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!
Raw mint Nanaimo bars
Yield: 12 small bars
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
For the base:
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the cacao powder and salt and pulse to combine. The mixture should stick together when pressed between two fingers.
- Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and set in the freezer while you make the filling.
For the mint filling:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.