Very Best Gluten Free Nanaimo Bars

Published on Nov 08, 2022

  by   Kristina Stosek

3 reviews

Prep Time: 15 + chill time minutes Cook Time: minutes Serves: 16 - 18
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There are few things as classic – or delicious – as a Nanaimo bar. And while there are many variations of this delicious gluten-free Nanaimo bar, one thing remains the same: they’re very famous!

If you’re looking for a traditional take on the gluten free Nanaimo bar, we’ve got you covered. We have also included a plant-based version for those that follow a vegan diet. 

stacked nanaimo bars for New Years


What is a Nanaimo bar?

Nanaimo bar is a no-bake dessert bar made with a cookie crumb base, custard buttercream filling, and chocolate ganache topping. 

The original recipe for Nanaimo bars was created in the 1950s, and they have since become a popular dessert item in Canada and spreading into America.

gluten free Nanaimo bar recipe overview

The crumb base is typically made with graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut, cocoa powder, sometimes nuts, and butter. 

cookie base for nanaimo bars in a pan


The custard cream filling is usually made with butter, custard powder and icing sugar. 

custard buttercream in a bowl


The chocolate ganache topping is made with dark chocolate and heavy cream or butter.

top view of nanaimo bars in a loaf pan


Nanaimo bars are served chilled and will keep for up to 10 days when refrigerated.

Where does the Nanaimo bar recipe come from?

The Nanaimo bar recipe is believed to have originated in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, in the 1950s. The recipe gained popularity in Canada and eventually made its way to the United States, where it is now a popular dessert. 

The Nanaimo bar recipe has different variations, but the classic Nanaimo bar is the most popular.

Does gluten free Nanaimo bar taste the same as a regular bar?

There are a lot of people that are curious about whether or not gluten free Nanaimo bars taste the same as regular bars. 

The answer to this question is yes! This Gluten free Nanaimo bar tastes the same as regular bars but without gluten.

The main difference between the two types of bars is that gluten free Nanaimo bars are made with gluten free cookie base and gluten free custard powder. All other ingredients are naturally gluten free. 

This doesn’t mean that the gluten free Nanaimo bars have a different texture or flavor. The flavor is based on the type of gluten free cookie you use. 

Is there another name for Nanaimo bars in America?

The Nanaimo bar is a no-bake Canadian dessert that has recently gained popularity in the United States. 

While it is sometimes called a “Nanaimo bar cookie” or a “Canadian chocolate bar,” there is no official name for the dessert in America. 

However, some people have started calling it a “West Coast chocolate bar” due to its popularity on the West Coast of the United States.

Can gluten free Nanaimo bars be made dairy-free?

Yes absolutely! For a dairy-free version, here are the substitutions.

butter: vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)

cream: coconut cream or any plant-based milk

chocolate chips: gluten free vegan chocolate chips

custard powder: vegan custard powder (use vegan powdered milk in the recipe)

gluten free cookies: gluten free vegan cookies (you can make vegan 4 ingredient gluten free coconut cookies and use those) 

custard powder in a bowl with a spoon

Home Made Gluten Free Custard Powder Recipe

  • 1 cup milk powder or vegan milk powder
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/4 tsp. Powdered yellow food colouring or 1/2 tsp. GF ground turmeric
  • 6 tsp. Vanilla sugar (if you don’t have vanilla sugar, mix vanilla extract directly into the custard)

DIRECTIONS: Add all the ingredients to a food processor or blender, then blend for about 15 seconds. Store in an airtight container in your pantry.

How to store Nanaimo bars?

Assuming you have already made your Nanaimo bars, here are some tips on storing them: 

Nanaimo bars can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, lasting up to 10 days.

The filling softens if you store them at room temperature, so they’re best chilled. 

Gluten free Nanaimo bars freeze exceptionally well in an airtight container for up to 3 months. 

First, wrap them with cling wrap before placing them in an airtight container, so they don’t dry out before freezing. Then, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

stacked nanaimo bars

Why are Nanaimo bars so popular?

There are many reasons why Nanaimo bars are so popular. First of all, they are delicious! They have a chocolatey bottom layer, a creamy custard middle layer, and a chocolate ganache top layer. 

They are also easy to make and don’t have to be baked, which is another plus. And they will keep for up to 10 days when refrigerated.

And last but not least, they can easily be made gluten-free, which is excellent for those who are celiac or have gluten intolerance.

There’s no need to miss out on delicious Nanaimo bars just because you’re gluten free! These very best gluten free Nanaimo bars are every bit as good as the original.

Let’s connect

Meet Kristina. Passionate about creating delicious, innovative gluten free recipes, and author of two gluten free cookbooks, “Entertaining The Gluten Free Way” and “Small Bites The Gluten Free Way”.

Be sure to FOLLOW US on FACEBOOK or, check us out on PINTEREST. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter. We always have something new and exciting for you! 

Many thanks!

Kristina x

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