The ideal milkshake must be thick and creamy—but it’s all too easy to end up with thin, overly sweet versions that just don’t satisfy. Here’s how to make the best shake of all time, plus a milkshake recipe for almost every craving.
We tapped Tyler Malek, head ice cream maker at Salt & Straw in Portland, Oregon, for his expert tips way back in 2012, but we return to them every summer.
As he says, there are only a few points you need to hit to make a really great shake:
Ice cream is by far the most important part of the perfect shake. Stay away from those with tons of artificial ingredients and too much sugar. Go for all-natural, high-quality ice cream with great flavor on its own. (If you’re not in love with what your local store offers, you can always make your own, or see our favorite ice cream parlors that deliver.)
As the name of this frosty treat implies, milk is the other half of the equation. Choose whole milk for the creamiest texture; skim or low fat will make a watery shake. If you don’t do dairy, stick with a full-fat coconut milk, cashew milk, or almond milk. (Many other non-dairy milks are thinner so don’t contribute the requisite richness, but experiment to see what you like best.)
You need way more ice cream than you might think; a couple scoops will not cut it. Too little ice cream will give you more of a slushy milk than a nice, thick shake. Malek’s golden ratio is almost an entire pint of ice cream to 2/3 cup milk. We usually go even more extreme: one pint plus just 4-6 tablespoons of milk. You’re already treating yourself, after all, so you may as well fully commit and do it right!
Oh, and don’t try to serve it with a straw that’s too narrow; get a jumbo size specimen—but have a spoon handy too.
Related Reading: The Best Eco-Friendly Straws That Don’t Suck
One more pro tip: Chill your glasses in the freezer for a bit before you make your shakes; the frosty glass will help them stay at the perfect consistency for longer.
As Malek also mentions, you shouldn’t be afraid to go beyond classic chocolate and vanilla flavors either. If you need some more inspiration, check out our milkshake recipe ideas. They highlight both classic and less common flavors, as well as mix-ins when you’re ready to level up.
Strawberry Shortcake Milkshake
This strawberry shake has vanilla wafer cookies blended in, and plenty of fresh whipped cream on top. If local strawberries are at their peak, you could throw in a few of them too. Get our Strawberry Shortcake Milkshake recipe.
Funfetti Cake Milkshake
Everyone’s favorite festive birthday cake makes a mean milkshake too. We add boxed cake mix to a blend of vanilla ice cream, milk, and honey (with more liquid than usual to get the right texture), and garnish with chocolate syrup rims dipped in more rainbow sprinkles. Get our Funfetti Milkshake recipe.
You can use any rich, roasty stout you like for this one—a chocolate stout is a natural choice. But we do drizzle a little chocolate syrup down the insides of the glass so you can get your fix either way. The amount of beer, and the bubbles, make this a bit thinner and frothier, but it’s still plenty rich. Get our Guinness Milkshake recipe.
Pumpkin Spice Milkshake
Craving pumpkin spice lattes in the thick of summer? Our Pumpkin Spice Milkshake recipe is here for you. It includes pumpkin puree to boost the flavor and the texture, and plenty of warm spices. If you’d like to add a shot of bourbon, cut back a bit on the amount of milk.
Speaking of warm spices, this chai shake is another fantastic option you can’t get at DQ. Plan ahead: You’ll need to steep chai in the milk overnight to infuse it with flavor before blending this up. You can use as much or as little of the milk in each shake as you like; any leftover is nice on its own, or stirred into tea in the morning. Get our Chai Milkshake recipe. (If you’re a green tea fan, try this Matcha Milkshake recipe too.)
Mud Pie Milkshake
Prefer coffee? Our Mud Pie Milkshake recipe showcases coffee ice cream and chocolate wafer cookies.
Chocolate Malted Milkshake
If you adore Whoppers, you have to try this old-school option with Ovaltine and chocolate ice cream. We swirl in crushed malted milk balls too, but if you want a smoother texture, this will still have plenty of malty flavor without them. Get our Chocolate Malted Milkshake recipe.
Essentially our Tin Roof Shake recipe but with ice cream cones blended in, our Drumstick Milkshake recipe emulates that ice cream truck classic with vanilla ice cream, roasted peanuts, and chocolate fudge.
Bananas Foster Milkshake
To recreate the flavors of the iconic New Orleans dessert, our Bananas Foster Milkshake recipe mixes ripe banana, dark rum, and dulce de leche ice cream for that caramelized note. Bonus: No need to flambée!
Purple Cow Milkshake
Our Purple Cow Milkshake recipe is super simple. It’s just vanilla ice cream with grape juice in place of the milk (so technically it’s not a milkshake, but it is…interesting). If you have your doubts, try using orange juice instead for a Creamsicle-inspired treat.
Mint chocolate chip ice cream meets crème de cacao and crushed chocolate-mint cookies in our Grasshopper Milkshake recipe. If Thin Mints can’t be found, try making your own Girl Scout cookies (or just use the Keebler equivalent).
Chocolate Chip Date Shake
Date shakes are big in parts of California, but if you’re not keen on that flavor alone, our Chocolate Chip Date Shake recipe blends the sweet dried fruit with chocolate chip ice cream to balance it out.
Oatmeal Cookie Milkshake
Vanilla ice cream, oatmeal cookies, cinnamon, and caramel sauce combine for a cozy flavor and great texture contrast (if you make sure to seek out crunchy cookies; softer ones will still taste great, though). Get our Oatmeal Cookie Milkshake recipe.
Amaretto Sour Shake
This vegan option shows sorbet works in shakes too, though the texture will be icier and less rich. Still super refreshing, and delicious. Get our Amaretto Sour Shake recipe. (If you don’t want a boozy shake, use milk or even fruit juice in place of the amaretto called for.)