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!
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!
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
For the Base:
- ¾ cup (170.25 g) unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2½ cups (210 g) graham cracker crumbs
- ¾ cup (67.5 g) shredded sweetened coconut
- ⅓ cup (28.67 g) cocoa powder
For the Filling:
- 1¼ cups (322.5 g) creamy peanut butter
- ⅓ cup (75.67 g) unsalted butter
- 3 cups (360 g) powdered sugar
- ⅓ cup (81.33 ml) milk
For the Topping:
- 8 ounces (226.8 g) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper; set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
Michelle, just came across your peanut butter Nanaimo bars which as I live in British Columbia is a long time family favourite. The only thing I do differently is not baking the base. I just refrigerate it while I make the filling. That way if you make them in the hot weather of summer you don’t have to have your oven on. Thanks for all your delicious recipes.
Wow! I just made the regular nanaimo bars – but these sound a lot better!
i love peanut base recipe, can i share it on my facebook timeline?
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.
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! :)
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.
How do cut these bars without cracking the top chocolate layer?
Hi Maria, I actually use a pizza wheel to slice brownies, bars, etc. It makes such clean slices!
Score your bars when the chocolate is only partially set. Once fully set, they will be easy to cut!
These look awsome! I’m gonna make a batch with cannabudder… whoo
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.
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!
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!
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!!
These look positively addicting! That creamy pb filling looks perfect!
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). :)
why not unsweetened coconut?
You can use unsweetened coconut if you’d like, it would not make a difference.
Would it ruin the recipe to use salted butter?
No that would still work!
All of my all-time favorite ingredients in one bar! YUM!
Mmmmm these look good! Great recipe :)
Where or what in the hell is Nainamano? Go B’s!!!
I like need to make these asap! The bottom layer is totally reminding me of elementary school.
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 :)
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!
i love peanut butter..great blog.
I’m canadian and have grown up loving nanaimo bars! But, peanutbutter nanaimo bars, SOLD! I can’t wait to make them.
These look incredible!!
Chocolate, peanut butter, graham crackers – yes yes yes! Perfect.
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!
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!
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!
These look awesome!
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!
I’ll take a stack of those bars, please!
Never heard about nanaimo bars before. But you are selling them very wel! I will try them out for sure!
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!
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 :)
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.
Love the PB filling!
Never had these, but they look fantastic! One of my favorite combos.
Living in Vancouver these are a staple. PB is an awesome twist!
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
I am Canadian and I hate Nanaimo bars (Sshh! Don’t tell “my people”!) THESE however, look amazing. Will be trying very soon!
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!
Can’t wait to try these! Love peanut butter! :)
I think I just died and went to heaven! Peanut Butter in Nanaimo Bars… you are brilliant!
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!
I have yet to try a Nanaimo bar but I bet this would be a great way to start!
Holy moly, do these look good! I love anything peanut butter and chocolate. These must be to die for.
Yum! This is like millionaires shortbread with peanut butter instead of caramel? (http://thewayfaringbaker.com/2013/05/26/monaco-grand-prix-billionnaires-shortbread/)
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.
HI, these sound great. My question, would I need to change anything for the bottom layer if I leave out the coconut? Thank you!
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.
How did the squares turn out without the coconut added?
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!
Na-nI-mo The name of the town they were invented in
How have I never heard of Nanaimo Bars before? They look amazing!
These have been on my must make list for a while now. Your peanut butter version sounds delicious!
These look like absolute heaven! I had never even heard of these bars before!
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!
Those look so delish! I love any bar where peanut butter is the star.
never will there ever be a combination more amazing than chocolate peanut butter. never!
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!
These look great! Peanut butter anything is delicious, but peanut butter with chocolate just rules!
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.
Nanaimo bars are my absolute favorite, so naturally I LOVE this idea! Can’t wait to try!
You just took one of my favorite desserts and put my favorite food into it. I am in heaven..
The filling options are very exciting. I’ve had cappuccino, mint, orange ….. but my favorite is the cappuccino.
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
These are not for those on a diet! Everything that can make fat is in them ;-DS But they look só good!!
Looks good to me
I’ve actually never heard of nanaimo bars before! I have no doubt I’d love these!
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! :)