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 and knowing a few simple tricks will help take your dessert from good to great. Once you have the base of your shake perfected, you can add any flavoring ingredients your heart desires.

The Right Amount of Milk

One of the common mistakes people make with homemade milkshakes is using too much milk. You really just want a splash or 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 smoothies.

The Best Ice Cream

In most cases, stick with vanilla ice cream to avoid a milkshake that's too sweet. Even if you're making a chocolate, strawberry, or some other flavor of shake, vanilla ice cream is like the blank canvas that allows you to get the flavor just right. Add flavor with chocolate syrup, fruit, or fun ingredients like cookie crumbles.

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 is ice cream that's around 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ice cream should be fairly soft, about the consistency of soft-serve. If it's 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 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. While you can use an instant-read thermometer to gauge the exact temperature if you wish, once you can scoop it with ease, you're good to go.

Chocolate Milkshake Recipe

Use these steps to make a chocolate milkshake in a blender:

  1. Let the vanilla ice cream soften at room temperature until it is the consistency of soft-serve. In the meantime, chill the serving glass by placing it into the freezer.
  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 1 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, you can have fun making different combinations:

  • For a chocolate malt, add 1/4 cup of malt powder to the milkshake recipe.
  • For a cookies-and-cream milkshake, add two or three cookies of your choice instead of the chocolate syrup.
  • For a strawberry milkshake, use 1 cup of frozen strawberries.
  • If you're looking to add a little kick to a 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.