A twist on the classic Canadian dessert, these Coffee Nanaimo Bars feature a chocolate coconut graham cracker crust, coffee flavoured custard icing filling, and a smooth chocolate layer on top!
Can I make Nanaimo bars without coconut?
Yes. You can definitely leave out the shredded coconut in the crust if you aren't a fan of the flavour or texture. Simply replace with the same amount of extra graham cracker crumbs. However, the coconut in this recipe does help it taste more like a traditional Nanaimo Bar and is important if you want the full taste and texture experience.
Can I make Nanaimo bars without custard powder?
Short answer: Yes. The addition of custard powder gives the custard icing layer its quintessential yellow colour (in traditional Nanaimo Bars) and slightly powdery texture. That being said, the recipe will definitely work fine without it!
What can I use instead of custard powder to make Nanaimo Bars?
Bird's Custard Powder is a pretty common baking ingredient (here in Canada at least) made from mostly cornstarch and some yellow colouring. Because custard powder is mostly cornstarch, you can substitute the same amount of cornstarch in place of the custard powder in this recipe if you do not have or cannot find it.
Bottom line, if you don't have custard powder you can substitute cornstarch. If you don't have cornstarch either, you can completely omit it. Because these are Coffee Nanaimo Bars, we don't need to worry about adding yellow food colouring either, the instant coffee in the recipe will give it the coffee colour we are looking for.
Love Nanaimo Bars? Here are some other flavours to try!
- Homemade Nanaimo Bars -- The classic version of this beloved Canadian dessert bar!
- Mint Nanaimo Bars -- This mint version is so yummy, too! Some people say that it's like an After 8 in a bar form. I say it's 10 times better!
Fun Fact: I live within a few hours of the City of Nanaimo in British Columbia that these bars are named after! So cool, right?!
If you make this recipe (or have made any of my recipes!), I invite you to please share an authentic review and star rating in the comments below. Or share on social media using my hashtag: #kneadsomesweets and please be sure to tag me so that I can see it. Thank you for supporting Knead Some Sweets! ♡
Coffee Nanaimo Bars
- 9x9-inch baking pan
- aluminum foil
- mixing bowls
- measuring cups & spoons
- electric handheld mixer
For the Crust:
- ½ cup salted butter
- ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder (I use Dutch-processed cocoa)
- 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
For the Custard Layer:
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- ½ cup salted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons custard powder (or cornstarch*)
- 2 cups powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon milk
For the Top Layer:
- ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
To make the Crust:
- Line a 9x9-inch pan well with aluminum foil. In a medium-size bowl combine the butter and chocolate chips. Heat in the microwave in 10-second increments, stirring between each increment (or on the stove) until melted together. Add the granulated sugar, cocoa powder, graham cracker crumbs, and shredded coconut and stir until combined. Press into the prepared pan and refrigerate while making the custard layer.
To make the Custard Layer:
- Dissolve the instant coffee granules in the hot water. In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the softened butter, custard powder, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and instant coffee mixture using a handheld mixer starting on low as the mixture starts to come together, adding up to 1 tablespoon of milk at this point. Turn up the mixer to high speed and beat for 2 minutes or until fluffy. Using an offset spatula, gently spread the custard onto the chilled crust, being careful not to pull up the crust layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while you make the top layer.
To make the Top Layer:
- Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in the microwave in 10-second increments (stirring well between each increment) or on the stovetop. Let cool slightly. Once the other layers have chilled, gently spread the chocolate mixture on top of the custard layer. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Slice into 24 squares to serve. Enjoy!
Love and Cookies,