Sep 04, 2023

20 Best Ingredients To Add To Your Milkshakes

Life has few pleasures, like sipping on a milkshake inside an all-American diner, but it is a Walgreens employee named Ivan "Pop" Coulson who's to thank for these nostalgic beverages. It was 1922 when he sought out a way to improve the company's malted milk beverage. Coulson added a few scoops of ice cream to the mixture to help thicken and impart the beverage with a richer taste. The milkshake even inspired the invention of a kitchen appliance many of us can't live without — the blender — as well as a tool indispensable to milkshakes — the straw.

While the standard milkshake can just be made of milk and ice cream, many other flavorful options and mix-ins can be added to make a milkshake unique and tasty. Here are some of our favorite ways to customize a milkshake and elevate its flavor to something worth celebrating. Of course, the best part is that you likely already have many of these ingredients in your fridge, freezer, or pantry.

The name "milkshake" implies that this dairy product is a critical ingredient for flavor and texture. But the way to make your milkshake taste even better is to add another simple addition: Milk powder. Milk powder is essentially just milk that has been dehydrated into fine dust. It's shelf-stable and doesn't require refrigeration, meaning that you can keep a small jar of milk powder in your pantry for whenever your milkshake mood strikes.

Milk powder adds a very silky, milky flavor to your milkshake because it is so concentrated. You'll only need to add a tablespoon or two to your blender when you're making your milkshake to see (and taste) immediate benefits. This powder works well with all flavors of milkshakes, but we think it truly stands out in a classic old-fashioned vanilla milkshake.

The best way to elevate any dessert is to combine it with another one. If you're a fan of all things cake batter and Duncan Hines, you'll want to use this ingredient to help bolster the flavor of your milkshake. You'll only need to add about ½ cup of cake mix for every 2 cups of ice cream in the recipe. Vanilla and funfetti are the standard cake mix flavors used for cake batter shakes because they do not alter the color of the milkshake too much. If you're making a chocolate milkshake, though, you'll want to consider adding a devil's food cake or chocolate fudge cake mix into your blender.

Making a milkshake is just one of many great things you can do with a box of cake mix. Add it to pancake or waffle mix for a dense, dessert-like breakfast experience.

Tahini is not just for hummus and falafels. It's the Middle Eastern condiment you can use to transform your milkshakes. Adding a few tablespoons of tahini to your milkshake is an easy way to thicken up the texture of your shake without altering the flavor profile. While you will get a slightly nutty undertone from this sesame paste, the flavor is more subdued than peanut butter or almond butter.

Besides acting as a thickening agent, the tahini also can help round out some of the overtly sweet notes in your shake. One of the most common ingredient pairings for tahini is Medjool dates. The dates are a very sweet fruit with an earthy flavor that marries the characteristics of tahini well. With the addition of Kahlúa or rum, this Middle Eastern version of a milkshake can easily be made more adult.

This next milkshake ingredient isn't a double print. Malted milk powder and milk powder are not the same ingredients, although their names sound very similar. Malted milk powder contains powdered milk, malted barley, and wheat flour. This ingredient is the main factor that makes milkshakes and malts different. The malted milk powder gives the milkshake a toasty flavor and thicker consistency — just like the Milk Dud candies of your youth. This is because when the barley goes through the malting process before fermentation, the enzymes are converted into sucrose and maltose, which impart a toasty caramel flavor.

When you're purchasing malted milk powder for your next milkshake, make sure you buy malted milk powder rather than plain malt powder (or diastatic malt powder). The latter does not contain the same milk solids, thus, will not produce a similar flavor.

There's not much that buttermilk can't do. You can add it to your pancakes for a distinct diner flavor or use it to help soften the gluten in your favorite cake recipe. But perhaps one of the best ways to use buttermilk is to add a small serving to your milkshakes.

Buttermilk is notoriously tangy, so it should be added gradually to your shake. This flavor is cheesecake-esque and helps thicken the milkshake's texture. If you don't have enough uses for buttermilk and would rather have a shelf-stable ingredient, you can instead use buttermilk powder. A good reason to have buttermilk powder in your pantry is that you won't have to worry about freezing it or making room in your fridge for an entire jug. Most buttermilk powder can be substituted for regular buttermilk with a powder-to-water ratio of 1-to-4.

Adult milkshakes are an easy way to have fun with your dessert. There are tons of different variations on boozy milkshakes, and they can be made entirely based on the ice cream and toppings you have on hand. For example, if you're working with a vanilla ice cream base, you might consider adding a splash of your favorite bourbon to elevate the oakiness and vanilla. Alternatively, if you're using fruity ingredients, you may pair your milkshake with a floral gin.

