How to Make an Ice Cream Milkshake

It takes a balance of the right ingredients

Illustration of how to make a milkshake step by step
Illustration: Catherine Song. © The Spruce, 2018 

Making a milkshake is pretty easy, but making a perfect milkshake is all about balance. No matter what flavor you like, the right ratio of ice cream to milk is key. Once you have the base of your shake correct, you can add any flavoring ingredients your heart desires. Knowing a few simple tricks will help take your dessert from good to great. 

How Much Milk to Use?

One of the common mistakes people make with homemade milkshakes is using too much milk. You really just want a splash of milk, a couple of ounces at the most. More than that will make the milkshake too runny. Using too little milk can make it harder to drink at first, but it will become easier as the ice cream melts. Some people prefer these kinds of ultra-thick shakes. 

You should never add ice to a milkshake. The last thing you want to do is dilute the rich creaminess of the milk and ice cream combo with frozen water. Save the ice for making smoothies.

The Best Ice Cream for Making a Milkshake

In most cases, you're going to want to use vanilla ice cream. Even if you're making a chocolate, strawberry, or some other flavor of shake, vanilla ice cream is like the blank canvas that you can flavor with chocolate syrup, fruit, or even cookie crumbles. Using other flavors of ice cream can make your milkshake overly sweet. Sticking with vanilla ice cream as your base allows you to get the flavor just right.

Warm Up Your Ice Cream

It may seem counter-intuitive, but using ice cream that's too cold can actually have negative effects on your shake. What you really want to shoot for is ice cream that's around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

You actually want your ice cream to be fairly soft, about the consistency of soft-serve. If your ice cream is too hard, you'll have to add too much milk to thin it out, and that will throw off the ice-cream-to-milk ratio.

Your freezer probably keeps your ice cream at about zero degrees Fahrenheit, so let it sit out at room temperature for a few minutes to soften up. Not too long—you don't want it to melt.

You can use an instant-read thermometer to gauge the exact temperature if you wish, but really, once you can scoop it with ease, you're good to go.

Chocolate Milkshake Recipe

Use these steps to make a milkshake using a blender:

  1. Let the vanilla ice cream soften at room temperature until it is the consistency of soft-serve. In the meantime you can put the glass you'll be serving the milkshake in into the freezer to let it chill.
  2. Add three generous scoops of ice cream to the blender, along with 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of whole milk.
  3. Squirt in 1/4 cup of chocolate syrup and add a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
  4. Blend until smooth and serve in the frosty glass. You can top the milkshake with whipped cream, sprinkles, a cherry, or just enjoy it as-is.

Milkshake Flavor Variations

With these basic tips, now you can have fun making different combinations:

  • For a chocolate malt, add 1/4 cup of malt powder to the recipe above.
  • For a strawberry milkshake, substitute 1 cup of frozen strawberries for the chocolate syrup.
  • For a cookies-and-cream milkshake, add two or three cookies of your choice instead of the chocolate syrup.
  • If you're looking to add a little kick to your basic vanilla milkshake, just blend in a little vanilla extract.
  • If you want to make an "adult" milkshake, add 1/4 cup of bourbon or rum to the mix.