O Canada - Again. White Chocolate Key Lime Macadamia Nanaimo Bars - Parsley, Sage, and Sweet

O Canada – Again. White Chocolate Key Lime Macadamia Nanaimo Bars

January 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Posted in Cookies, Daring Bakers, Dessert, Fruit, Gluten Free | 69 Comments
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I’d like to announce that this will be the second Nanaimo Bar entry on this blog.  I don’t have many recipes since I don’t blog as often as I’d like, but yet I have TWO Nanaimo Bar entries, yep, TWO,  I’m not Canadian, and in fact,  I’d never had a Nanaimo Bar prior to blogging.  As you might have assumed, both entries were challenges..the first, a ‘Sweet Canada’ Sugar High Fridays, when I was just a blogging sprout, the second..this month’s Daring Bakers challenge.

White Chocolate Key Lime Nanaimo Bars
The first time I made them, for the SHF challenge, I concocted this white maple mousse filling, which was pretty tasty, but damn, I went way overboard with the white and dark chocolate ‘polka dots’ inside and out, rendering them a bit too rich for an already rich bar.  OH, and the photos..yikes!  I actually thought they were quite good when I took them.  Hey, I didn’t know squat about photography, what can I say?  I still sort of don’t – I just got a better camera.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

When I saw this months challenge, my first thought was; ‘Welllll..I already have a Nanaimo Bar post, and they are rather rich, so what to do, what to do….’   Remember, I don’t have a lot of people to feed, so lots of challenge food gets thrown out after we’ve had our share.  However, I adore Lauren – a total sweetheart of a girl, so there was no way I wasn’t going to take part in her challenge.  It was a matter of getting creative and taking these bars somewhere other than Canada.

First let me start by saying that this challenge had a hook, and a great one, I might add.  We got to make our own graham crackers.  We were also given the choice of going gluten-free..meaning there were some flours we would have to use that most of us do not have on hand. Eyeing my barely used sack of spelt flour from the Daring Cooks Indian Dosa challenge, it was a pretty easy decision. NO.

Granted, I would have loved to have tried these gluten-free, but the flours we needed would eventually join the spelt in its perpetual limbo. It was going to be whole wheat flour or bust. Well, in this case, KA white whole wheat flour, which was what I happened to have on hand.  I actually got a little excited when the dough smelled and tasted like graham cracker.  Well, duh, it’s supposed to taste like graham cracker, but it was kind of a cool moment (collecting self).  They were phenomenally crispy and (not surprising) blew all supermarket brands away flavor wise.

That said, I was not going to make these into big, honking bars.  I feel Nanaimo Bars need to be whittled down a bit, because as already mentioned above, they’re rich. By doing this, you don’t waste a bar with one or two bites taken out of it due to the richness.  Granted, many love a sinfully rich bar cookie or layer bar, but I’m not one of them, so, ignore all of that if you have a major sweet tooth.

So, I decided to go tropical.  What an oxymoron, huh? –Tropical Nanaimo bars.  From the rugged chill of Canada to the warm breeze and sandy white beaches of Key West and Hawaii.  My reasoning wasn’t out of any kind of rebellion, juxtaposition or fusion, but simply due to the fact that I felt the juice and zest of a lime or key lime would cut the richness.

UPDATE 5/14/2015: Barb from Vancouver Island, where Nanaimo bars originated, emailed me to let me know that the weather there is actually tropical like, and they even have palm trees!  So, my presumption that tropical is an oxymoron for this Canadian treat, was way off, and in fact, it suits it perfectly!  Thanks, Barb!

Since I was taking a cruise down key lime highway, what better than macadamia nuts in lieu of almonds (can you hear the surf and ukulele?). The coconut was already at the party, so it all fit together like Heidi Montag and (insert any plastic surgery procedure).  I also felt that a a very thin layer of white chocolate ganache would be better suited to the tangy lime than dark or milk chocolate, so I did that too.  Finally, I nixed the dark cocoa in the graham cracker crust, and instead used sweet ground white chocolate powder, reducing the sugar in both the filling and crust.

