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Eggless Nanaimo Salepi (Sahlab) Bars

Eggless Nanaimo Salepi (Sahlab) Bars

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Nanaimo bars are British Columbia’s (Canada) most popular chocolate dessert.  

There are many stories about the origin and name of this confection.  

Nanaimo in a platter image

According to Wikipedia the oldest recipe appearing in a cookbook goes back to 1953.  

However, as I read in the official website of Nanaimo (where you will also find the recipe),  the confection became more popular when the Canadian mayor initiated a contest in 1985 to find the ultimate Nanaimo bar and Joyce Hardcastle’s recipe was the one which won.

As you scroll further down, you will find two of my own recipes. The classic recipe is at the end of the post.

How I made my Nanaimo Bars

In order to create my own recipe I read a few recipes on the web to understand what this dessert was about.

The dessert consists of three layers, each one needing time in the refrigerator before proceeding to the next one:

Biscuit Base:

The base is a layer of Graham Crackers Wafers, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, walnuts (I’ve also seen it with almonds), shredded coconut and an egg combined together.  

Ingredients for biscuit base image

In Greece we do not have Graham Crackers Wafers, which actually have nothing to do with wafers, but in other recipes calling for this biscuit, I used to substitute it with Digestive biscuits.  

Nanaimo Bars picture

However, I chose to use real chocolate wafers.  I made my own crust using dark brown sugar and did not add egg as I considered it redundant.  

I used dark brown sugar and I urge you not to use any other type of sugar (although you can) as this particular one gives a crunch in the biscuit base as well as a lovely caramel flavour.

Note: If you have leftover Christmas cookies, such as Melomakarona or Kourabiedes, you can use them to make the base.

The filling:

The middle layer is a rich pastry cream, made of butter, sugar, custard powder (or vanilla pudding powder) and  milk.

This part was a bit confusing to me as regards the custard powder.  My thought at the time was to make a creme anglaise.  However the original cream is more like buttercream, so I was thinking to add gelatine to thicken it.

Instead I made the filling using Salepi Powder. (You will find information about salepi at the end).

Chocolate layer:

The third layer is the simplest to make.  

Chocolate and butter are melted over a double boiler.  I love adding black pepper to chocolate but if you don’t like pepper, you can leave it out.

collage nanaimo bars image

By mere coincidence, a few days before, my friend Joumana posted about Sahlab drink, which is a popular drink introduced by the Ottamans in the countries they ruled.  

Greece and Cyprus were, of course, ruled by the Ottomans and it used to be very popular here as well.

A few days before Christmas  my husband and I went to Athens for some Christmas shopping and passing from Plateia Dimarhiou, I remembered a nearby Middle Eastern store and I decided to buy a packet of sahlab to try it.  

Of course, this is not the real thing but just a pudding, flavoured with Sahlab.  

Nanaimo Bars image

When we tried it, we loved its taste and that is why I decided to use this pudding to make my middle layer.  

However, as it is possibly hard to find sahlab, you can substitute the pudding with a pastry cream or a Diplomat cream (which is a pastry cream mixed with whipped cream) or any other filling you prefer.

I followed the instructions on the package but although the pudding thickens, it’s supposed to be a drink which will not set.  

I don’t know if it would set if I added more powder but I decided to add some gelatine so that it would set.  

When I made the drink it seems that sugar was added to the starch as it was sweet, so I did not add any sugar to the cream.

What is Sahlab (Salepi in Greek)?

For those who don’t know this drink, “Salepi” is a drink made from the tubers of a kind or orchid which is powdered into starch.

It is then thickened and flavoured with rose or citrus water and drank as a beverage to warm you up during winter.  

This beverage is sold by street vendors and it is good to relieve the cough, asthma, stomach pain etc.

You can still find some Sahlab vendors in Athens, usually at Ermou Street, near Syntagma square. The picture was taken during a visit to Thessaloniki.

Salepi vendor image
Salepi vendor in Thessaloniki

It is sweetened either using sugar or honey and flavoured with citrus or rose water, ginger and cinnamon.

This profession will be extinct in a few years here in Greece, as there are only a few old street vendors left.

In Cyprus I am not sure if there are any left.  

As in Greece it is sold only by street vendors, I was reluctant to try it but if I see one again, this time I will definitely try it.

Update 2020:

White Chocolate and Chestnut Nanaimo Bars

I’ve made Nanaimo Bars endless times since 2005, when I first made it but instead of the Sahlab filling, I now use pastry cream and it is always a great hit.

Nanaimo bars with white and dark chocolate image

Below, you will find a recipe I made adding chestnuts to the biscuit base, the filling is a Diplomat cream, which is a pastry cream combined with whipped cream and it is topped with white chocolate and dark chocolate.

White chocolate nanaimo bars image

It is served with a homemade candied chestnut on top.

