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Malt vs Milkshake: What Is the Difference?

Whether you're looking to cool off on a hot summer day or take a winter trip to the ice cream parlor, there’s nothing quite as refreshing or nostalgic as a milkshake. You may have also heard the word “malt” used for this sweet ice cream drink. So, 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 the history of the drink, and provide a recipe for you to make your very own malted milkshake.

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What Is a Milkshake?

A milkshake is an ice cream drink made of ice cream and milk, blended together in a milkshake machine until it reaches that classic creamy consistency. It is the drink you will more commonly find in modern creameries and restaurants, compared to a malted milkshake.

How To Make A Milkshake

To make a milkshake, blend the following ingredients together:

  • 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. Keep reading to find out about the key ingredient that makes the difference when comparing a malt vs shake.

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 Malt 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 combined it with 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 1920s, 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.

Malted Milkshake Recipe

Chocolate malt milkshake with pink straw

Check out our chocolate malt recipe below. 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 Tbsp. of chocolate syrup
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp. 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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