Raw mint Nanaimo bars

It’s barely the beginning of December and I can already smell the familiar aroma of the holiday season. Cinnamon candles, candy canes, mulled wine and hot cocoa are on everyone’s mind once again.

And then there’s the warming scent of holiday baking. As one unapologetic Canadian treat, Nanaimo bars have been making their way into kitchens all over the world. These three-layer bars are famous for a reason: they start with a graham cracker crumb base, followed by a layer of light custard buttercream, and the crowning glory is a smooth, glossy layer of chocolate. Traditionally loaded with powdered sugar, butter, eggs and chocolate, they are as sweet as sweet can be. I made a vegan version of these indulgent treats last year but this year I’m in the mood for something a little different.

Enter my raw mint-chocolate Nanaimo bars. I am head-over-heels in love with this new raw version, made with simple whole foods like nuts, dates, avocado, fresh mint and raw cacao. My love affair with the mint filling first began when I created my raw ice cream sandwich cookies last spring, and so I knew a Nanaimo bar recipe wouldn’t be a far stretch.

Please note I made these bars using a loaf pan instead of a typical square pan because the density of most raw treats means you only need a small serving to fulfill your dessert cravings. Even still, this recipe makes enough for 12 small squares. Also, be sure to store them in an air-tight container in the freezer (not the fridge) to keep their beautiful green hue. Enjoy!

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Raw mint Nanaimo bars

Yield: 12 small bars

Ingredients:

For the base:

    • 1/2 cup raw almonds
    • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
    • 2/3 cup dates, soaked and well drained
    • 1/4 cup cacao powder
    • pinch of salt

For the mint layer:

    • 2 small avocados, peeled and pitted
    • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
    • 1/3 cup raw agave nectar
    • 1/2 tsp pure mint extract (or more to taste)
    • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil

For the chocolate topping:

  • 3 tbsp melted cacao butter
  • 3 tbsp cacao powder, sifted
  • 2 tbsp raw agave nectar

Directions:

For the base:

    1. Line the bottom of a 10 x 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Be sure to leave an overhang, so it's easier to remove the finished bars. Set aside.
    2. In a food processor, process the almonds and walnuts to a coarse meal. Add the dates and continue to process until the dates are broken down.
    3. Add the cacao powder and salt and pulse to combine. The mixture should stick together when pressed between two fingers.
    4. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and set in the freezer while you make the filling.

For the mint filling:

    1. In a high-speed blender, blend the avocados, mint leaves, agave and mint extract until smooth. You may need to stop and scrap down the sides a few times.
    2. Add the coconut oil and blend for a few seconds to combine. The mixture should be thick and creamy. (If your blender doesn't move the mixture very well, try blending it in batches until smooth.)
    3. Remove the pan from the freezer and pour the mixture on top of the crust, smoothing it out with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Return to the freezer until firm, at least one hour.
For the chocolate topping:
    1. Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. You may need to warm up the mixture if the cacao butter firms up too quickly. You can do this by using a double boiler a very low heat setting to keep it warm while whisking, or by putting the mixture in the dehydrator for a few minutes.
    2. Remove the pan from the freezer again and pour the chocolate topping on top of the avocado filling, smoothing it out quickly with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Return to the freezer one last time until the topping is set.

To cut:

  1. It takes some practice to cut any kind of Nanaimo bars without cracking the chocolate topping, and the same goes for raw Nanaimo bars. For best results, remove the bar from the pan by pulling up on the parchement paper and set on a cutting board. Place a sharp serrated knife in a jar of hot water for several minutes, wipe it on a kitchen towel and then use light sawing motions with the knife to cut into squares. Warm the knife in the water as needed to cut all squares. Store bars in an air-tight container in the freezer.
      

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26 Responses to “Raw mint Nanaimo bars”

  1. Amber Shea @Almost Vegan — November 29, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

    Beautiful! They look simply perfect in every way. I was going to ask how you managed to cut them so perfectly – thanks for addressing that! :)

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — November 30th, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

      Thanks, Amber! Yes, cutting them certainly takes some practise :)

      Reply

      • christine ho replied: — December 21st, 2011 @ 10:53 pm

        great cutting tip! :D

  2. veganlisa — November 30, 2011 @ 12:08 am

    You’re a genius!

