Hailing from Nanaimo, BC, Nanaimo bars are a delicious dessert treat commonly found throughout Canada. Although they generally require no baking, it takes great care to create these treats just right.
Nanaimo bars are comprised of 3 layers: A top layer of chocolate ganache, a middle layer of buttery custard icing, and a wafer / nut bottom layer.
There are many variations on the recipe, and what a person considers perfection is subjective. As well, Nanaimo bars can be eaten at room temperature or chilled in the fridge. This changes their texture and firmness, altering the experience.
The authors of this article happen to prefer eating chilled Nanaimo bars, but appreciate that the entire bar doesn’t crack or give way upon biting. A perfect-consistency bar at room temperature may be too hard when refrigerated.
While other parts of North America and even Europe have made similar desserts with their own recipes, we are grateful to be part of the country where Nanaimo bars were born.
You don’t have to go to Nanaimo to find one of these treats. They’re available throughout Canada, though seemingly less prevalent in some areas, such as Montreal.
If you’re in Newfoundland and wondering where to get the best Nanaimo bar, we’ve sampled every single one we could find. You can find Nanaimo bars in Newfoundland as a single bar or in packages. Despite being such a delicate dessert to perfect, most times the pros get it right, but we wanted to document the very best which stood out the most.
Nanaimo Bar Names
Before diving into the best Nanaimo bars in Newfoundland, we wanted to take a moment to address the naming inconsistencies we’ve noticed.
We’ve found them called Nanaimo squares, dominoes, and domino bars, in addition to the “proper” Nanaimo bar title.
Why? The history books don’t really say. But even as you’ll see on our list, some local Newfoundland bakeries choose to stray from the “Nanaimo bar” title which the rest of Canada seemed to have agreed upon.
Nanaimo Bars in Newfoundland
Let’s get into our findings of Nanaimo bars in Newfoundland.
These sad excuses for Nanaimo bars were bought at Dominion under the brand Charlotte’s. Not locally made, one of the many issues with these is the top chocolate layer sliding around like a krazy karpet.
Overall they were flimsy, crumbly, and flat out bad. They weren’t disgusting, but they certainly didn’t have the allure that Nanaimo bars typically do.
We were a bit surprised to find these Nanaimo bars at Walmart for $5 and couldn’t pass up a chance to try them. They were “Walmart-y” for sure. The package says “Manufactured for Aryzta Bakery Co. Canada Ltd., Mississauga Ontario.” They didn’t look as the label depicted.
Overall these were thin, but made up for it with having a larger surface area. The bottom layer was soft and brownie-like. The top chocolate layer appeared to have been poured over, and included a paper surround to contain the chocolate while it hardened.
These were adequate, but they clearly lacked the homemade love of a local bakery. We’d eat them again if they were the last Nanaimo Bars in Newfoundland, otherwise there are better options.
These are fine, but we don’t advocate for frozen Nanaimo bars. They’re a big 850g size though, so you can always keep them on hand for company or for an emergency. For naming they do use the standard “Nanaimo bar” term.
Our best guess is that Costco only carries Nanaimo bars seasonally. We’ve had them from here before, but when we tried to check out their offering for writing this article (during the summer months) there were none to be found.
From our past memory we found these to be okay. They’re of course mass produced, but probably a good value and nice to have around at Christmas since they were the largest pack we’ve ever seen for sale in retail.
We did find a blog from 2018 where Costco was selling a Gourmet Baker brand which was made by the same company who made the Walmart ones, but the same writer later reviewed a Kirkland brand from Costco as well. It’s the Kirkland ones we’re familiar with.
We love Lester’s farm and many of their baked goods, although these Nanaimo’s were adequate, they aren’t our favourite of the local bakery offerings. Lester’s makes all kinds of delicious goodies, but we found the Nanaimo bars to have room for improvement. The typical defined Nanaimo flavours weren’t really present, instead there was an overall bland sweet taste. We suspect that in a blindfolded taste test, we wouldn’t have even been able to determine that these were Nanaimo bars. The top was thin, middle was a little soft, and the bottom layer consistency was different and crumbly. The bottom also had nut pieces, but this is not necessarily a negative since it’s based on personal preference.
