No-Bake Vegan Nanaimo Bars
These no-bake vegan Nanaimo bars are easy to make with just a handful of wholesome ingredients but they taste just like the classic Christmas dessert.
You will absolutely love these homemade no-bake Nanaimo Bars. They taste just like the original but are made with just a handful of wholesome ingredients. No powdered sugar, no butter, no white sugar and no heavy cream.
This recipe is vegan and gluten-free and depending on the type of chocolate you use for the topping, it can be refined sugar-free.
Let’s go over the main ingredients you’ll need to make these:
- Raw cashews. You’ll need raw cashews to make the custard filling for these Nanaimo Bars. Cashews are soft so they blend easily to make the high-fat cream you need to set the filling. For best results, I recommend soaking the cashews before use. We’ll talk more about this below.
- Dates. You’ll need soft, moist dates to make the chocolate coconut crust. I would recommend using sayer, deglect noor or medjool dates.
- Walnuts. Raw walnuts add richness and texture to the crust.
- Coconut. You’ll need some unsweetened fine shredded coconut for the crust. Medium shredded coconut will work if that’s all you can find but a fine shred is best.
- Cocoa powder. To make the chocolate base you’ll need some regular cocoa powder or raw cacao powder.
- Chocolate. You’ll need chocolate to make the chocolate ganache topping for the bars. I used dairy-free chocolate chips but some good dark chocolate works great too. If using dark chocolate, I recommend sticking to around 70% cocoa so it’s not too bitter.
- Maple syrup. Pure maple syrup is needed for sweetening the custard filling. The only suitable alternative is agave syrup.
- Coconut oil. There’s no getting around the coconut oil in this recipe unfortunately, so it can’t be made oil-free. Because coconut oil hardens when chilled, it’s perfect for setting the custard filling.
- Coconut milk. It’s important to use good quality, thick and creamy full-fat coconut milk. When selecting coconut milk at the store, give the can a good shake. If it sounds watery and liquidy it’s probably not the best option. It should feel almost solid when you shake it so you shouldn’t hear much swishing around.
Coconut Milk Notes
- Like I said above, it’s important use a good quality, full-fat coconut milk that’s thick and creamy. It should not seem watery when you shake the can.
- Before you open the coconut milk, shake very well.
- If it seems lumpy when you open it, dump the whole can in the blender and give it a quick blitz until smooth, then pour into a container for storing since you’ll only need some of it for the recipe.
Proportions and Serving Size
I did my best to get the proportions right but the middle and bottom layers are probably a little thicker than a traditional Nanaimo bar. You might be able to make it in a small square baking dish for a thinner bar or you could double the recipe to make a large pan of bars.
I don’t mind them being a bit thicker but I would suggest slicing them into 16 mini bars instead of 8 large squares because they’re quite decadent!
Before you Start
Before you start there are a few things you need to do:
- Soak the cashews. See notes below for how long to soak.
- Prepare a standard-sized loaf pan lined with parchment paper. You want the edges of the parchment hanging out over the sides so you can easily lift out the finished bars.
How to Soak the cashews
If you have a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix or Blentec, you can “quick soak” the cashews by bringing them to a boil stovetop in a small pot of water then removing from the heat and letting soak for 15 minutes. You can also just pour boiled water over them in a bowl and soak for 15 minutes.
There is no harm in letting them soak for longer though, so you can also soak them in a bowl of water at room temperature for a few hours up to overnight.
What if I don’t have a high-speed blender?
If you don’t have a high-speed blender, you’ll need to soak the cashews for at least 8 hours up to overnight.
Step by Step Instructions
These Nanaimo bars really are easy to make. There’s a bit of blending involved but no baking or any other tricky methods or techniques. Anyone can make them! Let’s go through the steps.
Step 1. Make the Crust
The crust is easy to make with just 4-ingredients. You’ll need cocoa powder, dates, coconut and walnuts. To make it, toss everything in a food processor and mix into a thick dough. Press the dough into the loaf pan you lined with parchment paper.
Quick Note: The dough will seem crumbly when blended but it should stick together if you press it between your fingers. If it seems to dry, add 1 tsp of warm water and blend again. Repeat if needed.
