Recipe for Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars with Pretzel Crust


In this Nanaimo Bars recipe, the iconic Canadian dessert gets a sweet and salty treatment. The classic vanilla custard filling and cookie crust are replaced with a creamy peanut butter layer and a pretzel crust!

Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars with Pretzel crust stacked on a white plate

What are Nanaimo Bars? 

I first began hearing about Nanaimo Bars about 5 years ago, when I moved to Canada and started looking for iconic Canadian desserts to try! Why are Nanaimo Bars called that? Nanaimo Bars were made popular in the city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, by a housewife who submitted the recipe for a cookbook back in the 1950s.

The conventional Nanaimo Bars recipe was made of a chocolate cookie crumb base, topped with a smooth and rich homemade vanilla custard filling and then topped a chocolate ganache. 

side view of a stack of Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars with Pretzel Crust

Truth be told though, I’ve never really been a fan of that plain vanilla custard filling. So for years, I’ve been making different flavored versions! Coffee, Mint, Irish Cream, Red Velvet, and other flavorings as well.

And let’s not forget about these Vegan Nanaimo Bars, – another neat twist on a Canadian treat! As I find traditional Nanaimo Bars overly sweet, I always try to think ways to make them less sweet.

How to make Nanaimo Bars less sweet apart from reducing the amount of sugar? Well, by adding a salty element! My version today is indeed for all lovers of sweet and salty treats. Of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, of Snickers. Of life in general. I give to you Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars with Pretzel Crust! I gotta say it trumps versions I have ever tasted in Canadian coffee shops.

a overhead shot of a stack of Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars on a white plate with a pretzel on top

Why you will love these Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars: 

 First off, these are not too sweet! The base for these Nanaimo bars is a wonderfully dense and chewy mixture that includes crushed pretzels instead of Graham Crackers, shredded coconut, cocoa powder and a hint of cinnamon.

The sweet and salty pretzel base is topped with a smooth and decadent peanut butter filling reminiscent of Reese’s peanut butter cups, but less sweet plus we use GOOD peanut butter!  Finally, a thick layer of homemade chocolate ganache is spread over the top.

The combination of flavors is phenomenal. Many times the base is too hard and the filling too soft, making them difficult to eat. Not with these Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars – they hold up well and are also easy to transport. Ideal for potlucks or holiday gatherings. 

Homemade Nanaimo Bars with Peanut Butter Buttercream and Pretzel Crust

How to store Nanaimo Bars? 

 Store your Peanut Butter & Pretzel Nanaimo Bars in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks or in the freezer for 6 months. They store great in freezer ziplock bags. To keep them from sticking together, I simply cut a few strips of parchment or wax paper to put in between each layer of the Nanaimo Bars.

side view of a stack of best Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars with pretzels on the side

Tips for making this Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars Recipe: 

  • To avoid the chocolate layer cracking when you cut your bars into squares, run your knife under hot water for 30 seconds. Now quickly wipe dry and then cut the bars. 
  • Another tip for cutting these neatly is to score the top chocolate layer before refrigerating the Nanaimo bars. After they are chilled simply cut through the bars in the same place you scored them. I use a hot knife as well.
  • While you can use any kind of peanut butter– smooth or crunchy, I suggest is you taste your peanut butter filling and add a pinch of salt, if necessary. 
  •  You can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut in the base. I actually prefer unsweetened. 

Did you make and love this recipe for Nanaimo Bars? Give it your review below! And make sure to share your creations by tagging me on Instagram!

peanut butter Nanaimo bars with pretzel crust stacked on a white plate
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Recipe for Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars with Pretzel Crust

In this Nanaimo Bars recipe, the iconic Canadian dessert gets a sweet and salty treatment. The classic vanilla custard filling and cookie crust are replaced with a creamy peanut butter layer and a pretzel crust!

Course Dessert
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword peanut butter nanaimo bars, peanut butter pretzel bars, recipe for nanaimo bars
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 14 minutes
Total Time 39 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 340 kcal
Author Kiki Johnson

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups pretzels - 230 g
  • 1/2 cup sugar - 100 g
  • 3/4 cups melted butter - 180 ml
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 g shredded coconut
  • ½ tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder - 40 g
  • 320 g peanut butter smooth
  • 1/3 cups butter 75 g
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups icing sugar + 2 tbsps - 270 g
  • 1/3 cup milk - 80 ml
  • 1,5 cup dark chocolate chips 70% - 230 g
  • 3 tbsps butter - 40 g

Instructions

  1. Line a square baking tin (23 x 33 cm) with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 180 C.

For the crust:

  1. Grind your pretzels in a food processor. A few bigger chunks are no problem at all. Cream sugar with melted cooled butter and eggs for about 3 minutes. Add ground pretzels, coconut, cinnamon, and cocoa. Press this mix into the baking tin firmly. I use wet hands or a metal measuring cup to do that. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the crust loses its shine. Let cool completely.

For the filling

  1. In a microwave-proof dish, heat peanut butter, butter and salt and stir. Now whip that mix in your stand mixer until cool, adding powdered sugar and milk in small increments until a smooth filling forms.
  2. Spread onto the base and chill.

For the ganache:

  1. Melt chocolate chips or chopped chocolate and butter over a hot water bath. Stir and pour over the chilled peanut base. Smooth out and return to the fridge to set for another 2 hours.

Recipe Notes

  • To avoid the chocolate layer cracking when you cut your bars into squares, run your knife under hot water for 30 seconds. Now quickly wipe dry and then cut the bars. 
  • Another tip for cutting these neatly is to score the top chocolate layer before refrigerating the Nanaimo bars. After they are chilled simply cut through the bars in the same place you scored them. I use a hot knife as well.
  • While you can use any kind of peanut butter– smooth or crunchy, I suggest is you taste your peanut butter filling and add a pinch of salt, if necessary. 
  •  You can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut in the base. I actually prefer unsweetened. 


2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Kanadischer Dattel Streuselkuchen ohne Hefe vom Blech (vegane option)


  2. I just discovered you today, and although i am at work i can’t stop looking through your recipes. This website is FANTASTIC!! I can’t wait to try every single one of them. Thank you so much for this completeley organized place of glory.

    Elena

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