Ten Canadian Provinces of New Recipe Tuesday – Week Two – British Columbia – Nanaimo Bars

Welcome to Week Two of the Ten Canadian Provinces of New Recipe Tuesday! This week we explore the province of British Columbia, which has a long history as a populated area.

The history of British Columbia starts with the retreat of the great glaciers more than 10,000 years ago, and the crossing of people over the land bridge of the Bering Sea. These people were actually quite unique, in that they discovered plentiful food supplies in the area and became permanent settlers rather than nomads. They were able to focus less on survival and more on their culture. They developed complex languages, arts and strong ties to their region. The area remained this way for hundreds of years.

The first European explorers arrived in the area in the last 1700s, but it was not until the mid 1800s that gold was discovered and a mass of foreigners invaded the region. People from around the word came, as far away as China. Boomtowns emerged and similar to the Native American population, the aboriginal people were also decimated. The immigrants brought diseases that infected the local people and thousands died.

The area was originally claimed as Spanish territory, similar to the west coast of the United States, but was claimed as British territory with the fur trades. Interestingly, there was some dispute over BC as US territory during the same period that Washington, Oregon and California became US lands. In 1844, the US asserted that they held a legitimate claim to the Columbia District, but with the outbreak of the Mexican American War, then President Polk offered a compromise, drawing the official border between British North America and the United States at the 49th parallel from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Trying to find a recipe for British Columbia was both simple and challenging. I really wanted to make an entrée, but I had a very hard time finding a dish that was quintessential BC. There are so many influences on the region, that I really couldn’t find one dish that said “British Columbia”. What I did find was a dessert that was truly so much BC, that it is named after a city in the province. That dessert is called Nanaimo Bars.

Nanaimo Bars from British Columbia CA

There are no real concrete stories as to where this dessert came from, but its first printed origin dates back to the early 1950s. There are several variations, but the original is what is most famous. And in my research, I found that it is made all over Canada, and is also a big treat around this time of year. Several posts of the recipe actually have Canadian comments stating that they didn’t know this was a “Canada thing”; they just thought everyone made them. They are so popular in British Columbia that most pastry shops sell them.

I made the original version. This is a decadent and delicious treat, with a crumbly chocolate coconut nutty base, a butter cream middle and a semi-sweet chocolate top. The recipe makes an 8×8 inch pan, which is more than enough to treat a mid size gathering because it is so rich. My only critique is that the base layer was a bit thick and sort of fell apart when you ate it. I am thinking that I would reduce the graham cracker crumbs next time to try to make it bind better.

But overall, this was really delicious and I understand why they are so popular. I would absolutely make these again, and am looking forward to slipping them into the dessert options on Thanksgiving Day. A nice alternative option to the pie choices I am already planning.

Thanks for stooping by. See you next week in Manitoba!

Nanaimo Bars


Bottom Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs (I would probably reduce this to 1 cup)
  • ½ cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup coconut (I used unsweetened, although the original recipe did not distinguish)

Second Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Third Layer

  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter


For the bottom layer:

  1. Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Temper the egg and stir to cook and thicken (Roughly 3 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″ x 8″ pan.

For the second layer

  1. Cream butter, cream, pudding mix, and confectioner’s sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

For the third layer:

  1. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool.
  2. Once cool, but still liquid, pour and spread over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

Cut into 1 inch squares and serve slightly chilled and with a tall glass of milk!


Nanaimo Bars

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