White Chocolate Key Lime Nanaimo Bars
Having said all that, (I have a lot more to say this time, huh?) due to my prior Nanaimo sugar shock, gut bomb, ‘I feel the diabetes lurking’ experience, I didn’t think the bars needed to be as thick as they usually are, so I used a 10-inch square pan instead of an 8-inch, to insure slimmer layers, layers that don’t make your teeth want to sink back into your gums.  I cut them into very small squares, bite-sized, to be precise (the last photo is just for show, those were miniaturized after I snapped), unless your mouth is the size of a thimble.  This resulted in a much more pleasurable Nanaimo experience, minus leftover bars with one or two bites out of them.

I will make these again because the homemade graham cracker crust was absolutely diiivine,.  I think I need to try these with a peanut butter sumptin’  filling…..one day.

White Chocolate Key Lime Nanaimo Bars

If you’d like the recipe for authentic Nanaimo Bars and homemade graham crackers, click HERE.  Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll for more Nanaimo Bars and takes on the Nanaimo Bar.  Well worth the click.

White Chocolate Key Lime Nanaimo Bars
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: About 9 to 12 bars, depending on how you cut them.
Bottom Layer
  • ½ cup (115 g) (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons ground white chocolate or milk powder or malted milk powder (75 mL) (or unsweetened cocoa for a dark chocolate base, if desired)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1¼ cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) toasted macadamia nuts, chopped
  • 1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)
Middle Layer
  • ½ cup (115 g) (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (40 mL) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
  • 1¼ cups powdered sugar
  • The juice and zest of one small key lime or lime
  • A bit of green food color (optional)
Top Layer
  • 4 ounces (115 g) white chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons hot heavy cream
  1. For bottom layer: Melt unsalted butter, and sugar in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 x 8 inch pan.
  2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar and lime juice together well. Beat until light in colour. Stir in lime zest, Spread over bottom layer.
  3. For Top Layer: Melt the white chocolate and heavy cream over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill. Cut into bars of your desired size, and do the hula while reading Hemingway.


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  1. These look fantastic! I love lime and macadamia nuts. It’s hilarious that this is the second Nanaimo bar on your blog. I’m Canadian and I had never made them before! I’ll definitely be revisiting the graham crackers (I used wheat flour too, for the same reasons as you). Great job and very creative:)

  2. Love the tropical feel! Macadamia’s are one of my favourite in the nut variety and they definitely go so well with the lime & coconut.
    I don’t know why, but I also love the subtle green layer, it looks like a refreshing or light type of bar rather than a ridiculously decadent I’m-going-to-be-working-this-off-for-a-month bar 😉

  3. Lisa they look really great. I really want to bite into one of them. I bet the crust is yummy and the key lime makes me think of Florida and warm weather. Pictures look great too.

  4. You are so creative! Your bars LOOK beautiful and sound delicious!!! GREAT job!

  5. Fabulous job! I love, love, love your combination of flavours! Indeed, it’s not exactly Canadian, but we could really use a taste of the tropics up here right now!

    Btw, I’ve been living in Canada for years, and I had never come across a Nanaimo bar…

  6. As always you stun me with your creativity. I love the “tropical” twist you’ve done. I should have thought to change them up, but oh well.

  7. Ya know, I went 40 some odd (don’t ask for specifics! LOL) years without ever hearing the word Nanaimo Bars … and now I’ve read about them twice today. Gotta love The Daring Bakers! :)

    I must say, your version with the key lime is quite compelling. They look fantastic!

  8. Your bars are beautiful and the flavours sound delicious. I love the picture of the uncut slab – the chocolate looks so smooth. Mmm.

  9. Your version looks marvelous! I love those delightful flavors!



  10. HA ha,so sweettttt….and before anything love ur pics dear…they so clear with jus the right light(i barely manage to get the lighting right)abd perfect white balance…u think if i stare at ur pics long enuf i’ll figure it out?????

    That said ur nanaimo bars are so so so so good-i love ur variations-u think outa the box and i love ur creativity Lisa.

  11. Oh wow! I love these! :-) I AM Canadian, and every Thanksgiving and Christmas simply MUST have Nanaimo Bars. I love your clever twist. :-)

  12. Hey, Lisa! They look excellent and to be quite honest are more appealing to me than the traditional version.

    Miss ya….I’ve been meaning to call you. Btw, Devon was awarded player of the year – AGAIN! Twice in three years. :)

  13. I love your gorgeous green version. I’ve never heard of sweet ground white chocolate powder before. I’ll have to look for it. They sound heavenly!