Finally, at $6.30 a tray for 490g, these were among the most expensive we’ve found.
This Bay Robert’s bakery churns out some darn fine Nanaimo bars. The package claims that they’re “just like nan’s” and we enjoyed them. The middle layer was generous in size but slightly lacking in flavour, otherwise they were great overall. The bottom layer didn’t appear to have any large pieces of nuts. These were purchased at Pipers.
Available at Circle K and other convenience stores..
These are as good as any Nanaimo bar! Nothing bad to report. These were $5.99 at the time of purchase, from Circle K. It’s expected you’d pay more for a product from a convenience store. There did not seem to be any large nut chunks in the base layer of these.
This offering from Trinity Bakeshop called “Domino Bars” can be found around the province in various stores, including large chain supermarkets like Sobeys.
These had a thick bottom layer with large walnut chunks, well we think it was walnut. So if you like obvious nuts in your Nanaimos, these are for you.
Trinity does offer “Nanaimo bars” but they look different…
To the best we can tell, these “Nanaimo bars” are essentially the Domino Bars above but without the proper chocolate top layer. Why does this exist? We have no idea, but the ingredients are there so they’re pretty good.
These were quite good for a chain and priced at under $3, though for a smaller portion than what you’d expect from a grocery store. We noticed some sort of pattern on the bottom layer when viewed from the side that gave the impression these were made in a big facility, though that may not be the case. The overall bar certainly didn’t have any other “mass manufacturing” qualities. It tasted like it was made with love, the chocolate top layer was perfect in size and consistency. The flavours were fairly well defined. The bottom layer had plenty of coconut, perhaps even a tad too much.
Robin’s has locations across Canada, including in many smaller and rural Newfoundland towns, so they’re a good option if you have a hankering for a Nanaimo. They don’t always stock them, though.
Marie’s Mini Mart
There’s no debating that all 3 layers in a Nanaimo bar have a role to play, but how thick or thin each layer should be is subjective.
We personally love the middle layer, so when this is thick we think it’s great. Marie’s Mini Mart sells individual portions rather than larger packs, similar to Robin’s. The price is high, though again this is expected for convenience stores. You can see their middle layer is quite thick. These were great but the price was not ideal if you need a larger amount.
There’s a large presence of shredded coconut in the base layer.
Chatman’s / West Tower / Coleman’s / Coffee Matters / Bidgood’s
Although this list wasn’t really meant to rank in a particular order, we did sort of start with the least favourites, and we are definitely finishing with hands-down the best Nanaimo bar in Newfoundland that we found.
Early during testing we happened upon the Coffee Matters Nanaimo bar and thought it had potential to be a winner.
We later learned that these delicious things are made by Chatman’s Bakery in Charlottetown, NL, now owned by Goulding’s Wholesale Ltd. They also own West Tower Bakery.
It turns out that all Nanaimo bars from Goulding’s are made at the Chatman’s facility! Chatman’s supplies not only Coffee Matters, but Bidgood’s, Coleman’s, and more. As well, the bars are sold under the Chatman’s name throughout the province, including Dominion stores on the Avalon. Finally, the West Tower brand sells these same squares under their name and can be found at various places including Sobeys. Interestingly, they’re called “Dominoes” on the West Tower packaging but “Nanaimo Squares” on the website.
Although we originally thought Coffee Matters would get the top award, rightfully the title now goes to any of these bars made by Chatman’s. Their slogan is “Handmade from scratch since 1979” and it clearly shows! These are nicely homemade right here in NL, and are absolutely delicious. It’s no wonder they’ve become such a popular supplier.
We love the thickness and consistency of the top layer in particular, and the flavour of the overall bar cannot be beat. It’s rich but not overwhelming.
If you can’t leave your house, it’s easy to actually get the Chatman’s Nanaimo Squares delivered from 7th Wave Coffee!
Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments. We’ll try it and add it to the list when we can get around to tasting them.