Low Carb Nanaimo Bars – just in time for Canada Day


There are very few foods that can truly be considered uniquely Canadian cuisine. I can literally count them on one hand. Poutine, that rather revolting dish of french fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. Tortiere, a delicious ground meat pie usually served at Christmas. Butter tarts, which are essentially like pecan tarts, but with currants in the place of pecans. And then there are Nanaimo Bars. How do I describe these sweet bars, with the yellow buttercream sandwiched between layers of chocolate? For lack of good adjectives, I refer you to the Wikipedia entry on Nanaimo Bars. The fact that they have their own Wikipedia entry, with a whole history of their origins, should tell you something about the popularity of these delicious treats!

When I was little, Nanaimo Bars were my favourite dessert. I remember my aunt taking me to Just Desserts, a restaurant that only served desserts and coffee. The glass cases held rows upon rows of beautiful cakes and tarts, each more decadent than the last. But I eschewed these fancy confections and went straight for the simplicity of the Nanaimo bar. One bite and I was hooked. A crumbly chocolate crust, a thick sweet center, and a layer of chocolate ganache…what’s not to love?

The fact that they are a no-bake bar makes them an ideal treat for summertime. With Canada Day just around the corner (July 1st), I thought I should take a stab at making a low carb version. I wouldn’t want any diabetic Canucks thinking that they had to go without dessert on our national holiday! I may be the only person in the state of Massachusetts actually celebrating the day, but I will toast my countrymen/countrywomen with a low carb Nanaimo Bar and a tilt of my head towards the north. Given our low key national pride, that’s about all anyone does to celebrate as it is!

The Results: Okay, not to toot my own horn here but I NAILED this recipe! I would say, in all my low carb experimentation, that these are the closest to the real thing I have accomplished. They are almost identical in both taste and texture. They are a little less sweet, which is actually okay by me as conventional Nanaimo Bars are really rich. And to my delight, I found the crust to be a little less crumbly and messy than the original. It holds together so well, I don’t end up with a lot of chocolate crumbs at the bottom of the pan. Which means MORE of the crust in my mouth!!!

Just a note…I wasn’t sure if I could call these gluten free as well. The sugar-free pudding mix has lots of fakey-fake things in it (only for Nanaimo bars could I stoop so low!) and I don’t have full confidence that there isn’t a little gluten in there somewhere.

Low Carb Nanaimo Bars

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup flax meal
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

5 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 package sugar-free vanilla pudding mix
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate ganache:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp butter
15-20 drops stevia extract, depending on how sweet you like it.

Grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.

For the crust, melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in cocoa and erythritol and then slowly whisk in beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, almond meal, flax meal, coconut and nuts. Press crust into prepared pan evenly and refrigerate until firm (30-45 minutes).

In a medium bowl, beat softened cream cheese until smooth. Add cream, pudding powder and vanilla and beat until combined. Spread over crust and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

In a small saucepan over low, melt butter and unsweetened chocolate together. Add stevia extract and stir until combined. Pour over prepared bars and spread with a knife or offset spatula. Refrigerate until firm (1+ hours). Cut into 25 squares.

Serves 25. Each square has 7.4g total carbs, 5.5g carbs if you subtract erythritol.

Nanaimo Bar

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  1. Alanna Kellogg says

    Wow – what a difference in your recipe! I've eaten my share of nanaimo bars but have never made them. In my family, we cut them small, about an inch square, since they are so rich. (That way you can eat three.)

  2. marsha says

    I would love to make these bars but do not have erythritol on hand. Is 1/4 cup granulated erythritol equivalent to the same amount of sugar?

    I'm also having trouble finding granulated erythritol. Where do you find yours?

    Your low carb recipes look great. And good for you for trying so hard to keep diabetes at bay!

  3. Carolyn says

    Hi Marsha, I hope you come back to see this comment because I couldn't find a way to contact you through your profile. If you wanted to make these with sugar, 1/4 cup for the base would be just fine. For the chocolate ganache, skip the stevia and use semi-sweet chocolate and butter.
    I usually buy my erythritol online, but they sell it at whole foods too (brands are zsweet or wholesome sweeteners organic zero).

  4. marsha says

    Thanks Carolyn…I just ordered some zsweet! I thought I might try agave in the chocolate ganache..hope it will work.

  5. Tricia says

    I made these for my husband and we are floored. They are sooo good. You get a billion comments and mine is just another one in a huge tide, but I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog. Thank you!

  6. Kate says

    these were ~spectacular~. although the filling doesn’t quite match the creaminess of the normal buttercream icing, these are a stellar substitute. best low-carb/gluten free alternative to a traditional dessert i have tried, very close to the real thing. thanks so much!!!

  7. Tara says

    Hi Carolyn. I wanted to thank you for the spectacular recipe. It tastes delish! One of my family’s favourites. Unfortunately, Canada isn’t as sugar free as the US. So I couldn’t find sugar-free pudding; so I used Oetker vanilla mousse that had splenda in it until I had time to go to States shopping. It was great! I also just pulled out a batch of your butter tarts, since those also are a staple for xmas baking. I enjoy your healthier recipes that I can eat without feeling guilty, since I am a clean eater. Keep up the great work! Merry Christmas!

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