These vegan Nanaimo bars are an ode to my both my Canadian roots and to my beloved Vancouver Island, where the namesake of these bars, the city of Nanaimo, is located. A simple date, walnut, and cocoa crust is piled high with a cashew/cacao butter/maple layer, plus a raw chocolate layer. These are almost raw because maple syrup is technically not raw, but it is my sweetener of choice, not least because it is produced close to home!
Well, it was certainly not my intention to leave the blog for five days, though I have to say that I have enjoyed a little break from this space. I decided that I wanted to be fully present with my family over Christmas. After taking a step back, I have realized how much more relaxed that I feel when I spend less time thinking about my blog traffic, Pinterest views, and the other statistics that I am rather embarrassed to admit take up far too much space in this mind of mine. It’s challenging, though, in the rat race that is blogging and social media, not to get caught up in the numbers. My goal for 2020 is to remember why I am doing this in the first place. It’s not necessarily to make a career out of it. It’s simply to share wholesome recipes, stories, and inspiration with you lovely people. I don’t need to grow my following quickly or have hundreds of thousands of page views every month in order to feel fulfilled by what I am sharing with the world.
Today actually happens to be my 25th birthday, so I think it is appropriate to share the recipe for my (almost raw) vegan Nanaimo bars. I lived on Vancouver Island, the beautiful island off the coast of mainland British Columbia, for a couple of years. It is where I celebrated my 20th, 21st, and 22nd birthdays, and while much has changed over five years, I can confidently say that my love for the Nanaimo Bar, so named after the small city on Vancouver Island where it is said to have originated, has not.
There is a small cafe at the Oak Bay Marina in Victoria that makes the tastiest, though definitely not the “healthiest,” Nanaimo bars in town. My family enjoyed a number of those treats whilst there. There is also an amazing raw vegan cafe called Bliss that I have waxed poetic about before… if you are a longtime blog reader, you probably recall my musings here and here. Well, Bliss makes a raw vegan version, called the Bliss Bar, that really spoke to my healthy dessert loving soul. The Bliss bar had all the component layers of a Nanaimo bar, but without the cloyingly sweet butter and icing sugar filling. In its place, it had a blended cashew filling and a simple date/nut/coconut crust, plus a raw chocolate topping.
This recipe is my attempt to recreate my favourite Bliss Bar. I call it an (almost raw) vegan Nanaimo bar because it is not fully raw: maple syrup is technically a cooked sweetener, it being the boiled sap of the maple tree. However, I use it anyways because this recipe is an ode to my Canadian roots, and it is truly one of the best, most versatile liquid sweeteners around. If you want to create a fully raw version, you may use agave syrup instead.
Making these almost raw vegan Nanaimo bars is quite simple, though you will need to plan ahead so that you leave ample time for the bars to set in the freezer before you can slice them. You will also need to remember to soak the cashews for at least one hour in boiling water or four hours in room temperature water before commencing the recipe.
To begin, you will blend together dates, walnuts, coconut, raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder), and a pinch of sea salt in a food processor. You’ll press that into a parchment paper-lined cake pan and set it aside while you make the cashew layer.
To make the cashew layer, you’ll blend together cashews, melted cacao butter, maple syrup, vanilla extract, turmeric for colour, plant milk, lemon juice, and sea salt in a blender. Preferably, you’ll use a Vitamix or Blendtec for best results. If you do not have one, you can try using a regular blender. Just know that the cashew cream won’t ever get quite as smooth as it does in a high speed blender.
You’ll pour the cashew layer onto the prepared crust and freeze for at least 4 hours. After four hours have passed, you’ll prepare the top layer by melting together cacao butter, raw cacao powder/cocoa powder, and maple syrup in a small pot. Pour that on top of the cashew layer and place it in the refrigerator to set for a few minutes.
To slice the bars, you’ll want to run a sharp knife under hot water for a few seconds. This enables the knife to slice through the bars beautifully with minimal mess. As you can see in my photos, the slicing job will probably not be perfect. C’est la vie! It all goes down the same, as my dad says.
I hope that this recipe finds you well nourished, well rested, and well loved. I look forward to having meaningful conversations and sharing lots more recipes through 2020 and beyond.Print
(Almost Raw) Vegan Nanaimo Bars
Healthy and delicious vegan Nanaimo bars that skip the icing sugar and butter and replace them with wholesome ingredients like nuts, dates, and cashews. Just as rich and delicious and the “real thing,” but with some nutritionally redeeming qualities.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 16 bars 1x
- Category: vegan dessert
- Cuisine: vegan
- 1 1/2 cups raw walnuts
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked and drained*
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/3 cup melted cacao butter**
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp turmeric
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp melted cacao butter
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- Line a 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, making sure to leave plenty of overhang for easy lift out.
- Make the filling: Place the walnuts, coconut, dates, cacao, and salt in a food processor and process until the mixture resembles grains of sand.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press it into an even layer, making sure that it covers the entire pan.
- Prepare the filling: Blend together the cashews, maple syrup, melted cacao butter, vanilla, turmeric, salt, milk, and lemon juice in an upright blender on high until ultra smooth and silky. This might take a few minutes, so be patient and protect your ears!
- Pour the filling over the crust and place the pan on an even surface in the freezer. Freeze for at least 4 hours, or until firm.
- Prepare the topping: Whisk the cocoa powder and maple syrup into the melted cacao butter. Remove the pan from the freezer and pour the raw chocolate topping over top, spreading with a spoon to ensure that it reaches every corner of the bar. If the raw chocolate hasn’t firmed up already upon contact with the cold cashew filling, place it in the fridge for a couple of minutes. Lift the bar out of the pan using the parchment paper overhang and transfer to a cutting board.
- To slice the bar, run a sharp knife under hot water for a few seconds–this helps ensure smooth slicing with minimal mess. Slice into sixteen squares.
- Store in the freezer until ready to enjoy.
*Soak the cashews in boiling water for 1 hour or in room temperature water for at least 4 hours before proceeding with the recipe.
**The recipe calls for melted cacao butter. Melt cacao butter on the stove in the same way that you melt butter or coconut oil, over low heat. 1/3 cup finely chopped solid cacao butter equals about 1/3 cup melted cacao butter. You can also sub coconut oil if you do not have cacao butter.
Keywords: raw vegan Nanaimo bar recipe, healthy vegan Nanaimo bar recipe, naturally sweetened Nanaimo bar, maple syrup sweetened Nanaimo bar recipe
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