Nanaimo bars served with chestnut preserve image

Scroll further down to find the Eggless Nanaimo Salepi (Sahlab) Bars and the classic recipe.

Nanaimo bars served with chestnut preserve image

White Chocolate and Chestnut Nanaimo Bars

Yield: 10
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours

Scroll further down in the post, to find the Eggless Nanaimo Salepi (Sahlab) Bars and the classic recipe.

This is a twist to the classic Nanaimo bars featuring chestnuts in the biscuit base, the filling made with diplomat cream, topped with white and dark chocolate and served with a candied chestnut on top.


  • Ingredients:

First layer:

  • 100 g of butter
  • 40 g of cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa
  • 136 grams chocolate wafers
  • 50 g of roasted almonds
  • 50 grams of walnuts
  • 50 grams candied chestnuts
  • 100 g of grated coconut
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Second layer:

  • Diplomat cream:
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 heaped tbsp corn flour
  • 2 heaped tbsp crystal sugar
  • 1 orange flavoured vanilla sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 sheets gelatin soaked in water
  • 100 ml heavy cream, whipped
  • A few drops of vanilla essence

Third layer:

  • 200 g of white chocolate
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 50 ml of whipped cream
  • 100 grams couverture chocolate
  • 50 ml whipped cream
  • Candied Chestnuts to serve on top (optional)



  1. You can line your container with parchment paper, but this is only necessary if you want to transfer it into a platter.
  2. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan or in the microwave, 1 minute each time, until melted.
  3. In a food processor, add the waters, chestnuts, almonds and walnuts and pulse them 
  4. Put them in a bowl and add all the remaining ingredients 
  5. Add the butter and mix to wet the ingredients.
  6. Spread the biscuit base on a 18 x 28 cm Pyrex.
  7. Press to make it even and refrigerate until you prepare the pudding.


  1. Heat the milk.
  2. Place the gelatin sheets in a bowl and cover with tap water. Set aside for
    5 minutes until they soften.
  3. Put the eggs, corn flour, sugar, vanilla and salt in a pot and whisk until combined  Add the hot milk and whisk on the heat continuously until it thickens.
  4. Add the gelatin leaves and mix until they dissolve.
  5. Remove from the heat and cover the cream with cling film  Set aside until
    it cools.
  6. Whisk 200 ml heavy cream with a few drops of vanilla essence until peaks form 
    Refrigerate until ready to use.
  7. Whisk the cooled cream with a hand mixer and add half of the whipped cream 
    Mix until well combined.
  8. Spread it on top of the biscuit base and refrigerate it until it sets.


  1. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, one minute each time, until it melts. Add the milk and keep mixing from time to time, until it cools  Add half of the leftover whipped cream and mix until well combined  Pour the chocolate on top of the filling and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. In the same container add the dark chocolate and melt it in the microwave, same way as above.
  3. Mix until it cools 
  4. Add the remaining whipped cream and mix until incorporated.
  5. Cut a piece of parchment paper and make a cone  Put the chocolate in and
    make the criss-cross pattern or decorate as you like.
  6. Refrigerate for a few hours before cutting.
  7. Serve with a candied chestnut on top 
Nutrition Information
Yield 10 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 571Total Fat 35gSaturated Fat 18gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 101mgSodium 292mgCarbohydrates 56gFiber 4gSugar 36gProtein 11g

"These values are automatically calculated and offered for guidance only. Their accuracy is not guaranteed."

Did you make this recipe?

Tried this recipe? Tag me @ivyliac and use the hashtag #kopiaste!

Collage White chocolate and chestnut nanaimo bars image

This recipe goes to Zibaldone Culinario who is hosting this month’s event ABC Culinario.  This month we shall be travelling to Canada.

Happy New Year 2015 Nanaimo image

The New Year begins, so let us pray that it will be a year with worldwide Peace, and to you my readers, may God bless you through out the New!  Happy New Year!

Nanaimo Bars with sahlab filling picture

Eggless Nanaimo Salepi (Sahlab) Bars

Yield: 28
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chilling time: 3 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes

Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian Christmas dessert. They are made with a chocolate biscuit base, coconut, and walnut crust then topped with a layer of custard and topped with chocolate.


Biscuit Base:

  • 125 grams butter
  • 204 grams (3 packets by 68 g each) Amaretti Chocolate Wafers*
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 30 grams (about 4 tablespoons) cocoa powder, sifted
  • 10 drops vanilla extract
  • 100 grams (1 cup) shredded coconut
  • 115 grams (1 cup) toasted walnuts (chopped)
  • ½ cup leftover melomakarona filling (optional)*


  • 4 cups milk
  • 100 grams salepi (sahlab) starch powder
  • 1 tsp citrus blossom water
  • 1 sheet gelatine soaked in water


  • 200 grams chocolate
  • 50 grams butter
  • Freshly grated black pepper



  1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan or in the microwave.
  2. Powder the wafers and empty in a bowl Add all the remaining ingredients.
  3. Add the butter and mix to wet the ingredients.
  4. Line a 35 x 21 cm Pyrex with parchment paper and spread the biscuit base. Press to make it even, cover with cling film and refrigerate until you make the pudding.