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — November 30th, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

      Aww, thanks! P.S. I miss you.

      Reply

  3. Amanda — November 30, 2011 @ 9:41 am

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried a traditional nanaimo bar, but your version looks delicious. I love anything with chocolate and mint, and the color is beautiful!

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — November 30th, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! I agree. Chocolate and mint go very well together :)

      Reply

  4. Tina@flourtrader — December 1, 2011 @ 6:57 am

    These look so tempting! Your ingredient list does look healthy as well as creative. Love the addition of the avocado, it adds color as well as some great nutrients. Well done!

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — December 1st, 2011 @ 11:34 am

      Thanks, Tina! I’m a big fan of healthier ingredients :)

      Reply

  5. Cara — December 6, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    These look fabulous! Not to mention the fact that they are perfectly cut too. I love how they are raw :)

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — December 6th, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

      Thanks, Cara! :)

      Reply

  6. Dana Zia — June 28, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

    WOW!! These look AMAZING! Must make! (steps run away from the computer)

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — June 29th, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

      Thanks, Dana! :)

      Reply

  7. Leanne — July 25, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

    I made them but mistook cocoa butter for coconut butter and my topping did not turn out at all! ( but it still tastes great!)

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — July 25th, 2012 @ 9:28 pm

      Oops! I’m glad you enjoyed them anyway :)

      Reply

  8. Leanne — July 25, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

    Also substituted carob powder for cocoa powder but that seemed to be ok…

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — July 25th, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

      Interesting idea! I should bring more carob into my life… :)

      Reply

  9. Naomi — December 5, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

    Hi Nicole!

    I love your blog and mean no offense at all but I made these and the insides tasted very strange!? They were very very very very sweet and I followed the recipe did you notice anything off about the insides ever? Is there something I could have done wrong? I bake raw and vegan often so am relatively used to the tastes so I don’t think it was the ingredients that bothered me, any suggestions they looks so delicious I wonder what happened??

    Thanks!
    Naomi

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — December 6th, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

      I’m sorry to hear they didn’t work out for you, Naomi! I just made these a few weeks ago and they turned out fine. Which brand of agave did you use? Did you use mint extract? The filling should taste more minty than sweet.

      Reply

      • Naomi replied: — December 6th, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

        Hmm I must have muddled something up ….I used “simply organic” peppermint extract and the wholesome brand organic raw agave nectar, oh well thanks for the reply! Ill have to try them again sometime and figure out what went wrong, they did look great and the top and bottom were delicious but the inside wasn’t edible lol

  10. Maya — April 14, 2013 @ 11:22 pm

    I made these today and they were simply amazing! I made 2 flavors- the mint version posted here and I also made a lemon-vanilla one using lemon zest, juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Both flavors were a huge hit! I will definitely be making these again. Thanks for the great recipe! :)

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — April 16th, 2013 @ 11:35 am

      I’m so glad you liked them, Maya! I love your idea to make them into a lemon-vanilla version. You’re a genius!

      Reply

  11. Jenna — April 15, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

    Do you recommend Dutch processed (alkalized) or natural cocoa powder?

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — April 16th, 2013 @ 11:37 am

      When I say cacao (rather than cocoa) I mean raw, natural cacao powder :)

      Reply

  12. Brook — December 16, 2014 @ 8:08 pm

    These look awesome, gonna make me for my slumber party this weekend ;) Just wondering 1. How many days ahead of time could I make them? Should store them in the freezers or fridge? And 2. Do you think I could double the recipe?
    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Nicole replied: — December 17th, 2014 @ 10:27 am

      Hi Brook! You can totally make these a few days ahead of time. Just be sure to store them in an airtight container in the freezer so they keep their bright green hue (otherwise the avocado might start turning brown). I think you can easily double the recipe and use an 8×8-inch square pan. You may need to blend the middle filling in batches though, which shouldn’t be too hard. Oh, and be sure to read my tips in the recipe about cutting them with a serrated knife so you don’t end up cracking the chocolate top. Hope you and your slumber party friends enjoy them!

      Reply

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