These salted caramel Nanaimo bars are an amazing no-bake and gluten-free dessert! A traditional Canadian dessert with a salty caramel twist! These Nanaimo bars were even better on the second day after the layers had a chance to settle and the flavors married well overnight.
Salted Caramel Nanaimo Bars
Salted caramel Nanaimo bars have four layers: a chocolate base with graham crackers, almonds, and coconut, a custard buttercream layer, a layer of salted caramel, and topped with chocolate ganache. If you're not salivating after reading that, I don't know what to tell ya! It's sweet, it's nutty, it's chocolatey, with a salty kick, and it's just incredible!
What are Nanaimo bars?
Nanaimo bars are a no-bake chocolate bar dessert that's named after the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. Although you may have never had one or heard of one if you've never been to Canada, Nanaimo bars are one of the most iconic treats in Canada!
Although the classic is to-die-for delicious, many bakers now make different flavors like mint or peanut butter, as well as Nanaimo bar cupcakes and Nanaimo bar ice cream.
Are salted caramel Nanaimo bars gluten-free?
Traditionally, no. The bottom layer of Nanaimo bars has graham cracker crumbs in it, which contain wheat. However, you could find gluten-free graham crackers or any gluten-free crackers to crush and use in this recipe to make gluten-free Nanaimo bars! When I originally developed this recipe, I used salted multigrain crackers since that's what I had on hand, and it was absolutely delicious!
Can I use store-bought caramel?
Yes! If you are using store-bought salted caramel instead of making it from scratch, make sure to choose a caramel that turns thick and almost solid in the refrigerator. Don't use the kind that comes in a squeezy tube that you use to drizzle over ice cream!
You want the caramel to be stiff enough to pour and spread the chocolate ganache layer on top without the caramel running all over the place.
Tips for successful Nanaimo bars!
- Use parchment paper! As with most desserts, no matter how delicious, it won't mean anything if you can't get it out of the pan. So make sure to grease and line that square pan with parchment paper so you can easily lift it out once it's chilled and ready to eat!
- Chill each layer! Make sure you're sticking the pan in the fridge after you spread on each layer so they have a chance to harden, making it easier to spread on the next layer.
- Score the chocolate layer before cutting! Because the chocolate ganache on top hardens when chilled, it cracks easily. To ensure you get beautiful squares, remove the pan from the fridge and let it sit on the counter for about 20-30 minutes at room temperature. Gently score the chocolate layer using a heated knife first, and then cut through to the bottom.
More bar desserts to try!
- Matcha Oreo blondies
- Raspberry hazelnut chocolate chip blondies
- One-bowl peanut butter banana oatmeal bars
- Pumpkin cheesecake swirl brownies
- Cranberry oat bars
Salted Caramel Nanaimo Bars
- ½ cup / 113g unsalted butter
- ¼ cup / 50g granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup gluten-free graham cracker crumbs
- 1 cup / 65g coconut (flakes, shredded, or dessicated)
- ½ cup / 45g sliced almonds
- ¼ cup / 56g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- ¾ teaspoon / 6g milk powder
- ¾ teaspoon / 6g cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of turmeric (optional - for color)
- 1¼ cups / 150g powdered sugar
- 1½ tablespoons heavy cream
Salted caramel (can substitute store-bought)
- ½ cup / 100g granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons / 42.5g unsalted butter, cubed
- ¼ cup / 60ml heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon fleur de sel (flaky sea salt)
- 4oz / 120g chopped dark chocolate
- 1 tablespoon / 14g unsalted butter
- Grease and line an 8x8-inch square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Using a double boiler, heat the first three ingredients and stir until combined. Take it off the heat and slowly pour in the beaten egg while constantly stirring. Once the mixture is combined, stir in the cracker crumbs, coconut, almond, and press into the prepared pan. Put it in the refrigerator to chill.
- In a bowl, beat the butter until fluffy and creamy. Add the milk powder, cornstarch, vanilla, salt, turmeric (if using) and continue to beat.
- Add the powdered sugar in three parts, beating after each addition. Once incorporated, beat in the heavy cream. Take the pan out of the fridge and spread the buttercream over the bottom layer. Put it back in the refrigerator to chill.
- Add the granulated sugar to a nonstick pan in an even layer. Heat on medium-high heat until the sugar melts. Swirl the pan as the sugar melts so they melt evenly. Continue cooking the sugar until it turns a deep amber color (about 350°F/175°C).
- Take the pan off the heat, add the butter and stir until all the butter has melted. Add the cream and stir again. Once the cream has been incorporated, add the fleur de sel and stir until all the salt has melted into the caramel. Let it cool to room temperature and spread it over the buttercream layer. Place the pan back in the fridge to chill.
- In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate and unsalted butter and stir until combined. Let it cool slightly before spreading it over the caramel layer. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour before cutting and serving.
Canada Day is the national day of Canada, which commemorates the union of Canada's original three provinces. It's celebrated on July 1st, often with BBQs, fireworks, and picnics.
In the wake of the discovery of 215 Indigenous children's remains near a residential school in British Columbia, and the attack against a Muslim family in Ontario, many people are calling to cancel the usual Canada Day celebrations and instead focus on mourning and reflection.
What is a residential school?
Residential schools were in operation from 1831 to 1996. They only closed 25 years ago. There are still people alive who survived attending a residential school. This is still very much part of present-day Canada.
Indigenous children were forcefully taken from their homes and families and put into these residential schools. The purpose of these schools was to eliminate all aspects of Indigenous culture. It's not just the 215 children who were found that died. More than 4000 children have been identified, but there are thousands more who haven't been identified.
To cancel Canada Day, or not?
While I'm not here to tell anybody how to spend their day, we can all better each other by educating ourselves on what happened, and what continues to happen, to the First Nations people.
If you do plan on celebrating Canada Day, please take a moment to educate yourself on First Nations history and the inequality they continue to face today. Read books or articles, or watch documentaries while your Nanaimo bars are chilling in the fridge. Share your Nanaimo bars with friends and family, and discuss what actions you can take to support the First Nations community.
More Canada Day Treats
If you're looking for more Canada Day treat ideas, check out these delicious ideas before you go!
Strawberry Shortcake Kabobs from Clean and Scentsible
Butter Tart Cake from Caked by Katie
The Best Recipe for Strawberry Trifle from BAKED by Blair