Salted Tahini Nanaimo Bars

salted tahini nanaimo bars

Happy birthday to my Dad! He turned 65 yesterday, which is a big deal, but shows zero signs of slowing down or becoming a *gasp* “senior citizen”. In fact, he’s starting a brand new career as I post this! Very inspiring stuff, dad. Love you!

salted tahini nanaimo bars

Nanaimo bars were a special treat in my house growing up – definitely one of my dad’s go-to baking projects whenever we were all craving a little chocolate. They’re easy to make gluten-free by subbing the graham crumbs with gluten free graham crumbs, meaning my mom could eat them too. Plus they’ve got all this 1950s nostalgia attached to them, and strong Canadian vibes. Win and win.

As a kid, I was always super stoked on the chocolate base and chocolate topping, but only medium into the traditional bright yellow custardy filling (why was it so yellow??). So I was thinking about my dad a lot when I was creating and testing this recipe for these “sans yellow middle” Salted Tahini Nanaimo Bars. Though I’m sure a few diehard fans will *tsk tsk* me for changing up the filling, the tahini is sooooo complimentary to this chocolate sandwich, just like peanut butter but slightly more elegant and subtle. You have to try it! Ditto for the pinch of salt I added to the chocolate topping. Besides being the best way to consume chocolate, adding a touch of salt to something that is typically overbearingly sweet is just a nice way to live your life.

I love finding new ways to class up an old standby, especially when there’s a birthday to celebrate. So here you go, Dad – a virtual birthday treat. Next time we see each other in person, maybe I’ll have some of these Salted Tahini Nanaimo Bars tucked into my carryon!

You can eat now!

Salted Tahini Nanaimo Bars

Yield: 12 bars


    For the base:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • For the filling:
  • 2 tbsp custard powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter (soft)
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • For the topping:
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate (1 package)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp good salt


    Make the base:
  1. Grease a 9x9 pan (or line it with parchment paper).
  2. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Stir in sugar and cocoa until smooth.
  4. Whisk in egg and vanilla.
  5. Remove from heat as soon as the mixture is smooth.
  6. Stir crumbs, coconut, and nuts into mixture and press evenly into pan.
  7. Chill in fridge while working on the filling (at least 20 minutes).
  8. Make the filling:
  9. Beat all ingredients together until smooth.
  10. Pour mixture evenly over base and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight (it is important for the filling to set completely before adding the chocolate on top, to get the correct Nanaimo bar texture).
  11. Make the topping:
  12. Melt the chocolate, butter, and salt over low heat until smooth. Be careful not to over cook!
  13. Pour mixture evenly over chilled filling and sprinkle with some sea salt flakes (optional).
  14. Chill in the fridge until the topping begins to harden (about 10-15 minutes).
  15. Remove bars from pan and cut into 12 pieces.*
  16. Serve immediately!
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salted tahini nanaimo bars

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  • Reply
    March 1, 2017 at 9:22 am

    I’ve been thinking about making nanaimo bars so I’m so thankful that I stumbled upon this fun twist on the Canadian classic!

  • Reply
    Ksenia @ At the Immigrant's Table
    March 3, 2017 at 4:37 am

    As a GF eater, you definitely caught my attention when you said these are easily adaptable! I just love the combination of chocolate and tahini – unexpected and yet so complimentary. And of course, any combination of Canadiana with immigrant influences wins my heart πŸ˜‰

  • Reply
    Marie-Pierre Breton
    March 3, 2017 at 4:49 am

    Love nanaimos! and the sesame touch is genius! Must give that extra creamy and rich touch to the dish! Yummy!

  • Reply
    Janet @ the taste space
    March 3, 2017 at 4:51 am

    What a fun twist for Nanaimo bars. I’ve made tahini cups before and I know it makes a wonderful dessert. πŸ™‚ I am curious how it would pair with chocolate

  • Reply
    March 3, 2017 at 9:24 am

    My favourite part of the Nanaimo bar has always been the yellow icing in the middle!!! How funny is that? I love the twist you’ve put on these, I’m intrigued by the tahini for sure!

  • Reply
    Doug T
    March 8, 2017 at 7:56 am

    I vote for the changes too. Come to think of it I didn’t have any Nanaimo bars on my B-day! Love Dad.

  • Reply
    Mary Tien
    March 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Creative, womanly genius! I love the touch of tahini mixed with a bit of the custard powder. We look forward to giving this classic dessert recipe a try soon. We may even venture to do them before we make a field trip to Calgary to see Plato & your Aunty Carolβ£πŸ‘ˆ

  • Reply
    Terence Sawtell
    March 22, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve always gotten half way through a Nanaimo bar and regretted it. They’re always a LITTLE too sweet, but THESE were just perfect. The hint of salt takes down the sweetness and makes them way more enjoyable. Hands down the best Nanaimo bars I’ve EVER had!!

    • Reply
      March 22, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      Thanks Terence!

    • Reply
      March 23, 2017 at 8:27 am

      This is high praise!! Thank you πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Mary Tien
    July 23, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    We absolutely love the Tahini twist in the centre of this tasty bar. It compliments the topping combo of bitter sweet & semi-sweet chocolate so nicely. We did a GF base and that too was a hit with our friends. Many were amazed that the bar was not so sicky sweet either! Bravo πŸ‘πŸΌ ‼️

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