Raw + Vegan Nanaimo Bars

I woke up yesterday craving Nanaimo bars – a dessert usually reserved for Christmas. But with the hubby gone to London, a day of absolutely no plans, and a craving for chocolate, I decided to just go for it.

As we’ve learned from similar experiences in the past, I love my chocolate treats on the weekend and this was no different.

I figure, if you adjust a dense, high sugar Christmas dessert recipe into a light, raw and vegan treat, you’ve transformed the dessert into something that can be enjoyed year round. My logic seems sound, wouldn’t you say?

This is a rhetorical question. Woman to woman you know that you’ll come up with just about any excuse to drown yourself in chocolate when the opportunity presents itself.

Instead of making the custard out of powdered sugar like like the classic Nanaimo bar, I opted to use almond butter. This was partly because I didn’t have any powdered sugar and was to lazy to get out of my pajamas and go to the store, and also because I was trying to healthify the classic recipe, not drown myself in processed sugar. Although there are days I make cookies with brown sugar, bars with white sugar, and fall victim to the 5 cent candy bin at 7-11, this was not one of those days!

I set off with the goal of making the bars nut-free but that kind of bombed when I realized I only had 1/2 cup left of quinoa flakes and really wanted to reserve them for my afternoon quinoa flake bake. So I scrapped nut-free and decided to do the grain-free thing instead.

If you’re allergic to nuts or want to decrease the fat in these bars, you could try replacing the almond butter with sunflower butter and the coconut and ground almonds with oats, quinoa flakes, or a mixture of quinoa flakes and ground sunflower seeds without affecting the recipe too much.

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Raw and Vegan Nanaimo Bars
Recipe type: Vegan, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Refined sugar-free, Yeast-free, Corn-free, Grain-free
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16 squares
Sinfully delicious raw + vegan nanaimo bars made with coconut oil, almond butter, and loads of fresh vanilla bean.
Bottom layer
Middle layer
  • 1 cup raw almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • flesh from 2 vanilla beans or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Top layer
  • 4oz. unsweetened bakers chocolate *see note
  • 2 tablespoon xylitol, ground or 20 drops liquid stevia concentrate *see note
  1. Line 8×8 pan with parchment paper across both sides for easy lifting. Oil the places that show through with a dab of coconut oil and set aside.
  2. Bottom Layer: : In a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the coconut oil. Gradually add in cocoa powder, whisking until incorporated. Add the date syrup, and vanilla. Stir in ground almonds and coconut. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until firm.
  3. Middle Layer: In your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and beat until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more almond milk. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.
  4. Top Layer: In a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Add xylitol and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate for about 10 minutes, just until the chocolate has set. Don’t wait too long or it will be impossible to cut the bars. Cut into 16 squares with a sharp knife. Place the cut squares back in the fridge to allow the chocolate to harden so they’re not so messy to eat!
    unpasteurized honey (not vegan), or brown rice syrup can be used in place of the date syrup. Semi-sweet chocolate squares can be used instead of the unsweetened, I just like sweetening it myself so opted for unsweetened. To grind xylitol, place in a coffee grinder and process until powdery like powdered sugar. If you add xylitol to the chocolate as is, it will remain in its crystallized form.

    If I play my cards right and stick to just consuming a bar a day, I should have a couple leftover for Kevin to try when he gets home… but I’m not committing to anything just yet.

    What sorts of treats do you like to prepare when your significant other is away?

    psst… don’t forget to check to see who won the kitchen gadget giveaway!

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    Comments | Leave Your Comment

      • ohh mint nanaimo, how delicious! Thanks for the comment about my footer, Alex! The blog is undergoing a redesign in stages – the colored footer is just the beginning! I can’t wait to release everything as it looks a bit disjointed right now. Have a fabulous Monday :)

    1. I have never actually tried making a ‘real’ nanaimo bar but they always look so divine..well, the ones that I have seen on Oh She Glows and now Healthful Pursuit! YUM!!!!! I tend to try crazy concoctions and never follow a recipe when Travis is away..he is more of a stickler when it comes to following recipes! :)

      • Too funny that you mentioned not following recipes when Travis is away. Kevin is the same way with recipes, measuring out things perfectly… drives me batty!

    2. I’ve never tried a nanaimo bar but I’ve only ever heard good things about them. I guess this Summer is the time to change that.

      • Heck yes it is, Evan! All that chocolate? This recipe has your name all over it!