One of the most classic (and delicious) alcohols to use in a milkshake is Kahlúa. You can make a frozen mudslide by combining Kahlúa, vodka, and Irish cream liqueur with vanilla ice cream. Top the glass with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings. You can also use Kahlúa to make a twist on a White Russian with just the Kahlúa, vodka, and standard milkshake ingredients.

Adding a bit of peanut butter to your milkshake won't necessarily make it any "healthier," but it will surely make your milkshake taste better. You'll want to stick to the creamy peanut butter for milkshakes since your favorite chunky variety may only clog up your blender and your straw before making everything more difficult to eat and clean.

As far as measurements go, aim upwards of ½ cup of peanut butter for every 2 cups of ice cream used. The texture of this milkshake will undoubtedly be thick, so we recommend using a big straw and long, patient sips. You can also easily transform your peanut butter milkshake into a chocolate one by using a chocolate ice cream base or adding a drizzle of chocolate syrup to the blender. Just don't forget the chopped peanut butter cups on top.

Although the Girl Scout cookie sale period always seems to be fleeting, you'll want to stock up on a few extra boxes for your milkshakes. Then, finely crush a sleeve of your favorite Girl Scout cookies before mixing the crumbs into the shake ingredients. Just be sure to save a few extra pieces for garnishing the top of your shake — or for snacking while your beverage is blending.

Your choice of ice cream and additional mix-ins will depend on your cookie flavor. If you're going with Thin Mints, you can get away with a mint, vanilla, or chocolate ice cream base. However, if you're on the same wavelength and always go for the Caramel deLites (more affectionately known as Samoas), the natural pairing would be to strictly stick with the vanilla base. That way, you can add your cookies, a chocolate or caramel drizzle, and flecks of coconut shavings.

Coffee is undoubtedly a beloved milkshake flavor. And while using coffee ice cream often fills the cravings for this classic flavor, sometimes it doesn't have enough punch. Instead, you should turn to your espresso machine as a tool to make an excellent coffee shake. You'll need a single shot of espresso for every 1¾ cup of vanilla ice cream you use. If you don't have an espresso machine, you can make a mock espresso milkshake by brewing double-strength coffee and adding it to your shake instead. To prevent your espresso or coffee from melting your ice cream, adequately cool it before pouring it into the blender.

If you want to keep your ice cream thick while still getting a strong coffee character, add instant espresso powder instead. Then, you'll only need 2 to 3 teaspoons for each 2-cup serving of ice cream.

Do you like your milkshakes fruity? If so, you will want to take note of this trick. When you add frozen fruit to a milkshake, you'll likely notice that the drink can either get too icy or resemble more of a smoothie than a milkshake. There are also specks of seeds and pieces that have not been fully incorporated into the milkshake. Not only does this lead to hunks being left behind in the glass, but it can also clog up your straw.

Instead, try using your favorite fruit jam to add a fruity, sweetened flavor to your milkshake. You'll need to add about ¼ of a cup of jam for each cup of ice cream, and the best thing is you can play around with your flavors. Strawberry, apricot, peach, and blueberry jam are all sunny pairings for a cold treat.

Although most people think of milkshakes with ice cream, one fruity replacement you can use instead is frozen, overripe bananas. Overripe bananas make the best milkshakes because they become sweeter the longer they ripen. Those bananas that have been sitting on your counter for the past week are the perfect addition to a milkshake. Since the pureed frozen bananas have a very thick texture, you'll just need to add your milk of choice, sweeteners, and other ingredients as needed — sans ice cream.

If you don't have overripe bananas in your kitchen, you can turn on your oven for a perfect banana milkshake. This method involves roasting and caramelizing the bananas until they are golden on the sides before adding them to a blender. The flavor of these bananas imparts much deeper, complex burnt sugar and caramel notes than adding plain bananas to your shake.

You probably aren't considering avocado when you think of a fruity shake. Except you should be — avocado is the secret ingredient to a luscious and smooth milkshake base. Although the avocado milkshake may be somewhat unconventional at American diners and ice cream parlors, you can find it in Filipino, Indonesian, and Vietnamese cuisine. It is a good ingredient for you to experiment with.

The traditional recipe for these milkshakes uses avocado, sweetened condensed milk, and ice — no ice cream needed. But, some American interpretations of the recipe add a scoop of vanilla ice cream for even more creaminess. If you make this dessert, you're going to want to use ripe avocados only. Underripe avocados tend to be bitter and too hard to blend with the other ingredients. You can also add your favorite fruits to this milkshake; mangos and bananas are a recommended pair.

Marshmallow fluff just seems like a great way to get into a sticky situation. But this ingredient can easily help thicken up your ice cream and make it into an unctuous, silken dessert that will give your straw a run for its money. You can use ½ cup of marshmallow creme for each 1½ cup of ice cream in your recipe. Then, combine your marshmallow fluff with cold heavy cream and vanilla extract before adding it to your ice cream for an even creamier flavor.

