Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars (!!!)

Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars

There are few new ideas in the culinary world – most recipes out there are tweaks of existing things or creative new versions of same, and I suppose this is no different. But when someone on Twitter questioned why no ice cream version of the Nanaimo bar exists – beyond, yes, an ice cream pie (though I wonder about the vanilla ice cream filling with dry custard powder stirred in…) – in response to the conversation about the new Canadian dessert stamps and how the Nanaimo bar stamp looks more like an ice cream bar, ratio-wise, I leapt at the challenge. And so I give you Nanaimo ice cream bars with a Nanaimo bar base and frozen custard ice cream made with Bird’s custard powder. Oh yes.

Apologies for the delay in getting the formula up and out there – it’s been a crazy few weeks! And I appear to have deleted the process images from my phone, but I recovered them in Instagram stories and you can click on the Nanaimo ice cream bar in the highlights if you’d like to see some of the process! I debated whether to keep the base true to a Nanaimo bar or go with a baked cookie, and Instagram voted for the former, and I’m glad to have taken that route. (I dialed back the graham crumbs a bit, just to ensure the base was chewy and didn’t crumble when it was frozen.) Similarly, the chocolate on top didn’t need to be changed at all – it’s like a chocolate-coated ice cream bar on top, with that small amount of butter keeping it from shattering in directions you don’t want it to.

I’ve never been so excited for Canada Day. Which is somehow, impossibly, coming up in less than a month!

Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars
Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars

Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars


June 2, 2019


Bottom Layer:

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup cocoa

1 large egg, beaten

1 cup graham crumbs

1/2 cup finely chopped almonds, pecans or walnuts (optional)

1 cup shredded coconut

Middle Layer:

1/4 cup Bird's Custard Powder

1/3 cup sugar

3 cups half and half, or half milk, half heavy cream

Top Layer:

3/4-1 cup chocolate chips

2 Tbsp butter


1Bottom Layer: Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into a parchment-lined 8"x8" or 9"x9" pan and cool completely - refrigerate, even.

2Middle layer: Whisk the custard powder, sugar and cream and/or milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Cool completely, with a piece of parchment or plastic wrap pressed onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until well chilled, and then freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions. While it's still soft, spread over the base, cover and freeze until firm.

3Top Layer: Melt the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat or in a bowl in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds or so until smooth. Pour over the ice cream layer - it should set quickly. Return to the freezer or cut immediately into bars. Makes about 12 large ice cream sandwiches.


About Julie

19 comments on “Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars (!!!)

  1. Lana
    June 3, 2019 at 9:04 am

    These look SO good!!

  2. Arlana Keller
    June 3, 2019 at 10:26 am

    Julie, where can you find the custard powder?

    • Julie
      June 3, 2019 at 8:11 pm

      In any grocery store! In the pudding section.

  3. Sharon Munro
    June 3, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Julie, did you notice that Bird’s Custard (which I have relied on for years to make an authentic Nanaimo bar) has changed their recipe and now is just corn starch!!!! What happened to the egg? How does it get the yellow color? I don’t want to know. You might as well just use Jello Pudding. BTW, Arlana, Safeway has always carried it.

    • Julie
      June 3, 2019 at 8:11 pm

      I thought it had always been cornstarch?

      • Allison
        June 10, 2019 at 7:28 pm

        That’s my recollection too. My British mum always made Bird’s Custard to pour over stewed rhubarb in the summer, and It was a cornstarch-based concoction.

    • Julie
      June 3, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      I’m pretty sure it never contained egg… it’s from-scratch custard you’d make with egg yolks!

    • Julie
      June 3, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      And don’t use Jell-O pudding! Not the same thing, or the same colour/flavour!

  4. Linda Kent
    June 5, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I make 6 batches of the real Nanaimo bars every Christmas – actually a recipe from a lady from Nanaimo from the 1940’s. I can’t wait to make these this summer!!

    • Julie
      June 6, 2019 at 3:47 pm

      Amazing! A holiday classic!

  5. Rebecca Sparrow
    June 6, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    How long do you keep the butter, sugar, cocoa and eggs over the heat to cook and thicken?

    Thank you!

    • Julie
      June 6, 2019 at 3:46 pm

      Just a few minutes!

  6. Lottie
    June 7, 2019 at 9:33 am

    hello, these look SO good!! I don’t own an ice cream machine. Could I just freeze them in the pan in the freezer?

    • Julie
      June 13, 2019 at 3:25 pm

      Unfortunately that won’t make for creamy ice cream – you could do it, but the middle layer would be icy. I’d freeze it in a pan, taking it out and stirring once in awhile to break up the ice crystals, then spread it over the base.

  7. Ian
    June 11, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    HiJulie . Did McDonalds steal your idea ? They have a Nanaimo bar McFlurry as part of their Canadiana themed summer menu.

    • Julie
      June 13, 2019 at 3:23 pm

      I keep hearing this!

  8. Allison
    June 13, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    Hmmm. So I made these and was rather disappointed. The middle later looks great but is completely flavourless! I’m wondering if it could be made better by adding vanilla paste or extract, or even more sugar. Freezing tends to dampen flavours so you have to boost them quite a bit, so that something that is too sweet or too intense in its custard state becomes just right when frozen. If you use vanilla extract you’d have to add it at the end of the process so the alcohol wouldn’t inhibit freezing. Otherwise this is a great idea.

    • Julie
      June 13, 2019 at 3:22 pm

      Oh that’s too bad! You could add more sugar, if you like.. and vanilla is a good idea, I just wanted the flavour of the custard to come through. I’m guessing it didn’t for you?

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