓ cup milk

For the Topping:
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.

2. Make the Base: In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar and eggs. Use a large wooden spoon to stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and cocoa powder until completely combined. Transfer to prepared baking pan and press evenly into pan. (The mixture will be a little sticky, so you may need to wet your fingers a bit and then press it in.) Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until firm and no longer shiny. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before preparing the filling.

3. Make the Filling: Microwave the peanut butter and butter in a large bowl until completely melted and smooth. Whisk in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with the milk in two additions, whisking until smooth. Spread evenly over the base and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

4. Make the Topping: Using a double boiler (or a microwave on 50% power), melt the chocolate and butter. Spread over the filling and allow to set at room temperature (or refrigerate to speed up the process) before cutting into bars and serving. Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

(Recipe provided by reader S.M.C.)

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70 Responses to “Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars”

  1. Averie @ Averie Cooks on June 6, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Wow! They look incredible!
    I blogged about Nanaimo Bars about 6 mos ago. I made them in the fairly traditional way, I adapted a Saveur recipe as well as some I saw online. While the custardy filling was great, I have a feeling your PB idea trumps all! The one thing I did love about mine was the base/crust. That layer alone could be stand-alone bars. I love them. But…your graham cracker idea, again, wow! Super delish looking! Can’t wait to see if you try your the orig and see what version you like better! PB or orig! :)

    Reply

  2. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on June 6, 2013 at 2:00 am

    I’ve actually never heard of nanaimo bars before! I have no doubt I’d love these!

    Reply

  3. Tiffany on June 6, 2013 at 4:02 am

    Looks good to me

    Reply

  4. Johlene on June 6, 2013 at 4:57 am

    These are not for those on a diet! Everything that can make fat is in them ;-DS But they look só good!!

    Regards
    Johlene
    Flavours&Frosting

    Reply

  5. Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen on June 6, 2013 at 6:37 am

    LOL! Michelle, I absolutely LOVE the fact that you rushed into the kitchen to make PB Nanaimo Bars–before even making the original version first! It’s the very same thing I would do if I received the PB recipe. Sometimes recipes with a new twist beat the originals. I’m with Averie…your PB version probably “trumps” the original! Beautiful photography here, too, girl. Thanks so much for sharing! Pinning to group boards at Pinterest! xo

    Reply

  6. Sonya on June 6, 2013 at 7:30 am

    The filling options are very exciting. I’ve had cappuccino, mint, orange ….. but my favorite is the cappuccino.

    Reply

  7. Ellen @ The Baking Bluenoser on June 6, 2013 at 7:41 am

    You just took one of my favorite desserts and put my favorite food into it. I am in heaven..

    Reply

  8. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar on June 6, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Nanaimo bars are my absolute favorite, so naturally I LOVE this idea! Can’t wait to try!

    Reply

  9. AH@badassbookreviews on June 6, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Nanaimo Bars are the best. I grew up in that general area and we even had movie theatres that served Nanaimo bars which was totally awesome. The original recipe with the custard based filling is very good. I’ve also seen coffee, mint, and other flavorings as well. I agree, the star of this bar is the base. Yummy.

    Reply

  10. Tieghan on June 6, 2013 at 7:59 am

    These look great! Peanut butter anything is delicious, but peanut butter with chocolate just rules!

    Reply

  11. Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat on June 6, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Wow…these look great! PB and chocolate is the BEST! I know my family would go crazy for these. Can’t wait to try them out!

    Reply

  12. Jamie @lifelovelemons on June 6, 2013 at 8:40 am

    never will there ever be a combination more amazing than chocolate peanut butter. never!

    Reply

  13. Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) on June 6, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Those look so delish! I love any bar where peanut butter is the star.

    Reply

  14. Katie on June 6, 2013 at 9:13 am

    As a Canadian, these are definitely one of my all-time favourite desserts! I love the traditional variation as well as mint and coffee ones, and for Christmas last year I made my first attempt with cherry Nanaimo Bars…they were amazing! I’ve never seen a peanut butter version but I can’t wait to try this!! Thank you!

    Reply

  15. marie @ little kitchie on June 6, 2013 at 9:15 am

    These look like absolute heaven! I had never even heard of these bars before!

    Reply

  16. Kathy on June 6, 2013 at 9:34 am

    These have been on my must make list for a while now. Your peanut butter version sounds delicious!

    Reply

  17. Tanna on June 6, 2013 at 9:38 am

    How have I never heard of Nanaimo Bars before? They look amazing!

    Reply

  18. Annie @ Annie's City Kitchen on June 6, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Definitely just pinned this! I heard of Nanaimo Bars years ago and I was really intrigued by them. I gotta confess, I have no clue how to actually pronounce the name so that’s been a deterrent for me!

    Reply

    • Kendra on June 6th, 2013 at 11:27 am

      Na-nI-mo The name of the town they were invented in

      Reply

  19. ShaNae on June 6, 2013 at 10:02 am

    HI, these sound great. My question, would I need to change anything for the bottom layer if I leave out the coconut? Thank you!