Step 2. Make the filling
Next, let’s tackle the filling! The filling is best made in a high-speed blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec. Add the soaked cashews, coconut milk, turmeric, maple syrup and coconut oil to the blender and process until smooth and creamy.
After you’ve blended the filling, pour it over the prepared crust in the loaf pan and place the whole pan into the freezer for a couple hours to set. As soon as it’s firm, it’s ready for the chocolate topping.
Step 3. Make the Chocolate Ganache
Last step! The chocolate ganache. This part is easy. Just melt some chocolate and vegan butter and pour it over the firmed custard filling.
How to Melt the Chocolate: You can either melt the chocolate in the microwave or melt it stovetop, ideally using a double boiler. To melt it in the microwave, start with 20 seconds then stir every 15 seconds. Once there are just a few chunks or chocolate chips left, stir until they’ve melted and it’s smooth and creamy.
Do I have to use vegan butter in the ganache?
The purpose of the vegan butter in the ganache is to make it a little softer and more ganache-like when it firms up. It also prevents the chocolate from cracking when you slice the bars. You can leave it out but just keep that in mind!
Step 4. Set in the freezer then cut and enjoy!
You did it! Set the whole pan in the fridge or freezer to set. It will firm faster in the freezer so pop the whole thing in there if you’re just dying to try one.
Once the chocolate is completely hardened, carefully run a thin knife along the end of the pan where there’s no parchment, then use the flaps of parchment paper to lift the entire bar out and onto a cutting board. Cut into 8 squares and enjoy!
Here are some more fun treats to add to your Christmas list:
- Easy Vegan Turtles
- Vegan Rum Balls
- Gluten-Free Vegan Thumbprints
- Vegan Eggnog
- Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
- Vegan Pecan Pie Bars
- Healthy Hot Chocolate
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For the Chocolate Coconut Crust
- 1 cup packed, soft pitted dates (220 g)
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder (25 g)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened fine shredded coconut (50 g)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or walnut pieces (60 g)
For the Custard Filling
- 1 cup raw cashews (140 g)
- 1/4 cup + 3 tbsp thick and creamy full-fat coconut milk (105 g)
- 3 tbsp coconut oil (45 g, measured solid)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup (85 g)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Ganache
- 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips or finely chopped dark chocolate (85 g)
- 1 tbsp vegan butter (15 g, optional but makes it a little softer like ganache and prevents the chocolate from cracking when sliced)
- If you’re using a high-speed blender, soak the cashews for 15 minutes (longer is ok) in boiled water before proceeding with the recipe. If you do not have a high-speed blender, soak the cashews in room temperature water for at least 8 hours up to overnight.
- When you’re ready to make the recipe, line a standard-sized loaf pan with parchment paper so that there are two flaps sticking out either side.
- To make the chocolate crust, add the ingredients to a food processor and mix into a crumbly dough. The dough will seem a bit crumbly but should stick together if you press it with your fingers. Use your hands to firmly press the dough into the prepared loaf pan to form one even layer.
- To make the custard filling, drain the cashews and add them to a high-speed blender with the coconut oil, coconut milk (see notes), turmeric, vanilla and maple syrup. Start blending on low then slowly increase the speed until it’s completely smooth and creamy. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan over the chocolate crust. Place the entire pan in the freezer for 1-2 hours to set. Once it’s firm, you can add the chocolate ganache.
- To make the chocolate, add the chocolate and vegan butter to a small bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring every 15-20 seconds. When it’s mostly melted but still a bit lumpy, gently stir until it’s smooth and creamy. If you prefer, melt the chocolate stovetop using a double boiler.
- Gently spread the chocolate over the set custard filling until smooth.
- Set the pan in the fridge for 20-25 minutes until the chocolate has hardened.
- Gently run a knife along the ends of the pan where there is no parchment paper then use the flaps of parchment to lift the entire bar out of the pan. Place on a cutting board and slice into 8 large squares or 16 small bars. They are quite rich and decadent so I like to do 16 smaller mini-bars.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freezer for up to 2 months. If storing in the freezer, let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. They are best stored in the fridge.
There are lots of helpful tips and notes in the post above so be sure to have a read before you start making the recipe.
Shake the coconut milk very well before opening. If it’s lumpy when you open it, pour the whole can into your blender and blitz until smooth before using.
Keywords: healthier, raw, no baking, christmas, plant-based