I tried a vegan Nanaimo bar in Canada last year for the first time and I realised that I needed to make my own version with a twist! These are vegan Nanaimo bar slices and are made from a creamy, frozen custard filling which sits between a 'coconutty' cookie crust and a thin layer of chocolate. They taste so much like the real thing.
These delicious traditional treats take less than 30 minutes to prepare (minus the chill time). If you are a person that loves to try different desserts from around the globe, I highly recommend that you give these a go!
Topped with flaked almonds, these no-bake bars are everything I want on a warm summer's day as they're actually incredibly refreshing. The crust gives them a great crunch, while the filling is quite the opposite being so velvety smooth, with a beautiful sweetness.
I also think you'll love many of my other refreshing no-bake treats like my vegan banoffee pie, vegan black forest cheesecake and vegan blueberry cream pie. I hope you can find inspiration in them all!
What Are Nanaimo Bars?
Nanaimo bars are a traditional Canadian dessert named after the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island (British Columbia). They're made up of three layers. A coconut and nut base, a custard filling and a chocolate topping.
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- A Thick Creamy Filling - The center of each frozen bar is filled with a thick layer of homemade custard. They are built similarly to my vegan strawberry cheesecake bars and vegan blueberry cheesecake bars, yet they taste so different.
- Copycat Recipe - This vegan recipe tastes just like their non-vegan Nanaimo bar counterparts and are fairly authentic to how they are in North America.
- Easy to Follow - The method is very simple and you can't go wrong when following it.
- Allergy Friendly & Plant Based - These bars are fully vegan and dairy free.
- Digestives - These are for the crust. I used quite a lot so that it was nice and thick.
- Raw Cashews - Soak these overnight so that they become nice and soft. This will make it far easier to blend them when making the filling. They enhance the texture of no-bake treats hugely. If you have made my vegan baked peach cobbler cheesecake or my vegan strawberry shortcake white chocolate cheesecake, you will have used them before for a similar purpose.
- Instant Custard Powder - I love to use Bird's custard powder in the U.K as it is accidentally vegan. It also gives the cheesecake filling a nice yellow colour.
- Vegan Double Cream - This will make the chocolate topping easier to slice as well as giving it a creamier taste.
See recipe card for full information on individual ingredients and quantities.
Substitutions & Variations
- If you're feeling health conscious, you can leave out the sugar or just add less. You can add a drop or two more of maple syrup but don't add too much maple as the consistency of the filling could be affected negatively.
- You can also leave out the almonds. This would have to be because you don't like them and not because the an allergy as the cashews can't be replaced in this recipe. If it is because you simply don't like them, you could alternatively, top the bars with a different type of nut such as, chopped peanuts like I did in my vegan snickers cheesecake.
How To Make Vegan Nanaimo Bar Custard Slices
For the full method, please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
1: Line a 8-inch, square baking tin with parchment paper.
2: Make the base and press it into the lined tin.
3: Blend the cashews with water.
4: Add the remaining custard filling ingredients and blend again.
5: Pour the filling over the base and freeze.
6: Make the chocolate topping.
7: Remove the bars from the freezer. Thaw a little.
8: Pour the chocolate topping over the custard filling and top with flaked almonds. Set in the fridge.
Slice into thinner bars - These bars are quite thick, so I suggest that you slice these into 16 or 20 bars instead of 8 or 12. It's certainly easier to eat them this way!
Don't skip soaking the cashews - Hard cashews won't blend very well and you therefore, won't have a smooth filling. Always soak beforehand.
Yes, store them inside airtight containers and freeze for up to 2-3 months. Alternatively, you can store them in the fridge for a few days but if they become too soft for your liking, stick them back in the freezer.
As you will have soaked the cashews overnight they should be soft enough to blitz inside a regular, less-powerful blender. Regardless of the power of your blender, make sure that you use a large one as there are lots of ingredients in this recipe.
I prefer to soak my cashews overnight. I leave them in water for roughly 8 hours and they become very soft. If you want to speed things up or you simply forgot, you can pour boiling water over them and let them soak for an hour.
More Vegan Bar Recipes That You'll Enjoy
If you tried this Vegan Nanaimo Bar Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the 📝 comments below. I love hearing from you!
Vegan Nanaimo Bar Custard Slices (No-Bake + Gluten Free Option)
For the crust:
- 300 g vegan Digestives or gluten free version or Graham crackers, blitzed into crumbs
- 180 g vegan butter melted
- 60 g desiccated coconut
- 2.5 Tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
For the custard cheesecake filling:
- 300 g raw unsalted cashews soaked overnight
- 120 ml water
- 180 g full fat coconut cream
- 30 ml maple syrup
- 150 g granulated sugar
- 80 g instant custard powder Bird’s is vegan in the UK
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 0.5 teaspoon almond extract
- 0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
For the chocolate ganache topping:
- 150 g vegan dark baking chocolate chopped
- 120 ml vegan double cream
- Flaked almonds to taste, optional
- Line an 8-inch, square baking tin with parchment paper. Set aside.
Make the crust:
- Add the Digestives or Graham crackers to a high-speed blender or food processor. Blitz them until fine crumbs form.
- Transfer your crumbs to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the melted vegan butter, desiccated coconut, cocoa powder, granulated sugar and the salt until a crust mixture forms.
- Press the crust into the bottom of your prepared tin firmly with the flat bottom of a glass or your hands. Place it into the freezer to set while you make the custard cheesecake filling.
Make the filling:
- Add the soaked cashews and the water to a high-speed blender and blend for about 30-40 seconds to form a smooth mixture.
- Add the remaining filling ingredients to the blender and blend one more time for a further 60 seconds. No lumps should remain, and it will be easy to pour.
- Pour the custard filling over the crust, then place it into the freezer for 5 hours to set.
Make the chocolate ganache:
- Just before the cheesecake is ready to come out from the fridge, melt the chocolate using the double-boiling method (bain-marie). Once the chocolate has fully melted and is smooth, pour in the dairy free double cream. Stir until fully combined. Let it cool a little for a couple minutes.
Assemble the toppings:
- Take your Nanaimo bar cheesecake out from the freezer. Let the cheesecake thaw in its tin and come to room temperature for 5-10 minutes.
- While the thawed cheesecake is still inside the tin, pour over melted chocolate ganache mixture. Make sure that it is level and spread out thinly and evenly.
- Sprinkle the chopped and flaked almonds onto the top of the chocolate. Let the chocolate set a little inside the fridge for a further 5 minutes then remove the cheesecake from the tin. Slice and serve.
- Store in the fridge or back in the freezer as soon as possible as these will thaw quickly.
- These bars are quite thick, so I suggest that you slice these into 16 or 20 bars instead of 8 or 12. It's certainly easier to eat them this way!
- Hard cashews won't blend very well and you therefore, won't have a smooth filling. Always soak beforehand.