    Reply

    • Michelle on June 6th, 2013 at 10:27 am

      Hi ShaNae, I don’t think so. You could add a little more graham cracker crumbs if you’d like, but I don’t think it should be a problem.

      Reply

    • margie ings on June 8th, 2013 at 8:42 pm

      How did the squares turn out without the coconut added?

      Reply

  20. Elle on June 6, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Yum! This is like millionaires shortbread with peanut butter instead of caramel? (http://thewayfaringbaker.com/2013/05/26/monaco-grand-prix-billionnaires-shortbread/)

    Reply

    • Chrissy on July 27th, 2013 at 10:49 am

      No, the base is more tasty and the traditional Nanaimo bars have a creamy middle layer. I just made the Millionaire’s shortbread stuff yesterday and think Nanaimo bars are waaaay better; if the effort is the same (and it is) these are better.

      Reply

  21. Marcie @ Flavor The Moments on June 6, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Holy moly, do these look good! I love anything peanut butter and chocolate. These must be to die for.

    Reply

  22. Erin @ The Spiffy Cookie on June 6, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I have yet to try a Nanaimo bar but I bet this would be a great way to start!

    Reply

  23. Musing Mar on June 6, 2013 at 11:16 am

    I’m Canadian and I grew up with Nanaimo Bars. You’ve reminded me that I haven’t made these in far too long. Yours look absolutely delicious!

    Reply

  24. Jen of My Tiny Oven on June 6, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I think I just died and went to heaven! Peanut Butter in Nanaimo Bars… you are brilliant!

    Reply

  25. Liz on June 6, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Can’t wait to try these! Love peanut butter! :)

    Reply

  26. Anna (Hidden Ponies) on June 6, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Classic Nanaimo bars are one of my all-time favourite treats! These look like they’ll definitely give them a run for their money – can’t wait to try them!

    Reply

  27. Melissa @ Gracefully Falling Down on June 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I am Canadian and I hate Nanaimo bars (Sshh! Don’t tell “my people”!) THESE however, look amazing. Will be trying very soon!

    Reply

  28. Jennifer on June 6, 2013 at 11:57 am

    These look wonderful! I’ve seen a lot of variations on Nanaimo Bars and will definitely be trying your recipe.

    You need to try the original Nanaimo Bars… they really are out of this world amazing!

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.·´¸.·*´¨) ¸.·*¨)
    (¸.·´ (¸.·`¤… Jennifer
    Jenn’s Random Scraps

    Reply

  29. Holiday Baker Man on June 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Living in Vancouver these are a staple. PB is an awesome twist!

    Reply

  30. Rebecca on June 6, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Never had these, but they look fantastic! One of my favorite combos.

    Reply

  31. Laura (Tutti Dolci) on June 6, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Love the PB filling!

    Reply

  32. Monica on June 6, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Your bars look so good. Did you say dense and chewy?! That is calling my name! : ) I’ve heard a lot about them too but never tried. Need to correct that one day.

    Reply

  33. Brenda @ SweetSimpleStuff on June 6, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I have seen many recipes for Nanaimo Bars and not tried one yet. I really am going to finally make one … it will be yours :)

    Reply

  34. Cooking Canuck on June 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    I love Nanaimo Bars…always have, and definitely the first thing I went for at family gatherings. There are oodles of versions, so if you don’t want coconut in the base, you could search for a different recipe. Some bases have nuts in them, some are just plain…there’s one for everyone! Can’t wait to make these!

    Reply

  35. Stephen Kjeldsen on June 6, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Never heard about nanaimo bars before. But you are selling them very wel! I will try them out for sure!

    Reply

  36. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious on June 6, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I’ll take a stack of those bars, please!

    Reply

  37. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes and Desserts on June 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    I have been curious about the traditional Nanaimo bars as well, but have yet to try them. I am pretty much in love with this pb version!

    Reply

  38. nessa on June 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm

    These look awesome!

    Reply

  39. Emily on June 6, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Had Nanaimo bars on a trip to Canada back in 1990. I found an original recipe and made them, but couldn’t match the yumminess of my memory. I’ll have to give yours a try!

    Reply

  40. Megan on June 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I’m from Nanaimo originally! I couldn’t believe it when I saw your title. Every time I see a dessert platter with any variety of Nanaimo bars I always say I have to represent my city by having one…or five. They are great and yay Nanaimo…it’s a beautiful town too!

    Reply

  41. Tracy {pale yellow} on June 6, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    I’ve been wanting to make Nanaimo bars since I’ve first heard of them! I love that you made a PB version before the original, completely legit. These sound great!

    Reply

  42. Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl on June 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Chocolate, peanut butter, graham crackers – yes yes yes! Perfect.

    Reply

  43. Nancy P.@thebittersideofsweet on June 6, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    These look incredible!!

    Reply

  44. Marisa L on June 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    I’m canadian and have grown up loving nanaimo bars! But, peanutbutter nanaimo bars, SOLD! I can’t wait to make them.

    Reply

  45. Chochay on June 7, 2013 at 3:58 am

    i love peanut butter..great blog.