    3. You must have been reading my mind Leanne, just yesterday I was wondering if there was such a thing as a healthier Nanaimo bar and was going to go Google it…now I don’t have to! Hailing from the Island housing this bar’s namesake, I’m even more excited to give your recipe a go and feed it to my friends and fam.

      • You’re the second person to say that this morning, Krista! I must be in tune with everyone’s cravings… today at least!

    4. Ooh these sound great! Nanaimo bars are certainly one of those things that shouldn’t just be reserved for Christmas (turkey is another, in my opinion). ;) That’s such a great idea to use the almond butter instead. Isn’t it amazing to see what kind of delicious creations you can make in times of desperation? Enjoy the last day of the long weekend Leanne! :)

      • I totally agree with you on eating turkey all year round. Kevin and I were just talking about cooking a big bird in the coming weeks. It makes so many leftovers we’re usually good for dinners for a month!

        • Wow, it’s pretty exciting to see a vegan recipe like this. Not so exciting when the commenters start taling about “cooking a big bird”. Woweee, imagine if i spoke of cooking up “a little puppy”, that’s how gross i find it. What a shame so few people in life are truly compassionate.

          • Hi Amanda – thank you for sharing your perspective. I can see how my words are so compassionate and for that, I apologize. I hope you’ll try my recipe. It’s a true treat! Have a great day :)

    5. I have but one thing to say…


      Oh, and this: brilliant, beautiful, amazing, incredible, mouth watering, superb! I want one NOW!

      This is so going on my must try list!

      Oh, and one more thing… your pictures? Magazine worthy! Awesome job!

      • Thanks, Sonia! I was kind of unhappy with the way the pictures turned out actually. It’s so challenging to take pictures of chocolate/dark things! Glad you like the photos ;)

    6. This looks wonderful; I can’t wait to try them. I do have a question though. I don’t use xylitol and all I have is powdered stevia. How much powdered stevia would be good? Thanks for posting this! :D

      • For powdered stevia, I’d start at 1/4 tsp. Hope that helps!

    7. They looks so delicious and I’d never tried the nanaimo bars, but I have to try them, cause they look so so delicious!!! Have a wonderfull day.

    8. I’ve never tried a nanaimo bar before, but everytime I see pictures of them on blogs I drool! (Ok, maybe not drool, but still.. ;)) They look so delicious! This recipe’s getting saved for sure :)

      • I wouldn’t judge you if you drooled. It happens on occasion here. Lexy is the worst for it when I have a big bowl of rice. She’ll sit at my feet and just stare at me, drooling all over my toes. It’s gross, but so cute!

    9. revamping the Nanaimo has been on my list for ages (like, pre-blog!). It is a rainy Monday, it is our anniversary and Jason is in town, I am making these today!!

      heh. when Jason is out of town, I make things with squash and avocado and broccoli. :D

      • Happy Anniversary, Kristina! Can’t wait to see what you do with the recipe. Have a fabulous, snuggle-bum rainy day!

    10. It really isn’t Christmas to me without Naniamo Bars. If I could of asked you to convert one recipe, this would be the one. I can’t wait to try these, and I’m not waiting until Christmas either. Thanks for the recipe.

      • Sure thing, just use the measurements for the xylitol – 2 tablespoons should be plenty, depending on how sweet you like your chocolate.

    11. Brilliant! I was so excited to see this, and I cannot wait to try these…you’re awesome!

    12. Wow these do look incredible! And thanks for the tip on grinding xylitol :-) why have I never thought of that? I have tried using it on making coconut oil chocolates (which I love!) but it always turn out grainy. Now I will try grinding it for sure!

      • Grinding xylitol takes it to a whole other level! You can use it just like powdered sugar… the opportunities are endless! Enjoy ;)

    13. Thanks Leanne! I was wanting a nanaimo bar recipe I could actually eat! My hubby is in London too. Left on Sat.


    14. Ooh, these look awesome! I love traditional nanaimo bars but they are just too rich. These look like a way nicer version. When I’m making something just for myself I go for anything chocolate since my hubby doesn’t like it.

    15. I will NEVER forget my first Nanaimo bar so long ago! After walking around Victoria BC for HOURS, we stumbled in to a little deli/backery and found these delicious little treats. We ate them and walked back down to the ferry. I cravved them after that with no way to satisfy that craving. I searched high and low for a recipe as I could not get them off my mind. I did finally find one and it was pretty much what we had in Victoria. I never imagined they could be made healthier, but you may have done it! Will have to try these.Thank you!

    16. Yummm!
      If you didn’t care too much about the fat content, could you use peanut butter instead of almond butter?

