Dreena's Nanaimo Bars

Course Dessert
Keyword Nanaimo Bars
Yields 16 bars



  • 1 ½ cups pitted dates
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds or almond meal
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut


  • ¾ cup coconut butter
  • ¾ –1 cup natural icing sugar see note
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla nondairy milk or full-fat canned coconut milk see note
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla bean powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric optional
  • teaspoon sea salt


  • 1 cup chopped nondairy chocolate bar or chocolate chips
  • 2 ½ tablespoons full-fat canned coconut milk or other nondairy milk see note


  1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. To prepare the base, put the dates and oats in a food processor and pulse several times, until they start to come together and get slightly crumbly. Add the cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla and process until the mixture starts to become sticky. Add the pumpkin seeds and coconut and process until the mixture is very sticky and holds together when pressed with your fingers. Press the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Chill in the refrigerator while you proceed with the next layers.
  3. Add all the ingredients for the middle layer to a mini processor (see note) and pulse until just combined and smooth. Try not to overblend, as the mixture will heat and become oily. Transfer to the baking pan, spreading the mixture evenly over the base layer. Place the pan back in the refrigerator.
  4. Prepare a hot water bath to make the topping: Fill a small saucepan with several inches of water and heat it over low heat. Put a heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan to hover over the simmering water (be sure it fully covers the top of the saucepan to prevent steam from entering the bowl). Put the chocolate and coconut milk in the bowl and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the chips are totally melted and the mixture is smooth.
  5. Pour the chocolate topping over the top of your bars, and refrigerate until set. To serve, cut into 16–20 bars. Leftover bars can be frozen, if they last that long!

Recipe Notes

Icing Sugar Note: Natural icing sugars are blended from unrefined cane sugar and are less processed than standard icing sugar. If you don’t have a ready-made natural icing sugar, you can pulse coconut sugar in the blender until it’s very fine; it will give the filling a natural caramel color rather than the traditional yellow. Using the full 1 cup sugar makes a thicker, slightly firmer center layer. My recipe testers and I agreed that the ¾ cup version was sweet enough for us!

Milk Note: I really enjoy the subtle flavor of a vegan eggnog at the holidays, using either almond, soy, or coconut nog.

Food Processor Note: My food processor has a 16-cup capacity, so I break out my mini-processor to make the middle layer; it’s hard to get the right consistency in a big processor. If you used a smaller food processor to make the base, you can use the same one to make the middle layer; just to clean it out in between.