  14. FANTASTIC! I knew you were going to do something utterly amazing with these bars and boy was I right! If you have one left, my mailbox is totally willing to accept it! :) Great job!

  15. Love the tropical theme and beautiful presentation. And you are so right that these bars need to be made a little less rich. But how did you get that vivid green color from just lime juice?

    • A few drops of green food color, but in this case, pinches, since it was powdered food color. i only wish limes gave off a natural tint! :)

  16. I was wondering where are you hiding!!!

    Gorgeous looking and tasting bars….
    these are delicious flavours, I love the citrus in it…
    the filling is overly sweet I should have played with the flavours
    oh well…

    Great posting my friend

  17. it luks grand! Wudnt have guessed that you dont know a squat abt photography if you hadnt mentioned it 😉

    Luv that filling! Amazing idea:)

  18. I love your tropical bars! Those are such great changes. I made the traditional ones since I had never had them before. I instinctively cut them into tiny squares because I just love mini desserts, but it was definitely a good decision once I tasted how rich they were. That didn’t stop me from eating about half the pan myself! Beautiful pictures!!

  19. I’m glad you went tropical. Your bars are beautiful and sound delicious. I love coconut and lime.

  20. I’ve never tried it but looks so colorful and beautiful! Yum!

  21. wow your nanaimo bars look so tropical! i love the light colors you used! they look so yummy, i might try your recipe :)

  22. amazing version of this months challenge. love the colors and can`t even imagine how delicious they would be.

  23. love love this version. the flavors are totally incredible and am loving the colors too! nice one!

  24. Hi dear
    As always, you rock :)
    I really like your version for the Nanaimo bars-
    The flavor combination sound superb,
    And the colors and clean layers are really beautiful.

  25. Lisa, I love this refreshing tropical invention: the lime, macadamia and the whole white chocolate thing… Believe it makes a perfect combination.

    My bars despite of having very intense passionfruit flavor on the middle layer to compensate the richness in other layer, as the overall taste is still too sweet! Lime is definitely the way to go..

    And yes, very beautiful color layering too!

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  26. Wow, these look amazing! I’m going to add this post to my blogroll “My favorite Daring bakers in January” if you don’t mind…

  27. They look fantastic lisa! Great choice on the flavors too! And you are definitely right about the very very rich nature of these bars. man, I took one bite and was already completely satisfied…
    O by the way; I did write that post on the photography at night thing. Not sure if you saw it so thought I mention it..:)

  28. The Tropics of Canada – love it! Macadamia nuts, key lime, white chocolate, and coconut, where do I sign up for paradise?

  29. Okay, that is so awesome! I love the key lime, coupled with macadamia nuts and white chocolate! Very cool Lisa =D. You did an amazing job on my challenge!

  30. Makes me want a margarita now. Or an order of stone crab and an afternoon by the beach. Perfect combination!

  31. I’m liking this variation on the nanaimo bar a lot! The key lime and macadamias sound delicious. Lovely colors too.

  32. Wow, very creative – I would love to taste this combination!!

  33. I skipped on the gluten-free version for the same reason… wallflowerdom forever.

    Beautiful, beautiful results as always, my dear. Love the tropical twist!

  34. LOVE the tropical theme (that is what I was thinking too) and the lime and the pretty green color is so pretty!! You always amaze me Lisa!! I hope all is well with you. :)

  35. Ooooo…this looks SOOOO good! I love the lack of cocoa. Sometimes that’s just too much for me. The white chocolate sounds great. And lime is a great combo for white chocolate.

  36. Lisa! These are brilliant! I always look forward to seeing your DB posts as I know they’ll always be marvellously creative and you certainly did it again! I like the idea of making these more tropical-just genius! 😀

  37. These are so pretty Lisa! Love the green and white together, and the flavours sound fabulous. I only met nanaimo bars this month, and I have to tell you that I love them, sugar coma and all :)

  38. Fabulous job! I love your choice of flavors and they turned out so beautifully. Yummy key lime…

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  39. Well technically I think you should rename these as your own creation:) And frankly I think they might start a legend of their own. The colours on these look so tasty and lovely. My mouth is drooling over them.

