Vegan Gluten-Free Nanaimo Bars

How could I even think of doing ’12 Days of Naughty made Nice’ and not attempt making Nanaimo Bars? Especially since I now live in the province where they were invented for goodness sake! You are probably wondering how I could transform a traditional recipe that is FULL of eggs, custard powder (who knows what could be in there) and more refined sugar than any other recipe I have tried to transform over these last 12 days. Seriously!

I am happy to report that not only was I able to transform this into a vegan, gluten-free bar that tastes almost exactly like the traditional mint version BUT I can also tell you it has passed the “kid test” with several children (one who could eat them all night long…). I think you will be pleasantly surprised by just how good these Nanaimo Bar are! I have always preferred the mint flavour of Nanaimo Bars so I stuck with it for this version. No idea how it tastes without the peppermint – I was so excited that I had figured it out that I just put it straight in the pan!

The first and only time I have ever been to Nanaimo (yes, that is a real place) was when I was very young. My entire family (I say entire because there were 7 of us) flew from Ontario to visit my Grandfather. When we arrived in Nanaimo it became clear that my Grandfather’s health was failing. He died a few days later and our trip to Nanaimo extended to attend to his death. I will never forget that trip. To this day, I have always associated my Grandfather to Nanaimo bars. So, Grandpa Gus, this post is dedicated to you. I think you would have loved this version!

Vegan Gluten-Free Nanaimo Bars
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ½ cup cacao powder
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 2 tbsp tapioca starch
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • ⅓ cup coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds soaked in a ¼ cup water for 5mins
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 tbsp apple juice concentrate
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 2 tbsp water
  • ½ tsp pure peppermint extract
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, shredded
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  1. Soak cashews in water overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a bowl, mix together brown walnuts, cacao powder, rice flour, unsweetened coconut flakes, tapioca starch, coconut sugar, coconut oil, soaked chia seeds & xanthan gum. In an 8" x 8" pan lined with parchment paper, press this mixture into the pan to make a base for the bar. Bake in oven for 10mins. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a food processor or high powered blender, mix together raw cashews, apple juice concentrate, pure vanilla & water. Add peppermint extract. Spread filling mixture on chocolate base and refrigerate until firm.
  5. In the meantime, make the topping in a saucepan on medium-low heat, stir shredded chocolate, coconut oil & maple syrup. Pour over top of filling. Let is cool for about 5mins in the fridge, then score the bars. Refrigerate until chocolate is completely set (about 1hr).
  6. Refrigerate for 4 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.


March of the Olive Stuffed Penguins

There once was a girl…

Who met a boy…

And fell in love…and the rest is history. Or is it?

I don’t think that these little guys need much explaining. Olives stuffed with my goat cheese dip, made into penguins!  This appetizer is not vegan (that’s the mostly vegan part of the series) but it is vegetarian. It takes some time to put together all the parts, but in the end these little penguins are so cute that they are hard to pass up at a party (even if you are not a big olive fan).

March of the Olive Stuffed Penguins


  • Goat Cheese Spread
  • 12 Colossal black pitted olives
  • 12 small black pitted olives
  • 1 fat carrot
  • 12, 2 inch long thin strips of roasted red peppers
  • 12 toothpicks
  1. Make the goat cheese spread. You will have leftovers of the spread which you can use for dip & veggies.
  2. Cut a triangle from bottom to the middle, lengthwise, into the side of each colossal olive. Carefully insert about 1 teaspoon of the goat cheese spread into each olive. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the olive of any extra spread. Slice the bottom of the carrot (the fattest part) into 12, 1/4 inch thick rounds; cut a small notch out of each carrot slice to form feet.
  3. Save the cut out pieces of the carrot and  use for the beak of the penguin. I found it worked really well when I carefully cut the piece into a slightly thinner width. Take your smaller olives and cut a small slit in them horizontally, press the “beak” piece into center of small olive.
  4. Set a big olive, large hole side down, onto a carrot slice. Secure with a toothpick. Then, set a small olive onto the large olive, adjusting so that the beak, goat cheese chest and notch in the carrot slice line up. Take red pepper slice and wrap around neck. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.