      • For sure you could, that would be delicious! I’m allergic to peanuts, so I didn’t go there… but I bet it would work wonderfully!

    17. I’ve never had a nanaimo bar but I know one of my friends loves them so I feel like it’s finally time to try them out, in her honor :) These sound incredible – what’s not to love! I have some cashew butter I need to use up and I imagine that would work well in the middle layer – what do you think?

    18. Genius! I LOVE nanaimo bars and these sound like a great adaptation of a very tummy-unfriendly recipe :) My tummy will be much happier snacking on your version. Pics are fabulous as always! Good luck saving one for Kevin! Hehe.

    19. These look so delicious! However, is there anything I can use to replace the shredded coconut?

      • Thanks Kristen, you could try replacing coconut with extra ground almonds, oats, quinoa flakes, or a mixture of quinoa flakes and ground sunflower seeds without affecting the recipe too much. Good luck!

    20. I am FROM Nanaimo! I can’t wait to try making these – I have also been on the lookout for a non-dairy, no-grain, unrefined sugar version of these. Like Cara, I also thought cashew butter would be good.

      • Lucky! I love Nanaimo! Do you still live there now, Alexis?

    21. Man oh man… I’ve never tried a Nanaimo Bar, but whatever the original is, this looks like my cup of tea for sure ;)

    22. Congrats on getting a “delicious links” mention from The Kitchn today! You deserve it, these look great!

    23. I made some of these bars last night….I’d say you don’t commit to having some by the time Kevin comes back! I had them for breakfast, for goodness’ sake!

      I’d love to try them with other kinds of nut butters!

      • Ya, commitment off. Glad he’s been too busy to read the blog or I’d be hooped into saving a couple. Phewf!

    24. Hi I just wanted to say how awesome this recipe looked to me…but when I lloked closer to the page, I hit the top banner (yep reinforcing not to do that!)

      I’m very disappointed in the upper banner which leads to a site promoting High Fructose Corn Sirup (a site by some kind of association of corn, of course they will say nothing is wrong with it and interpret only evidence that they can use and making general statements, like almost as or even saying the GI of HFCS has never been tested but must be about the same as… based on… nothing)

      Then I looked a little closer to your whole site and also found Cheerios advertising (now that one is clearly an ad) on there. I think that is giving out a very mixed and unethical message as you seem to promote a clearly natural lifestyle. People not as knowledgeable as you and I will think that can eat HFCS and Cheerios and think it fits what you try to promote.

      Please explain!!

      • Hi there – unfortunately not all advertising on the blog is chosen by me. I’m sponsored by Glam Media and Google Adsense. Although I define what is and is not appropriate, sometimes there are certain ads that come through that I do not endorse. I’ve been made aware of the corn syrup ads and have asked that they be removed, but these things take time. I hope that you’ll bare with me and understand. Unfortunately I’m at a place where I cannot run the blog without ads as it is soon going to be my only source of income. I am not by any means ‘selling myself to the dark side’ but as business goes, advertising usually doesn’t reflect the statements and beliefs on my blog. Hopefully I’ll be at a place one day where I get to choose my sponsors however that isn’t the case presently.

    25. Hi Leanne,

      I appreciate your honesty and quick response!!

      That shows who you are and some people just don’t allow comments like this or response. You don’t which is great.

      Take a look here, I just for it and love the fact that more and more people are aware and taking action!!

      To all our health!


      • Thank you for understanding. I welcome any comments that come my way! If I had visited a blog a couple of years ago and noticed similar ads, I would be thrown off as well! Now introduced to the way that ads are displayed through the several networks, sometimes we’re not able to control everything that comes through. I want to make sure your visit to HP is a pleasant one and appreciate everyone giving me the heads up on it. Have a fabulous weekend!

    26. They look gorgeous! And healthy! I am not really versed in N. American treats and I didn’t know nanaimo bars existed as non minty ones as well… Dunno about the xylithol but I am hoping I will make these one day… so many, way too many recipes in my head… I was going to say “presently” but will have to change that to “all the time”. LOL
      As for the photos: they’re spectacular because the bars look like they’re sculpted! Good cutting skills! :) Also, I never look at the ads at whatever website I am at. I think we’re all abused by them and they all pop randomly and I would’ve never associated them with the website… You just keep giving us good stuff & it’ll be fine! :)

    27. I LOVE nanaimo bars but as with all my baking I like a HEALTHIER version. This looks like the perfect recipes for my family. Thank-you for posting, Carol.

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