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Milkshake vs. Malt: What Is the Difference?

There’s nothing quite like a refreshing cold milkshake from your favorite ice cream parlor on a hot summer day. You may have also heard the word “malt” used for this sweet ice cream drink. That leads us to ask, what is the difference between a milkshake and a malt? Are the terms interchangeable, or are they two entirely different drinks? Below, we explore the difference, go into a little history, and provide you with a recipe to make your very own malted milkshake.

Jump to the Recipe

What Is a Milkshake?

Compared to a malt, a milkshake is the drink you will more commonly find in modern creameries and restaurants. It is comprised of basic ingredients, blended together in a milkshake machine until it reaches that classic creamy consistancy. The ingredients of a milkshake include:

  • Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Additional flavoring (optional)

There isn’t much else to it! This perfect pairing of ingredients gives us the drink we all know and love.

What Is a Malt?

Malted milk balls used for malted milkshakes

A malt, or malted milkshake, is similar to a milkshake but also contains malted milk powder. Adding a spoonful of malted milk powder after the ice cream and milk are blended together gives the beverage a sweeter and richer taste, adding a hint of savory to bring out the flavors of the ice cream. It is important to keep in mind that, although malt enhances certain ingredients, it does not pair very well with some fruit-flavored ice creams and syrups.

What Is Malted Milk Powder?

Malted milk powder is made from malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated whole milk. The malt itself is a mixture of sugars that have been extracted from barley and other grains after they have been steeped, germinated and dried. It is then toasted to caramelize some of the sugars and give it that rich toasted flavor. The final product is the same ingredient that you find in Whoppers Malted Milk Balls.

History of the Malted Milkshake

Originally, malt sugar was prescribed to children and invalids as a dietary supplement because it was easy to digest. In 1882, a man by the name of William Horlick found a way to make malt into a powder and later went on to invent evaporated milk to create the signature powder used for malted milk drinks. In 1922, Walgreens employee Ivar “Pop” Coulson decided to add ice cream to malted milk, creating the first-ever malted milkshake. It rose immensely in popularity during Prohibition as customers were forced out of saloons and into ice cream parlors and soda shops.

The practice of adding malted milk powder to milkshakes dates back to the 1920’s, and you can still find this old-time drink in retro diners today. You can even make your very own malted milkshake right at home with our recipe below.

Malted Milkshake Recipe

Chocolate malted milkshake with pink straw

You can add a personal twist to the recipe by substituting the ice cream or syrup with other flavors and finishing off the delicious drink with your favorite toppings.

Yields: 2


  • 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream
  • 3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon of malted milk powder
  • Malt candy (garnish)
  • Whipped cream (garnish)
  • Cherry (garnish)


  1. Add the scoops of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and milk into a blender jar. Mix using a blender or milkshake machine until creamy but still thick.
  2. Add malted milk powder.
  3. Blend for a few more seconds so the powder is thoroughly mixed in.
  4. Rim the inside of your cups with chocolate syrup and pour the malt mixture into the glass.
  5. Top with your favorite garnishes! We recommend malt candy and whipped cream with a cherry on top.
Posted in: Foodservice Trends | Recipes | Kitchen & Cooking Tips | By Janine Jones
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