How to Make a Milkshake

For a thick, creamy milkshake, there’s a bit of technique involved. Here, a step-by-step and our top tips.

March 28, 2022
A cookies and cream milkshake sits on a wooden table in a tall glass with a spoon beside it.  There is a large chocolate sandwich cookie in the milkshake along with crumbled chocolate cookies.  There are two old-fashioned red-and-white straws standing in the glass.


A cookies and cream milkshake sits on a wooden table in a tall glass with a spoon beside it. There is a large chocolate sandwich cookie in the milkshake along with crumbled chocolate cookies. There are two old-fashioned red-and-white straws standing in the glass.

Photo by: bhofack2/Getty Images

bhofack2/Getty Images

By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

There are few frozen confections we love more than a cool, creamy milkshake, especially when it’s made by the pros at our favorite local scoop shop. But learning to make milkshakes at home means you can sate cravings whenever they strike. Plus, you can customize them with an endless array of mix-ins and toppings and get creative inventing your own flavor combinations. Once you get the ratio of ice cream-to-milk right, making milkshakes is easy. And you can make milkshakes at home even if you don’t have a blender, or if you find yourself without ice cream. Read on for our top tips for making thick, creamy milkshakes, plus our favorite mix-ins and topping ideas.

Tools to Make a Milkshake

You need just a few key tools to make a milkshake:

  • Blender

  • Ice cream scoop

  • Liquid measuring cup (for milk)

  • Dry measuring cups (for ice-cream and add-ins)

  • Measuring spoons (for add-ins)

  • Glasses, straws and/or spoons (for serving)

How to Make a Milkshake Without a Blender

No blender? No problem! You can also make a milkshake by using an immersion blender (also called a hand or stick blender) to blend ingredients in a large bowl or wide-mouth liquid measuring cup. Or you can hand-mix ingredients in a bowl with a spoon or a whisk. Finally, you can place ingredients in a mason jar, mash them down with a spoon, and shake vigorously to combine. Be sure to start with softened ice cream in all cases.

still life with smoothie, berry, flower


still life with smoothie, berry, flower

Photo by: Natalya Shcherbatyuk/Getty Images

Natalya Shcherbatyuk/Getty Images

Milkshake Ingredients

To make a milkshake, you will need:

  • Ice cream: opt for the highest-quality possible, ideally full-fat because it creates a thicker, creamier shake (you can also use low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt, but they tend to create a thinner consistency)

  • Milk: you can use whole, 2%, 1% or skim, but using full-fat milk will yield the thickest, most consistent texture. If you’re making a chocolate milkshake, feel free to use chocolate milk. And if you’d prefer to go dairy-free (and presumably are using dairy-free ice cream), you can certainly use your favorite milk alternative.

  • Add-ins: syrups, fruit, nut butters, cookies, etc. (see mix-ins below for inspiration)

  • Toppings: garnishes such as whipped cream, sprinkles, cherries, or syrup drizzles (see toppings section below for more inspiration)

Mix-in Ideas

This is where things get fun, and you really get to make your milkshake your own. Raid your pantry for syrups, spreads, spices and extracts, or take things fruity by adding fresh or frozen fruit. For more textural contrast, experiment with adding baked good pieces or crunchy mix-ins toward the end of blending. Here are some of our favorite add-ins:

  • Syrups: chocolate, maple, caramel, strawberry, pineapple, date, pomegranate
  • Fruit: strawberries, bananas, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, mango
  • Spreads: nut butters, tahini, marshmallow fluff, chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • Preserves: strawberry jam, blueberry preserves, marmalade
  • Baked goods: brownie pieces, chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake bites
  • Crunchy stuff: mini chocolate chips, graham crackers, chocolate sandwich cookies, candy bar pieces, waffle cone pieces, halva, chopped chocolate
  • Nuts: crushed peanuts, slivered almonds, pecan pieces, crushed walnuts
  • Extracts: vanilla, almond, coconut, taro, lemon
  • Spices and herbs: ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, fresh mint, lavender
  • Coffee, tea and cocoa: shot of brewed coffee, tea, or espresso; finely ground espresso powder; hot cocoa mix
  • Liquor: for an adult-only boozy treat, add a splash of your favorite liquor, such as bourbon, vodka or rum

Topping Ideas

Cap off your shake with garnishes such as whipped cream, maraschino or brandied cherries, sprinkles, cookie sticks, candy straws, chocolate dipped pretzel sticks, syrup drizzles, a dusting of spice, grated chocolate, crushed cookies, chopped candy bar pieces, chocolate-covered strawberries, or citrus peels.

Making a scoop of ice cream


Making a scoop of ice cream

Photo by: Riou, Jean-Christophe/Getty Images

Riou, Jean-Christophe/Getty Images

How to Make a Milkshake

Master a few tricks below to ensure you blend up a perfectly thick and creamy milkshake every time.

  1. Soften the ice cream and chill the glass. Take the ice cream out of the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes before use. At the same time, place your glass in the freezer. This will keep the shake cold when you serve it.
  2. Measure the ingredients. 1 cup ice cream to 1/4 cup milk is a great ratio.
  3. Blend the shake. In a blender, combine the milk and ice cream and blend until smooth. Add any your mix-ins and blend them in to your desired consistency.
  4. Serve. Pour the shake into the chilled glass and serve immediately.

Basic Vanilla Milkshake

Bobby Flay's milkshake formula is simple, but don't be fooled: it's perfectly balanced and as classic as ever.

Almost-Famous Milkshakes

In 1965, Friendly’s lost the right to use the name of its super-thick shake, the Awful-Awful (so named after a customer called it “awful big and awful good”). Execs held a company contest to rename it, and three employees won $100 each with “Fribble,” meaning frivolous. Friendly’s keeps the recipe for its popular shake a secret, but the chefs in Food Network Kitchens whipped up this great imitation.

Sunny’s 1-2-3 Milkshake

Sunny Anderson's simple milkshake recipe makes two servings. Add an extract of your choice for extra flavor: the extracts will enhance the flavor and make it taste more like a milkshake and less like melted ice cream.

How to Make a Thick Milkshake

One of the trickiest parts to making a milkshake is getting the right ice-cream-to-milk ratio. To ensure that you don’t add too much milk, it’s important to temper your ice cream first—let it sit on the counter to soften (but don’t let it get runny).

Use full-fat milk to ensure a thick consistency, or, for an even thicker consistency, you can sub in heavy whipping cream (though this ups the richness factor). Finally, don’t add ice! It’ll water down the consistency.

You can also make a thicker milkshake by adding malted milk powder, which contains malted barley, wheat flour, and evaporated whole milk powder (technically this makes it a malted milkshake, or malt, for short). In addition to thickening the shake, the savory undertone of malted milk powder enhances some milkshake flavors, especially chocolate and vanilla.

Finally, adding solid mix-ins like brownies/cookies/cake or frozen fruit also thickens a milkshake.

How to Make a Milkshake Without Ice Cream

If the milkshake craving strikes, but you find yourself without a stash of ice cream in your freezer (or you don’t typically eat ice cream), you can still make a milkshake.

For a basic vanilla milkshake, simply blend ice cubes, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract until frothy and smooth. Start with the highest fat content milk possible to ensure the creamiest result. You can experiment with different flavors and consistencies by adding cocoa powder, fruit (swap in frozen fruit in place of ice cubes), nut butter or Greek yogurt. You can also vary the sweetener component by incorporating (or substituting) honey, maple syrup or agave syrup with the granulated sugar.

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