What is Malted Milk Powder?

A Guide to Buying, Using, and Storing Malted Milk Powder

malted milk powder on a plate

The Spruce Eats / Madhumita Sathishkumar

Malted milk powder is most associated with chocolate-covered malted milk balls eaten at the movie theater, or in milkshakes. But before it was a confection, this ingredient was used in the mid-1800s to keep babies healthy. It was also used to provide a nutritious option for travelers and servicemen who couldn't always get fresh foods. Today, most malted milk powder still gets made with three key ingredients: barely, evaporated whole milk, and wheat flour.

What is Malted Milk Powder?

Created in 1869 by James and William Horlick, two British brothers living in Wisconsin, malted milk powder originally got made from evaporated whole milk powder, barley and wheat flour. The idea behind the product was to offer infants a nutritional supplement and to treat digestive orders. Soon after, the malt powder got used as rations for emergency services and military expeditions. Eventually the ingredient maintained popularity as the key ingredient in a sweet drink dubbed "malted milk," which involved the powder mixed with milk and chocolate syrup.

The malted milk drink went out of fashion in the early 1900s when another creamy malted beverage took its place: the malted milkshake. Reportedly invented in 1922 by Ivar "Pop" Coulson, a soda jerk who worked at a Walgreens in Chicago. He was the first to popularize adding malted milk powder to ice cream, something that's still a beloved dessert today. Malted milk powder can be used in other dishes as well, though often it's best for desserts and sweet foods.

Related: How to Make an Ice Cream Milkshake

How to Use Malted Milk Powder

The easiest way to incorporate malted milk powder is to add it to a milkshake, about three tablespoons per serving. Though this proves popular, it's not the only use for the ingredient. Take chocolate or vanilla malt powder and add to frosting for a new layer of flavor. It's also good in baked goods and can take a basic chocolate chip cookie and bring it to a whole new level, imparting a subtle, richer difference.

Also use malted milk powder to make a lighter version of chocolate milk or hot chocolate. Whipped into cream, the ingredient sings as well, giving more body and a touch of sweetness. Cooks can even add malted milk powder to homemade barbecue sauce for an extra dash of sweetness and some oomph to the condiment that will have people wondering what's in it.

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malted milk powder
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What Does Malted Milk Powder Taste Like?

Alone, malted milk powder isn't appetizing. But once mixed with ice cream, soda, milk or in a smoothie, it gives those foods a new level of flavor. Since the two flavors are either chocolate or vanilla, the taste depends on which one is chosen. Once added, the malted milk powder gives a creamy, milky and sweet essence to the food. In a way it rounds out the flavors already there.


When using malted milk powder in recipes there's a lot of wiggle room for over and under measuring. It's easy to work with and can be added to so many, mostly sweet foods without altering the cooking or baking chemistry. But before starting on a malted experiment, try one of these tested recipes first.

Malted Milk Powder Selection

When shopping for either the chocolate or vanilla malted milk powder make sure to look for actual malted milk powder, not malt or powdered milk or malt syrup. These aren't the same things. The main maker of commercial malted milk powder is Nestle Carnation, though there are some smaller brands on the market as well. Ovaltine, a powdered chocolate drink created in 1904, is another type of malted milk powder, though it has other ingredients in it so can't be used exactly the same way.

Malted Milk Powder Storage

Keep in an airtight container away from moisture. Water is the main destroyer of malted milk powder since it's a dehydrated product. Unopened, this ingredient can last years, which is one reason it's used for dry good rations.

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