    Reply

  46. HeathenHausfrau on June 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Hey there! These look amazing!
    There’s another cool peanut buttery version of this bar called the Squamish Bar (recipes can be googled) named after another small Canadian town near Whistler BC. Try them out!

    Reply

  47. Jackie Kuntz on June 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    If you are looking for an official recipe for nanaimo bars, Nanaimo held a contest years ago to determine what recipe would represent their city. Joyce Hardcastle’s nanaimo recipe won. I use it exclusively and it never fails to disappear quickly! It should be available on the city website. Also, I’ll add Reverse Nanaimo Bars as another version that is delish :)

    Reply

  48. Karla Quinn on June 7, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    I like need to make these asap! The bottom layer is totally reminding me of elementary school.

    Reply

  49. Karla Quinn on June 7, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Where or what in the hell is Nainamano? Go B’s!!!

    Reply

  50. Carina on June 8, 2013 at 4:05 am

    Mmmmm these look good! Great recipe :)

    Carina
    http://www.foodfortwo.net/

    Reply

  51. Mercedes on June 8, 2013 at 11:26 am

    All of my all-time favorite ingredients in one bar! YUM!

    Reply

  52. Blondie on June 8, 2013 at 11:36 am

    why not unsweetened coconut?

    Reply

    • Michelle on June 9th, 2013 at 9:11 pm

      You can use unsweetened coconut if you’d like, it would not make a difference.

      Reply

  53. tundra on June 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    I must be one of the few BC’s / Canadians who don’t enjoy Nanaimo bars but I do enjoy hearing people try to pronounce it (its also a stop on the skytrain). :)

    Reply

  54. Laura Dembowski on June 9, 2013 at 8:44 am

    These look positively addicting! That creamy pb filling looks perfect!

    Reply

  55. Tracey on June 10, 2013 at 8:06 am

    I’ve never made nanaimo bars, but I’ve been itching to for a while and I can think of no better version to start with than this one. Love the addition of the coconut!!

    Reply

  56. Ashley on July 1, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I made these last night for my husband to take in for his coworkers and I tasted a bite this morning and they were delicious! I definitely liked the combination of an almost fudgy peanut butter with the graham cracker/coconut base and then chocolate to top it all off. I did not have a 9×13 pan so I used an 8.5×11 instead so my bars were just thicker. I did bake the bottom layer and refrigerate everything longer just to make sure they set up. My only complaint was that when I went to cut them this morning the chocolate kept cracking and flaking off. Next time I will probably use a chocolate ganache recipe (heavy cream and semi sweet chocolate) I have for the top and see how that works out instead. Thanks for sharing, I will definitely be making these again!

    Reply

  57. Jennifer on July 15, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I lived just outside of Nanaimo as I kid and have eaten Nanaimo bars since I was a wee child but I’ve never had a peanut butter version (although I’ve certainly had mint and coffee versions) and these look heavenly! I’ll definitely have to give them a whirl sometime, or better yet, have my mum make them as she make awesome original Nanaimo bars. Yum!

    Reply

  58. Chrissy on July 27, 2013 at 10:57 am

    What is great about this recipe, you don’t have to have the special pudding powder that the traditional recipe requires! The Bird’s pudding powder isn’t in any of the stores where I live so I get it from Amazon.com. I am dying to make the p-nut butter version! Like all the others, life can’t get any better when you have p-nut butter and chocolate and coconut! Thanx for the recipe and the beautiful photos to inspire me.

    Reply

  59. McDanderson on January 12, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    These look awsome! I’m gonna make a batch with cannabudder… whoo

    Reply

  60. Maria compton on January 13, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    How do cut these bars without cracking the top chocolate layer?

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 14th, 2014 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Maria, I actually use a pizza wheel to slice brownies, bars, etc. It makes such clean slices!

      Reply

  61. Holly Gordon on February 1, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    My husband and I make these every year at Christmas. We make creme de menthe, orange, traditional and strawberry. The stores in our area also offer cappuccino, egg nog and lemon, which are amazing. I didn’t know that they were a Canadian thing though. I thought everyone had these.

    Reply

  62. Ilona on February 7, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Soooo good! Just reduced the amount of sugar in the base to 1/8 cup and in the filling (3/4 cup instead of 3 cups). Great dessert for cold, winter afternoon! :)

    Reply

  63. carol gundersen on February 20, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    i’m canadian so i’ve eaten a lot of nanaimo bars -in all different flavors – in all my 50 years … and your recipe is spot on. Love this peanut butter variation, the texture is perfect, and you nailed the base. Many times the base is too hard and the filling too soft, making them difficult to eat. These remind me of a lovely but far too expensive bakery near my fathers home … and him slamming their irish cream nanaimos pretty much as fast as he could (… he’s always eaten like a man who just got out of prison – he still is at 98 ) If you ever have a recipe for beaver island bars cross your path might want to grab it and try it. It’s also british columbian, i think, i had them at a bakery in illinois 30 odd years ago and could never find them again, they were heavenly.

    Reply

  64. kid friendly meals on May 12, 2014 at 9:31 am

    i love peanut base recipe, can i share it on my facebook timeline?

    Reply

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