These Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars are a fun variation on tradition, and a great way to use leftover canned pumpkin puree this season!
Originally published October 11, 2010, Updated on 10/4/20
When I first created and posted this recipe - almost exactly a decade ago! - it was my very Thanksgiving since “coming out” as an immigrant.
I’d been living in the USA for a few years, coasting by on the fact that I could pass as a local. A few ugly personal experiences with xenophobia early on had kind of drilled it in my head that if I wanted a pleasant stay there, it was best to just go along with the assumption that I was local.
Where did I go to school? “Up north.”
My hometown? “About 7 hours away.”
It was a weird few years, feeling like I was walking on eggshells (ok, my phone just tried to correct that to “ehh shells”, and that’s kind of.. Perfect). It got to be too much, so I finally just gave up on trying to fit in.
10 years later, back in Canada, and a week away from Thanksgiving... it’s an odd trip down memory lane. As the original post said..
“Feels good to not have to worry if wishing "Happy Thanksgiving" in the beginning of October will "out" me!”
Funny enough, that was also the year that we broke our “Two Thanksgivings” tradition, as I was way too busy in October to be able to churn out a proper Canadian Thanksgiving spread.
So, my scaled down Canadian Thanksgiving observation that year was the creation of these Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars.
I figured that I'd do something that was at least Thanksgiving-ish and Canadian - I'd invent a new, Thanksgiving themed Nanaimo Bar!
It may not have been a full turkey dinner, but as desserts go - you can't get more Canadian than Nanaimo Bars.
Pumpkined it up for the season, and.. Mission accomplished!
More Pumpkin Recipes
When fall is here, is there anything better than indulging in some pumpkin goodies? We’re down for all things pumpkin, whether for Halloween, Thanksgiving, or a random Tuesday!
Here are our favourite ways to use the gourd!
Baked Pumpkin Custard
Copycat Pumpkin Spice Latte
Easy Maple Pumpkin Spiced Muffins
Easy Pumpkin Martini
Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes
How to Carve a Pumpkin Like a Pro
How to Make Pumpkin Mead
Maple Pumpkin Spice Bagels
Maple Walnut Spiced Pumpkin Buns
Traditional Pumpkin Mousse
... and from my other blogs:
Gluten Free Maple Pumpkin Pie
Gluten-free Pumpkin Bread
Gluten Free Pumpkin Spice Mini Doughnuts
Gluten-Free Sopaipillas Pasadas
Keto Pumpkin Fat Bombs
Keto Pumpkin Bars
Homemade Pumpkin Chai Latte
Pumpkin Chia Pudding
Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars
Aside from being a 3 layered bar - and a few other attributes - these Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars are... well, only loosely recognizable as a Nanaimo Bar.
Traditional Nanaimo bars have chocolate in the base layer AND a chocolate ganache top. When the buttercream middle layer is flavoured*, it’s usually something that specifically goes well with chocolate.
For this, I went the other direction: I wanted a pumpkin flavoured center... and the top and bottom layers would just need to be designed around that!
So I ditched the chocolate in the base, and switched the traditional almonds to walnuts. I wanted the walnuts to add to the flavour - I think almonds would get overpowered by the other flavours.
When it came to the center layer, the pumpkin was spiced up with pumpkin pie type spices - cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
I decided to top it off with a white chocolate ganache, both for flavour and appearance. Tradition was already kind of out the window at this point, go big or go home, right?
It all came together for a VERY Thanksgiving-y Nanaimo bar. Fun and flavourful, too!
* The middle layer is more often than not NOT flavoured, but I’m a fan of flavouring it. Check out my Creme de Menthe Nanaimo Bars, Maraschino Cherry Nanaimo Bars, and Mocha Nanaimo Bars, for example!
More Holiday Recipes
Looking for more inspiration for your holiday spread? Whether Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or any of the other holidays, here's a few ideas for you!
Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brandied Apple Upside Down Cake
Chicken Based Potato Sausage Recipe - Potatiskorv
Egg Nog Sticky Buns
Gouda Mashed Potatoes
Maple Bourbon Glazed Carrots
Mushroom Brie Turnovers
Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Cheese Ball - Classier Version
Pumpkin Cheese Ball - Trashier Version
Savoury Mushroom Chestnut Stuffing
Southern Comfort Glazed Ham
Southern Comfort Pecan Pie
Traditional Cranberry Mousse
This recipe is one of many fantastic Canadian recipes in my cookbook, "More Than Poutine: Favourite Foods from my Home and Native Land”. "More than Poutine" is a Canadian cookbook like no other - written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional home cooking recipes, as well as accurate homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada! Order your copy here on this site, through Amazon, or through any major bookseller!
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Now, on to that Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars recipe!
Pumpkin Spice Nanaimo Bars
- 1 ¼ cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
- 1 cup Walnuts finely chopped
- 1 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
- ½ cup Butter unsalted
- ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1 Large Egg beaten
- ½ cup Butter
- ½ cup Pumpkin Puree
- ½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon Ground Ginger
- ⅛ teaspoon Ground Cloves
- 4 tablespoon Cook-and-Serve Vanilla Pudding Powder NOT instant!
- 3 cups+ Confectioners / Icing / Powdered Sugar
- 10 oz White Chocolate Chips
- 6 tablespoon Butter
- In a large bowl, mix together graham crumbs, chopped walnuts, and coconut. Set aside.
- Melt butter in small saucepan. Add sugar and cinnamon, mix well. Add egg, stir well. Egg will cook and thicken.
- Once thickened, remove from heat and pour into a larger bowl containing the last first 3 ingredients. Mix well and press firmly and evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 8 x 8 pan. Set aside.
- Cream butter. Add pumpkin puree, beat until well incorporated. Add cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pudding powder, beat well.
- Slowly and carefully add confectioner’s sugar. Mixture should be VERY thick – add a little extra confectioner’s sugar if needed. Spread evenly over bottom layer.
- Melt butter and white chocolate chips over low heat. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, then pour over middle layer, spreading to an even layer. Chill in fridge before slicing into bars.