Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars by Everyday Gluten Free Gourmet

photo credit, Jim Little

  • Cinde Little writes the Everyday Gluten Free Gourmet food blog and teaches cooking classes in Calgary, Alberta. She became interested in gluten free cooking in 2009 after a friend was diagnosed with celiac disease. Food restrictions are real and learning to accommodate them is an important skill. As a passionate home cook, Cinde encourages everyone to just get in the kitchen and cook!

Visit or follow her on social media:

Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars wp

Photo credit, Jim Little

Nanaimo Ice Cream Bars* are the perfect version of Nanaimo Bars for summer. Serve them at any gathering and they are sure to be a hit. If you’ve got kids be sure to get them in the kitchen making the homemade ice cream first and then the bars. This is the kind of summer project that could result in a new family favourite.

Nanaimo Bars are a dessert with a history. Apparently this layered dessert was invented in the 1950’s in Nanaimo, British Columbia and I certainly enjoyed them when I was young. Traditionally Nanaimo bars are made with Bird’s custard powder and some would say this ingredient is essential for the most authentic Nanaimo Bar experience.

Bird’s Custard vs Vanilla Pudding Mix

Bird’s Custard Powder was invented more than 100 years ago. It’s a packaged food but it is an egg free substitute for custard and it’s gluten free.

Modern recipes substitute packaged vanilla pudding mix for custard powder. This is also gluten free and was easier to find when I went shopping. Another bonus for the pudding mix is that you will use it all up in one recipe. Of course there is a difference in the taste so you decide what works for you. I’m confident no one, and I mean no one, will complain if you give them a Nanaimo Ice Cream Bar made with vanilla pudding.

If you are a connoisseur of Nanaimo Bars, or want to become one, try both versions and have a taste test. That’s what I did and this is the recipe I used.



  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 TBSP cocoa powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TSP vanilla
  • 1 cup graham crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut


  • 3 cups half and half cream (10% fat)
  • 1/3 cup sugar


  • 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate or 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 TBSP butter



  1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil large enough to hang over on 2 sides of the pan. For slightly thinner ice cream bars use a 9-inch x 13-inch baking pan.
  2. In a medium saucepan combine butter, sugar, cocoa powder, egg and vanilla. Stir to mix evenly and cook over low heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the Graham style crumbs, coconut and pecans. Stir to combine.
  4. Press mixture into prepared pan.


  1. In a medium saucepan whisk half and half, sugar and Bird’s custard powder until smooth. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles and thickens, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  2. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to manufacturers directions.
  3. Spread soft ice cream evenly over the crumb base. Cover and freeze.


  1. Melt chocolate and butter in small saucepan over low heat.
  2. Working quickly, pour mixture over custard ice cream and spread to cover completely.
  3. Freeze at least 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Using over hanging foil remove from pan. Peel off foil and cut into bars about 1½ x 2½-inches, using a warm knife. Wipe knife between each cut. Return bars to freezer until ready to serve.

Using Vanilla Pudding for the Custard Ice Cream Layer:

  • 2 boxes instant vanilla pudding mix (I used the 102 g size)
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups milk (2% or whole milk)
  • 1½ cups whipping cream

In a large bowl whisk vanilla pudding mix, icing sugar and milk until it starts to thicken. Add whipping cream and stir until the mixture is evenly combined. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers’ directions.

More Ice Cream Recipes

* Click to View Recipe on

Cinde’s ‘How to Use Gluten-Free Flour’ Series

Everyday Gluten Free Gourmet Flour Mix

Everyday Gluten Free Gourmet’s Favourite Flour Mix – photo credit, Jim Little