  1. Place the gelatine sheet in a bowl and cover with tap water Set aside for 5 minutes until it softens.
  2. Put the milk and salepi (sahlab) powder in a pot and using a balloon whisk stir until it begins boiling (At this point it should start bubbling and the cream will thicken but not set).
  3. Remove from the heat and add the gelatine sheet Stir until it dissolves.
  4. Mix in the citrus blossom water Set aside until it becomes lukewarm before pouring the cream on top of the base Refrigerate until it sets.


  1. Melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler, grate some black pepper and stir until smooth.
  2. Spread over the filling layer and when the surface is coated, score the pieces you will later want to cut 
  3. Chill until the chocolate begins to harden.
  4. Before the chocolate becomes too hard, remove the confection from the Pyrex and cut it into bars  Heat the knife over a flame or put boiling water in a pot and dip your knife to warm it up and gently cut the bars Wipe the knife after each cut.
  5. Place in a platter and store in the refrigerator.


*Instead of using wafers or other traditional biscuits, you can use some of your Christmas leftover cookies to make the base.

Nutrition Information
Yield 28 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 181Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 18mgSodium 83mgCarbohydrates 15gFiber 1gSugar 10gProtein 3g

"These values are automatically calculated and offered for guidance only. Their accuracy is not guaranteed."

Did you make this recipe?

Tried this recipe? Tag me @ivyliac and use the hashtag #kopiaste!

Nanaimo Bars picture

Classic Recipe for Nanaimo Bars

Yield: 16
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours

This is the classic recipe for Nanaimo Bars.

As you scroll further down, you will find two of my own recipes.

To create these delectable bars, you'll need three distinct layers, each with its unique set of ingredients.


For the Bottom Layer:

  • 115 grams (1/2 cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 40 grams (1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon) pure vanilla extract
  • 200 grams (2 cups) graham cracker crumbs
  • 85 grams (1 cup) shredded coconut
  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) chopped nuts (traditionally walnuts)

For the Middle Layer:

  • 115 grams (1/2 cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 250 grams (2 cups) powdered sugar
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) vanilla custard powder (e.g., Bird's)
  • 30 milliliters (2 tablespoons) milk

For the Top Layer:

  • 115 grams (4 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter.


Prepare the Bottom Layer:

  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, beaten egg, and vanilla extract.
    Stir in the graham cracker crumbs, shredded coconut, and chopped nuts until the mixture is well combined.
    Press this mixture firmly into the bottom of a greased 23x23 cm (9x9-inch) square baking pan.

Prepare the Middle Layer:

  1. In a separate bowl, cream together the softened butter, powdered sugar, custard powder, and milk until smooth and creamy.Spread this mixture evenly over the bottom layer in the baking pan.

Prepare the Top Layer:

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the semi-sweet chocolate and 30 grams (2 tablespoons) of butter together in 30-second intervals, stirring until smooth.
  2. Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the middle layer, spreading it evenly.

Chill and Serve:

  1. Refrigerate the Nanaimo Bars for at least 2-3 hours, or until they are set.
  2. Once set, cut them into squares and serve.

    Did you make this recipe?

    Tried this recipe? Tag me @ivyliac and use the hashtag #kopiaste!

    Christmas Desserts

    Looking for inspiration for this Christmas?

    Collage Eggless Nanaimo Salepi Bars image

    Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,

    Sharing is caring!

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    Wednesday 4th of March 2015

    Hi There your Eggless Nanaimo Salepi (Sahlab) Bars recipe is simply great.... Tried it today and turned out Awesome I loved it and family too...Will definately make it for my guest who are coming this summer...Its Really delicious and very easy and very neatly explained procedure thanks..


    Wednesday 4th of March 2015

    Thank you Swapnali. Glad you and your family enjoyed it.

    Jess and Brandon

    Friday 6th of February 2015

    ... damn this looks appetizing. I can't wait to try this recipe. Looks delicious.

    Bryan McDonald

    Monday 5th of January 2015

    An incredible ingredients for new year. It looks delicous. Thank you.

    Kyle Stephen

    Monday 5th of January 2015

    It's so yummy! Thanks for sharing this Eggless Nanaimo Salepi (Sahlab) Bars recipe. I will try this at home and my kids will love to taste this.


    Saturday 3rd of January 2015

    I'm impressed how you took yummy Nanaimo bars and made them into a Greek version. The real things are absolutely delicious (quite sweet though). Hopefully you'll get to try them some day. No graham crackers? Digestives would work pretty well.


    Saturday 3rd of January 2015

    I am sure I will be making them again and next time I will make them the traditional way.

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