How To Make the Absolute Best Milkshake at Home

updated Apr 6, 2023
How to Make the Absolute Best Milkshake at Home

All you need is a pint of ice cream, milk, and some smart techniques to make the creamiest, dreamiest milkshakes.


Makes2 generous cups

Prep5 minutes

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A strawberry milkshake, a chocolate milkshake, and a vanilla milkshake are topped with sprinkles and maraschino cherries.
Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Every summer for almost 15 years, I’ve ditched the cold San Francisco weather for a few weeks on Cape Cod to visit my husband’s family. There are lots of tasty traditions I look forward to like lobster dinners and fried clams, but the best one of all is a trip to Sundae School, the local old-fashioned ice cream place with ice cream so good the line can stretch out the door. While my family goes straight for their hot fudge sundaes, I steadfastly order the same thing every single time: a raspberry-Oreo frappe (New Englanders’ term for milkshake). It’s so thick with raspberry ice cream that I always start with a spoon since I’m impatient, then sip with the straw after it softens up.

The Perfect Milkshake

This unexpected summer of no travel also means no Sundae School, so the only way to console myself is by making milkshakes at home. My criteria? A perfect milkshake is thick enough for a spoon to stand in but still drinkable. Any mix-ins should still be in little pieces, and there should be a really pure ice cream flavor that’s not diluted with milk.

After much experimentation eagerly embraced by my 7-year-old daughter, I’ve come up with the way to make the absolute best milkshake at home. Yes, it’s just ice cream and milk, but a few tiny tips will help you make milkshakes that taste just as good as the ones you usually order — even if it’s without the excitement of going to the ice cream parlor.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Thick & Creamy Blender Milkshakes

Unless you’re a milkshake fanatic, you probably don’t have a classic milkshake or drink machine (the small appliance with a wand that sticks down into a metal cup). These machines do an excellent job of gently churning ice cream and milk together without pulverizing any mix-ins like cookies or fruit, but not having one shouldn’t stop you from making milkshakes. A regular blender can work just as well if you keep a few things in mind.

The blades of a blender are what make them great for blending smoothies and puréeing soups, but they’ll chop solid bits in ice cream like cookie dough into too-small pieces. For homemade milkshakes, it’s best to start with ice cream that doesn’t already have mix-ins. Instead, add mix-ins separately at the end so they get chopped up small enough to suck up the straw, but not so small that they turn the whole milkshake gritty.

In need of a new blender? Here are our favorites.

Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Your Homemade Milkshake Formula

You only need two ingredients to make a great milkshake: ice cream and milk. One pint of ice cream will make two milkshakes. Stick to plain flavors that don’t have mix-ins. You’ll need 2/3 cup milk, which is enough to get things moving but doesn’t overwhelm the ice cream flavor. Whole milk makes the creamiest milkshakes, but work with what you’ve got!

From there, consider upgrading and customizing your milkshake with the following ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon flavor boosts: A spoonful of malted milk powder or powdered milk adds extra creaminess that takes milkshakes to the next level. You can also add chocolate syrup or vanilla syrup, or even strawberry jam. If adding an extract, like vanilla, only use 1 teaspoon.
  • 1/2 cup mix-ins: This includes crunchy bits like cookies, candies, or nuts.
  • Toppings: For a classic diner-style shake, crown the top of the milkshakes with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. Or, have fun with chocolate syrup by drizzling it down the sides of the glasses before you pour the milkshake in.
Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

My Favorite Milkshake Combos

  • Mocha Almond Fudge: Coffee ice cream + chocolate sauce + almonds
  • Strawberry Pie: Strawberry ice cream + strawberry jam + shortbread cookies
  • Vanilla Oreo: Vanilla bean ice cream + vanilla extract + Oreo cookies
  • Malted Chocolate Crunch: Chocolate ice cream + malted milk powder + malted milk balls

Once you’ve created your dream milkshake, pour it into chilled glasses and garnish to your heart’s content. Serve with straws and a long spoon if you’ve got chunky mix-ins. Relish each and every sip, which I highly recommend you do outside in the sun.

How to Make the Absolute Best Milkshake at Home

All you need is a pint of ice cream, milk, and some smart techniques to make the creamiest, dreamiest milkshakes.

Prep time 5 minutes

Makes 2 generous cups

Serves 2

Nutritional Info


  • 1 pint

    ice cream (about 2 cups)

  • 2/3 cup

    milk, preferably whole

Flavor boost options:

  • 1 tablespoon

    malted milk powder or powdered milk

  • 1 tablespoon

    strawberry jam

  • 1 tablespoon

    vanilla or chocolate syrup

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract or espresso powder

Mix-in and topping options:

  • 1/2 cup

    coarsely chopped candy, nuts, cookies, or fruit

  • Chocolate syrup or sauce

  • Caramel sauce

  • Whipped cream

  • Maraschino cherries

  • Sprinkles

  • Finely chopped nuts


  • Blender

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • 2

    tall drink or milkshake glasses

  • Straws


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  1. Let the ice cream soften. Let 1 pint ice cream sit out at room temperature until starting to soften, 10 to 15 minutes (softened ice cream will blend with ease and require less milk to get things moving). Give the container a squeeze — it shouldn’t be rock hard and should give slightly when it’s ready. Meanwhile, chill the glasses and prepare any mix-ins.

  2. Chill your glasses and chop any mix-ins. If you have room in your freezer, stick 2 tall drinking or milkshake glasses in there, or else chill the glasses in the refrigerator. This will ensure the milkshake stays cold as long as possible. Coarsely chop until you have 1/2 cup mix-ins of your choice, you want the pieces to be about 1/2-inch.

  3. Layer the ingredients in the blender. Layer the ingredients in a blender in this order: 2/3 cup milk, flavor boost if using, and softened ice cream. Don't put in any mix-ins yet!

  4. Blend the milkshake. Starting on the lowest speed and working your way up to medium speed, blend until the milkshake is smooth and pourable, about 1 minute. Stop the blender and scrape down the sides or stir as needed to keep things moving. You want a final consistency that pours like lava.

  5. Pulse in the mix-ins. If using mix-ins, add 1/2 cup to the blender and stir it in so that it’s submerged. Pulse a few times (6 to 8 pulses) to just combine, do not overmix or the mix-ins will pulverize and make the milkshake gritty.

  6. Serve the milkshake. If desired, drizzle some chocolate syrup or caramel sauce down the sides of the chilled glasses. Divide the milkshake between the glasses. Garnish with toppings as desired and serve immediately with straws.

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