What's the Difference Between a Malt and a Shake?

Your inner child needs to know.

June 13, 2024
"A trio of milkshakes. Strawberry, vanilla & chocolate. Ummm."

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"A trio of milkshakes. Strawberry, vanilla & chocolate. Ummm."

Photo by: sandoclr/Getty Images

sandoclr/Getty Images

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By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

You’ve probably seen milkshakes at your favorite burger joint or local scoop shop, and maybe you’ve spied malts on diner menus and at old-fashioned soda fountains. But how are they different? Here, you'll learn about each of these cool, creamy drinks and the main differences between the two.

Decadent freakshake, topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup and M&Ms.

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Decadent freakshake, topped with whipped cream, chocolate syrup and M&Ms.

Photo by: Naomi Rahim/Getty Images

Naomi Rahim/Getty Images

What Is a Milkshake?

A milkshake is a blended dessert drink made with ice cream, milk and additional flavorings, such as fruit or syrups and add-ins like crushed cookies, chocolate chips or candy pieces. For more shake inspiration, check out our guide on How to Make a Milkshake.

What Is a Malt?

A malt, also known as a malted milkshake, is a milkshake that is made with the addition of malted milk powder. Malted milk powder imparts a toasty flavor, mellow nuttiness and milky sweetness to the shake. Try this Boozy Blondie Milkshake for a toasty twist on a vanilla malted shake.

Malt vs Shake: What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between a malt and a shake is that a malt is a milkshake made with the addition of malted milk powder. As a result, malts tend to have a toasty nuttiness and more of a milky sweetness in their flavor profile when compared to milkshakes.

Malted Milk Spilled from a Teaspoon

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Malted Milk Spilled from a Teaspoon

Photo by: Michelle Lee Photography/Getty Images

Michelle Lee Photography/Getty Images

What Is Malted Milk Powder?

Malted milk powder is made from ground malted barley, wheat flour and evaporated milk solids. It’s pale yellow in color and boasts a milky, delicately nutty flavor. Malted milk powder is used to add a nutty flavor and subtle crunch to candies such as malted milk balls and brittle, and also enhances chocolate treats such as truffles, pudding, cookies (such as these Malted Milk Sandwich Cookies) and cakes. Different brands of malted milk powder also add chocolate flavoring, sugar, salt or preservatives. When added to milkshakes, malted milk powder particularly enhances vanilla and chocolate shakes but it can be used to add a nutty sweetness to fruit shakes too, as with this Blueberry Malt Milkshake.

For more info, check out our primer What is Malt?

Chocolate cherry milkshake served in classic milkshake glass, topped with whipped cream, chocolate truffle and plastic straw. Positioned in retro 50s-style diner decor.

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Chocolate cherry milkshake served in classic milkshake glass, topped with whipped cream, chocolate truffle and plastic straw. Positioned in retro 50s-style diner decor.

Photo by: Naomi Rahim/Getty Images

Naomi Rahim/Getty Images

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