  40. Lisa – GORGEOUS job :) Your grahams are so pretty, and the Nanaimo bars, LOVE the colour – the green is so refreshing!! I had forgotten that we met through Nanaimo bars, until you reminded me – that’s hilarious! xoxo ♥

  41. Yummie, these bars not only look pretty look very tasty…lime and mac, absolutely fantastic! By the way, it is first time that heard of Nanaimo bars :-)

  42. Your Nanaimo bars look great. I think I would like them much better then the oversweet original version. Cool idea!

  43. I knew I’d find something like this here. Just love the colours and flavours of your bars. So pretty.

  44. Tropical Nanaimo Bars! *snort* too funny! But I so love the colors and the flavors (yes, so very Miami Beach!). Your bars are really party perfect and festive!

  45. My little cinnamon roll is doing great! Thanks for asking! Amazingly the only problem I’ve been having lately is making sure I get enough food in me each day to gain some weight. LOL

  46. Yum yum yum! Why didn’t I think of this? Your bars look fantastic. Cheers to you for rethinking the Nanaimo bars and for making the second post so interesting!

  47. Waw!!! I so like your adaptation!! It is certainly so apart too!!

    The bars look very refreshing too! MMMMMM,…yum yum yum!

  48. I just woke up and decided to check out your blog. WOW! No wonder D wants you to join him! I’m blown away by your culinary coolness. It was great meeting you, we HAVE to do it again and NO, you were not limping! Ha ha!

  49. You caught me right as I was sitting down to my first non-working time at the PC and I was so happy that you did.. I couldn’t wait to see what you came up with and as per USUAL you didn’t disappoint. The minute I saw that first picture I knew exactly what you did and immediately started drooling. Now I am JONESIN’ for key lime ANYTHING. Holy cow they look good, Lis! Now I’m going to hit the archives and look at your first ones.. I’m sure they are droolicious as well. 😉

    Hugs! Love you!

  50. Lisa – You had me at “macadamia”! Your Nanaimo Bars look beautifully delicious – you blew this DB challenge away! =)

  51. Lisa,
    Your previous experience with Nanaimo bars served you well. I think I cut my bars too large where I could feel the sugar overloading my system… lol! Your results look delicious! Your tropical flavors are a sure welcome to cold Vancouver BC. Also, as usual, wonderful pictures. It’s not the camera, but the talent holding the camera.

  52. Fantastic post! Very funny :) I love your choice of flavours, and the presentation of yours bars too – making it as a slab like that is such a brilliant idea.

  53. I really enjoyed your post and I like the idea of a tropical Nanaimo Bar. The lime would have cut through the sweetness, I would think. I’m thinking passionfruit maybe nice, too. Thanks for dropping by my blog!

  54. Your Canadian passport is in the mail! I love these … want one … pleeeeeeeeease!!!

  55. Your bar looks delicious! What a great idea on the tropical flavoring. You’re so smart to make the layers thin…I was whining that middle layer weren’t thick enough…but I guess there’s a reason for THAT! If I were to make this again, I would love to replace the middle part with something lighter…and make ’em thin like yours! :)

  56. Wow, these look amazing! Now I know you were just being polite with your “the cracked choc makes them look edible” 😉
    I’m always a bit nervous to play with new recipes, but you’ve inspired me now!

    • Noo..not being polite, it really does. Rustic always makes things look very edible as opposed some dishes that are ‘too pretty’ to eat lol

  57. They look wonderful. I love the pictures. I’ll have to go back and make these one day.

  58. Wow your nanaimo bars look gorgeous!! I love the flavours you decided on they sound so good!

  59. They look divine! Beautiful adaptation – I love your combination of flavors! Bravo!

  60. I really like your choice of flavour! And the little bars cut smaller are very cute too :)

  61. hey in India they are “burfee” if they are made sweet.

  62. I love that you referred to yourself as a blogging sprout – too cute!

  63. Lisa, I had never heard of Nanaimo Bars prior to this blog. Yours look delicious. Now, I am craving key lime and macadamia nuts!

  64. OMG these look very delicious. Not to mention pretty.

  65. those are the most unique bars i’ve seen! they look like art not food!

  66. I love your blog. Everything you make sounds so great! I love the variation you did of nainamo bars, and the post on buttermilk pudding just sounds amazing, exactly the type of thing I’d like, creamy- but tangy, not fat-creamy, but milk-creamy. Yum.

    Hope all is well!

  67. How did I not see your bars?!!! They look fabulous!! Now I have another excuse to make these bars again. I love key lime anything, and I love these bars. Great photos, btw.

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