If you like the toastiness of a s'more, you can use whole marshmallows to make your dream milkshake. First, broil the whole marshmallows until they start to look golden brown. Add your toasted marshmallows, vanilla ice cream, and milk to a blender to make the shake. Garnish with chocolate syrup and graham cracker crumbs, and you'll have a campfire snack you can sip on.

Salted caramel ice cream never seems to have enough oomph to make it worthwhile. Therefore, if you're making a salted caramel milkshake, you're going to need to enlist the help of a special sauce instead. Your homemade salted caramel sauce is guaranteed to impress and is so much more satisfying than just squeezing it from a container. In addition, the salt in the sauce helps counteract some of the sweetness of the milkshake, which further rounds out the flavors and makes it one of our favorites to add to a shake.

Start by pouring the butter, brown sugar (critical for a warmer flavor), heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt together in a saucepan. Be sure to stir constantly to prevent the caramel from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. Once the light brown hue emerges, you can remove the caramel from the stove, allow it to cool, and spoon it into (and on top of) your milkshake.

If you're making a mint milkshake, your go-to ice cream flavor is probably mint chocolate chip. But this ice cream choice does not allow you a ton of control over the herbaceousness of your milkshake — and rarely does mint chocolate chip ice cream even scream its flavor loudly.

Instead, start with vanilla ice cream for a mint chocolate milkshake that can be customized. Add ¼ teaspoon of mint extract once your vanilla ice cream is in the blender. You can also experiment with fresh mint — but it is much less potent than the extract and can impart some grassy flavor to your milkshake. Gradually taste the flavor of your mint shake to decide how much more extract to add. After that, you can add whatever kind of chocolate your heart desires to the milkshake, whether it's syrup, shavings, or chips.

Although the flavor of egg nog is polarizing during winter months, it deserves to be added to the list of ways to elevate a milkshake. Not only does the thick drink help deepen the velvet texture of the milkshake, but you'll get to experience some bits of cinnamon and nutmeg along the way, too.

To make an easy eggnog milkshake, you'll need vanilla ice cream, store-bought egg nog, cinnamon, and freshly ground nutmeg. You'll need about 1 cup of eggnog for every 3 cups of ice cream, and once the mixture has been blended to creamy perfection, top it with whipped cream, a cinnamon stick, and a sprinkle of spice. You can even make this dessert into a boozy milkshake by adding a couple of tablespoons of rum or brandy, or take advantage of the fall flavors and substitute it with some pumpkin pie spice.

Rarely will you hear about buttermilk biscuits and milkshakes teaming up for a delicious dessert. But, these southern staples are the surprise ingredient Bobby Flay adds to his strawberry milkshakes. The celebrity chef notes that he crumbles made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits on his strawberry shakes. These biscuits have a slightly sweet element; Flay liberally brushes heavy cream on top of the biscuits and sprinkles them with sugar before baking.

Flay doesn't skimp on the ice cream in his shake, either. He adds 11 ounces of ice cream to each 12-ounce shake he's making. Flay blends the ice cream, macerated strawberries (for sweetness), and milk together before topping it with the crumbled biscuits. As the chef clarifies, this shake is just like strawberry shortcake, only in a cup.

Cheesecake is a popular dessert for many reasons. It's thick, it's creamy ... and it can be used in a milkshake. Although it might not be an ingredient that you have readily available in your refrigerator (although you might have it in your freezer), adding cheesecake to a milkshake is a very ethereal experience you have to try at least once. One Reddit user noted that adding "a decent slice of cheesecake" gives the shake an "incredible body."

There are two paths you can take to add cheesecake to your milkshake. The first involves crumbling a cheesecake slice (with a graham cracker crust) into the blender with the ice cream and the milk. Since the cheesecake is thick, you shouldn't need ice. Alternatively, you can add a deconstructed cheesecake by incorporating cream cheese, lemon juice, crumbled graham crackers, and your milkshake ingredients into the blender. We think the former is much easier, and you can experiment more with different flavors of pre-made cheesecake.

Pie shakes seem to be a diner phenomenon, but there's no reason why you can't make a glass for yourself at home. You can use any type of pie you'd like for this trick. Our favorites include the classic apple pie, cherry pie, and blueberry pie. Simply add the entire slice of pie, crust and all, to your blender with your ice cream and milk. Then, if you want to be an adventurous eater, reserve another pie slice to rest on top of your milkshake creation.

The standard ice cream flavor for a pie slice is surely vanilla, but you can get more creative with the cream pies. For example, if you're using a slice of chocolate cream pie, consider chocolate ice cream, while coconut cream pie lends itself well to a similarly flavored base. Just don't forget to grab a big enough straw.