The Christmas season is upon us which means that our houses will be filled with special treats that are typically made once a year. You know how much I love being able to experiment with and adapt recipes to be gluten free and dairy free, so I just had to give Nanaimo bars a try.
My husband’s family has always made homemade Nanaimo bars. A treat that many people love around the holiday season. Nanaimo bars can be flavored in so many different ways (i.e. peppermint, cherry, etc.) and I encourage you to try your own version based on your flavor preference. This recipe mimics traditional Nanaimo bars which are usually made with butter, heavy cream, graham crumbs and custard powder. Custard powder is a mixture of cornstarch and artificial food dyes, typically containing tartrazine which many children and adults are sensitive to. Instead, I made my own “custard powder” by using corn starch and turmeric powder. Although this recipe is a better option for those who are sensitive to dairy, gluten, artificial food dyes or are looking for a vegan recipe, it is still loaded with sugar so I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “healthier” version. It’s a treat to be enjoyed for the occasion with your loved ones.
Nanaimo Bars (Gluten Free, Vegan)
- 1/2 cup vegan butter, melted (I used Earth Island® vegan buttery sticks)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup Kinnikinnick® gluten free graham style crumbs
- ½ cup almonds, chopped
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- ¼ cup vegan butter, at room temperature (1/2 stick)
- 3 tbsp coconut cream
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- 1.5 cups confectioners’ icing sugar
- 4 ounces semisweet dairy free chocolate broken into pieces
- 1 tbsp vegan butter (I used Earth Island® vegan buttery sticks)
Bottom Layer: In a medium bowl, melt the butter in a microwave. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder. Then add in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped almonds. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the pan using your knuckles. Place in the freezer.
Meanwhile, prepare the buttercream: In a large bowl, use electric beaters to cream room temperature butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add coconut cream, corn starch and turmeric and mix until combined, scraping sides and bottom of the work bowl as needed. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and mix on low until incorporated. Add remaining confectioners’ sugar and mix on low until combined, scraping the bottom of the bowl as needed, then mix on medium-high speed until smooth, light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove loaf pan from refrigerator. Dollop the buttercream on top of the base layer then gently spread it evenly on top using an offset spatula. Transfer pan to the freeze to chill until buttercream is set, about 30 minutes.
Prepare the topping: In a small saucepan or a double boiler, heat the chocolate and butter over low, stirring often, until melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Take loaf pan from refrigerator and pour chocolate on top of buttercream layer. Working quickly and carefully, spread the chocolate evenly over the buttercream using an offset spatula.
Return pan to refrigerator and chill until chocolate hardens, about 25 minutes.
To serve the bars: Lift parchment paper from the loaf pan to remove Nanaimo square. Cut into 12 squares by warming a knife under water and gently making a sawing motion to melt through the chocolate layer and then firmly pressing down to cut through the base. Store bars in an air tight container in the freezer until ready to serve.