Vegan Nanaimo Bars, made much healthier, as well as gluten-free and optionally nut-free. Better than the original with decadent flavor!
Have you ever had Nanaimo Bars? These cookie bars originated from Nanaimo, BC. Most definitely a classic Canadian dessert – but it should be enjoyed everywhere!
Which brings me to today’s post. I loved these dessert bars growing up. They have a dense, chewy chocolate base, a creamy-sweet centre, and a silky chocolate topping.
Sometimes the filling is flavored with peppermint or mocha for variations on the traditional version, yet I prefer the original.
Many years have gone by since I’ve had a Nanaimo Bar. As you can see from the original version, they are very heavy on butter, cream, eggs – and also sugar.
I decided to veganize them. Dreena-ize them!
Gawd, I’m a dork. (Just ask my kids.)
So I did. I reinvented this cookie square, using much (much!) less sugar, and also using whole foods vegan ingredients.
I even offer a whole-foods idea/option on the chocolate topping layer if you don’t want to use chocolate chips.
To make these nut-free, I use pumpkin seeds or tiger nut flour. Tiger nuts are actually a tuber, not a nut! I’ve been tinkering with recipes using tiger nut flour and butter for months now, and love it. If you can’t find it or don’t need these to be nut-free, simply use pumpkin seeds.
Here are some more vegan desserts you you’re going to LOVE:
Dreena’s Vegan Nanaimo Bars
- 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds or tiger nut flour can also use almond meal
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 3/4 cup coconut butter butter not oil
- 3/4 cup natural icing sugar see note
- 3 tbsp non-dairy ‘egg nog’ or canned coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
Topping: (see note for version without chocolate chips)
- 1 cup chunked non-dairy chocolate bar or chocolate chips
- 2 1/2 tbsp regular coconut milk canned, regular, not lite – see note
Prepare the Base: In a food processor, add the dates and rolled oats and pulse several times until coming together and slightly crumbly. Then add the Cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla, and processed through until the mixture starts to become sticky. Finally, add the almond meal or tiger not flour and coconut, and process through until the mixture is very sticky and will hold together when pressed with your fingers. Remove mixture from processor and press into a brownie pan (8” x 8”) lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator.
Prepare the Middle Layer: For this layer I use my mini-processor, since my processor is 16-cup. If you have a smaller processor that you used for the first layer, go ahead and clean it out to use again for this middle layer. Otherwise, use a mini-processor. Add all ingredients to the processor and pulse/process through until just combined. Try not to over blend as the mixture will heat and become oily. Once combined and smooth, transfer to your brownie pan, spreading evenly over the first layer. Place back in refrigerator.
Top Layer: if making the chocolate bar/chips topping, prepare a hot water bath. To do so, use a small sauce pan and fill with hot water. place a heatproof one that will fully cover the top of the saucepan and prevent steam from entering the bull. Add the chocolate chips and the coconut milk and set over a low heat. Stir through as the mixture melts together once fully melted together and smooth remove from heat. Pour the chocolate topping over top of your bars, and refrigerate until set.
- To serve, simply cut into 16-20 squares/bars and enjoy. Extra bars can be frozen, if they last that long!
- Coconut Butter: If you aren’t familiar with coconut butter, see this post.
- Icing Sugar Notes: You have two options for icing sugar. Either pulse coconut sugar in the blender until it’s very fine like icing sugar, or purchase a ready-made natural icing sugar. Natural icing sugars are blended from unrefined cane sugar so is less processed than standard icing sugar.
- Note that if you are using coconut sugar and process it in a blender, it will have a natural caramel color. So the filling will then be a caramel color and not traditional yellow. I promise the flavour will still be incredibly good, though! I experimented with a full 1 cup of sugar here. That extra 1/4 cup gives a thicker centre layer that is just a little more firm. So, you can use up to 1 cup if you like. When testing here, everyone agreed that the 3/4 cup version was sweet enough for us!
- Coconut Milk Note: In the filling, I really enjoy the subtle flavour of a vegan egg nog, either using almond, soy, or coconut nog. If you prefer, use canned coconut milk. Some will be used in the topping, so you can use additional coconut milk in the filing layer.
- Topping Note: Using chocolate chips brings a traditional chocolate topping layer to these bars. If you’d prefer a more whole-foods version, use the Chocolate Ganache, page 211, Plant-Powered Families.
photography credit: Marika Collins
Please share feedback with me if you love these vegan nanaimo bars – and also share this recipe with friends!