Vancouver Bars

This image courtesy of Mark T. Shapiro

Okay, so there is no such thing as a Vancouver Bar. But I first fell in love with Nanaimo bars over 20 years ago while living in Vancouver and felt obliged to give something back. This version has an almond crust, chocolate espresso filling and a bittersweet chocolate topping. Outstanding!

NotesTo make almond meal: Finely grind about 2/3 cup (150 mL) unsalted whole blanched or unblanched almonds (raw or toasted) in a food processor with a metal blade until finely ground. Do not overprocess or you will wind up with almond butter.

Store bars in resealable plastic bags in the refrigerator or freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Makes16 bars

Cooking Methodbaking, microwaving



Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, game day

Recipe Coursedessert, snack

Dietary Considerationegg-free, kosher, peanut free, soy free, vegetarian

Equipmentfood processor, microwave

Mealbrunch, snack, tea

Taste and Texturechewy, chocolatey, crunchy, nutty, rich, sweet

Type of Dishchocolate dessert


  • ¾ cup (175 mL) all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) almond meal or finely ground almonds (see Notes)
  • ½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
  • ½ cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) almond extract
  • 2 oz (60 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) whipping (35%) cream
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) instant coffee granules
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) coffee liqueur
  • 2 cups (500 mL) confectioners sugar (icing sugar), sifted
  • ¼ cup (50 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) custard powder or vanilla pudding powder
  • 4 oz (125 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
  • 8-inch (2 L) square metal baking pan, bottom and sides greased, then bottom lined with parchment paper


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

  2. Crust: In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse flour, almond meal, sugar and salt until combined. Add butter and almond extract, pulsing until dough just comes together. Press dough into prepared pan, smoothing top. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown and firm to the touch. Place pan on a rack and let cool completely.

  3. Filling: In a microwave-safe bowl, combine unsweetened chocolate and cream. Microwave, uncovered, on Medium (50%) for 1 minute, stirring every 30 seconds, or until smooth.

  4. In a small bowl, whisk together instant coffee and 2 tsp (10 mL) hot water. Whisk in liqueur. Add to chocolate mixture, whisking well. Whisk in confectioner’s sugar, butter and custard powder until smooth. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over cooled crust. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

  5. Topping: In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate and butter. Microwave, uncovered, on Medium (50%) for 1 minute, stirring every 30 seconds, or until chocolate is soft and almost melted. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Spread over filling in pan. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm. Invert onto a cutting board to remove from pan and peel off parchment paper. Cut into bars.


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