Is a milkshake just milk and ice cream?

At first glance, a milkshake may seem like a simple treat made by blending milk and ice cream together. However, there’s much more that goes into crafting the perfect, creamy milkshake. From the type of ice cream to the ingredients used to flavor and thicken it, there are many factors that influence the taste and texture of a milkshake. Join me as we explore the components that make a milkshake more than just a blend of dairy and ice cream.

The Role of Ice Cream

Ice cream is the backbone of any milkshake. The higher the fat content of the ice cream, the thicker, richer, and creamier the finished milkshake will be. Most milkshake recipes call for using premium ice cream with at least 10% milkfat. Some guidelines for choosing the right ice cream:

  • Premium or super premium ice cream will give the best texture and mouthfeel.
  • Opt for ice creams labeled “extra creamy” or with high milkfat percentages.
  • Vanilla ice cream is the most popular base, but you can use chocolate, strawberry, or other flavor varieties.
  • Softer, slow-churned ice creams tend to make thicker shakes than hard scoop ice creams.

The amount of ice cream relative to milk also impacts the consistency. A higher proportion of ice cream to milk will lead to a thicker, more indulgent shake.

The Milk Factor

Milk provides moisture, protein, and a creamy base to a milkshake. Whole milk is commonly used for its higher fat content compared to reduced-fat versions. Buttermilk, heavy cream, half-and-half, or condensed milk are also options for adding extra richness and body.

The milk choices bring different attributes to the table:

Milk Type Attributes
Whole milk Adds creaminess; classic choice
2% or skim milk Leaner option with less fat
Buttermilk Tangy flavor; thick texture
Heavy cream Ultra-rich and indulgent
Half-and-half Richness between milk and cream
Condensed milk Sweetened, concentrated milk

For most standard milkshakes, whole or 2% milk is the typical choice. But don’t be afraid to experiment with other dairy varieties in pursuit of your perfect shake consistency and flavor.

Flavoring and Mix-Ins

In addition to milk and ice cream, a variety of ingredients can be blended in to customize the flavor profile and texture of milkshakes. Here are some common additions:

  • Syrups: Chocolate, caramel, strawberry, and other syrups infuse flavor and sweetness.
  • Fresh fruit: Bananas, strawberries, pineapple and other fruits add natural sweetness.
  • Cookies/candy: Oreo cookies, chocolate chips, peanut butter cups, etc.
  • Nut butters: Peanut butter is classic, but almond or cashew butter can also be used.
  • Extracts: Vanilla, almond, coconut, mint, etc. add flavor nuance.
  • Spices: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa powder, espresso powder.
  • Sauces: Chocolate, caramel, strawberry sauce layered on top.

Feel free to get creative and add your own unique mix-ins to personalize a milkshake that caters precisely to your tastebuds.


For an extra thick and frothy milkshake texture, adding a thickening agent can help. Here are some options:

  • Ice cream: Use more scoops of ice cream relative to milk.
  • Milk powder: Dissolve into milk before blending.
  • Instant pudding mix: Use in place of some milk.
  • Whipped cream: Fold in just before serving.
  • Eggs: Adds richness; use pasteurized eggs for safety.
  • Cornstarch slurry: Mix cornstarch with cold milk then blend in.
  • Xanthan or guar gum: Small amounts can thicken without altering taste.

Start with small amounts of any thickener and adjust to reach your desired milkshake consistency. Too much can lead to an unpleasantly dense or gluey texture.

Blending Technique

The way you blend up a milkshake also impacts the end result. Some tips for shake-making success:

  • Use very cold ice cream straight from the freezer.
  • Cut ice cream into chunks before adding to the blender.
  • Layer ice cream and milk rather than dumping together.
  • Blend in pulses to prevent over-mixing.
  • Use a blender rather than hand mixer for smoother texture.
  • Add thickeners and flavorings slowly as you blend.
  • Top off with whipped cream and toppings before serving.

Serving Suggestions

Milkshakes aren’t just meant for sipping through a straw. There are many fun and creative ways to serve and top off a freshly blended shake:

  • Whipped cream topping
  • Chocolate sauce or caramel drizzle
  • Cherries or strawberries on top
  • Shaved chocolate or crushed candy bars
  • Toasted coconut, nuts, or sprinkles
  • Salty components like pretzels or potato chips
  • Serve alongside slice of cake or brownie
  • Rim glass with chocolate sauce and nuts for an adults-only shake

So dress up that milkshake and take it to the next level of indulgence. Get creative with toppings and serve it in a way that matches the flavor profile and makes it even more of a treat.

Fun Milkshake Variations

Once you master the basics, there are endless milkshake varieties and adaptations to whip up. Here are just a few fun shake ideas to mix things up:

Milkshake Flavor Ingredients
Cookies and Cream Vanilla ice cream, chocolate sandwich cookies, milk
Mint Chocolate Chip Mint choc chip ice cream, chocolate chips, milk
Peanut Butter Banana Vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, banana, milk
Strawberry Cheesecake Vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce, cream cheese, milk
Rocky Road Chocolate ice cream, marshmallows, walnuts, milk
Pumpkin Spice Vanilla ice cream, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, milk

You can also make milkshakes inspired by popular candy bars, desserts, pies, cookies – the possibilities are endless! Change up flavors by season, holidays, or whatever you have on hand to constantly keep your milkshake menu fresh and exciting.


While milkshakes may seem simple on the surface, we’ve seen there are actually many components that go into crafting the perfect shake. The dairy elements, flavors, textures, and toppings can all be customized to make each milkshake unique. So next time you blend one up, think beyond just the milk and ice cream. With high quality ingredients and thoughtful technique, an incredible milkshake awaits.

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