Vegan Nanaimo Crunch Bars (Easier than You Think!)

Vegan Nanaimo Crunch Bars (Easier than You Think!)

These chocolatey, creamy and crunchy bars are to DIE for.

“These Nanaimo bars are to die for, Serena” - my Dad.

Chocolate, cream, and coconut, with a crunch. What’s not to love about this dessert?

The Nanaimo bars, in the pan.

So, what is a Nanaimo bar?

The Nanaimo bar is a no-bake dessert that is named after the city of Nanaimo in British Columbia, Canada. Growing up in Vancouver, I thought everyone knew about Nanaimo bars. It wasn’t until I moved out of the province that I learned that these delicious chocolate-y bars are unique to this part of the country!

Nanaimo bars typically consist of 3 layers: a wafer, nut, and coconut crumb base; custard icing in the middle; and a layer of chocolate ganache on top.

What’s with the saltine crackers?

I was visiting family the other month. My parents LOVE Nanaimo bars, so I wanted to make some for them.

I realized I didn’t have any graham crackers, so I used saltine crackers as a substitute.. The result was a delicious chocolatey, creamy bar that was sweet, salty, and crunchy. I don’t know why this hasn’t been done before!

Nanaimo bars seem complicated to make, but they are EASY! There are really only 4 simple steps to making delicious Nanaimo bars:

  • 1. Make the base.
  • 2. Make the cream layer.
  • 3. Make the chocolate layer.
  • 4. Assemble the bars.

No special technique or special kitchen tools required!

The base: chocolate and sugar.

For the base layer, you could use a double boiler if you like. That’s what I recommend. If you don’t have a double boiler, melting the ingredients in a regular pot over the stove is fine! If you go the regular pot route, make sure to keep an eye on the mixture as you heat it, so it doesn’t burn!

If you’re using a double boiler, feel free to dump the ingredients in and walk away. Just don’t walk too far away because it’ll take only about 2-3 minutes for all the ingredients to melt!

The saltine cracker mix.

Once the butter mixture has melted, you can add in the oil and flax and stir well. Then add the saltine crackers and coconut shreds.

The base.

Press down into an 8x8 pan or a loaf pan, depending on how thick you like your bars. Using an 8x8 pan will yield relatively thinner bars.

Put in the fridge or freezer to chill. I like to use the freezer since it’s faster!

The base.

For the cream layer, it’s very simple: mix together all the ingredients, except the icing sugar, and until light and fluffy, then add in the icing sugar and cream until smooth.

If you have a hand mixer, the creaming process will take just a few minutes. A bit more patience and hard work will be required if creaming by hand!

The base.

Once the cream layer is ready, you can spread it onto the base layer and put the bars back in the freezer to cool.

Spreading the cream layer.

For the top chocolate layer, it’s ridiculously easy: microwave together chocolate chips and vegan butter until smooth and silky. That’s it!

Melting the chocolate.

Spread the chocolatey mixture on top of the chilled bars, and let the bars cool for another 15 minutes. And that’s it! You’ve made Nanaimo bars!

Spreading the chocolate layer on the cream base.

Wondering about substitutions?

The following substitutions should work well:

  • 1 3/4 cup graham crackers instead of saltine crackers.
  • 2 tbsp vegan egg (e.g., Just Egg) instead of the 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp flax in the base.
  • Homemade cashew cream instead of store bought vegan creamer.
  • Carob powder instead of cacao powder.

The Nanaimo bars, plated.

This recipe is super versatile. Using this recipe as a base, you could make the following variations:

  • Peanut butter Nanaimo bars: add 2 tbsp of peanut butter to the cream layer.
  • Cream egg Nanaimo bars: use a vegan cream egg filling for the middle layer.
  • Bourbon Nanaimo bars: add a splash of Bourbon to the middle layer.

  • 16 servings
  • 30 minutes
  • 30 minutes

Ingredients

The base

  • 1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 1/2 cup saltine crackers, crumbled (about 30 crackers)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Cream layer

  • 1/2 cup vegan butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp vegan cream (I like Silk’s soy creamer)
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder (I use Bird’s)
  • 2 cups icing sugar

Top layer

  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons vegan butter

Directions

First, make the base

  1. Crumble the soda crackers into a medium bowl. The larger the crumbs, the crunchier the Nanaimo bar!
  2. In the top of a double boiler, combine a 1/2 cup of vegan butter, white sugar, and cocoa powder. Stir until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove the butter mixture from heat and add in the flax seed and oil. Mix well.
  4. Mix in the crumbled saltine crackers and shredded coconut.
  5. Press into the bottom of a loaf pan if you enjoy thick bars, or an 8x8 pan if you thinner bars.
  6. Put in the freezer to chill, while you make the cream layer.

Next, make the cream layer

  1. Add the 1/2 cup of vegan butter, heavy cream, and custard powder into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Cream with a hand mixer or by hand until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the icing sugar, and cream together until smooth.
  4. Grab the chilled base from the fridge or freezer, and spread the cream mixture over the base.
  5. Put in the freezer to chill, while you make the top layer.

Finally, we make the chocolate layer

  1. Melt together the chocolate chips and vegan butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for about 45 seconds at a time, stirring in between. Microwave until the mixture is soft and silky. This should take about 2 minutes.

Assemble the bars

  1. Once the base and cream layer have chilled and set, spread the melted chocolate over the bars.
  2. Let the bars chill once again in the fridge or freezer. This should take about 15 minutes.
  3. Cut into the bars, and enjoy!

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