Frozen Dessert

How to Make the Perfect Milkshake

August  4, 2014

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Getting sick of eating the same old ice cream from the carton in your freezer? You can turn it into something new and exciting in a matter of seconds. 

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We could teach you how to make a milkshake, but we'd have to charge. Just kidding: No matter how much we insist, do not pay us. Whoever you are, you can't possibly mess up a milkshake, and that's a fact.

There are other recipe-less creations -- granola, compotegalette -- that have definite screw-up potential, whether or not you're following a recipe. You could burn the granola, over-sweeten the compote, or break a tooth on a rock-hard galette crust. (The author has done all of the above.)

But a milkshake? A milkshake will prevail no matter what you do. If you mess up the ratio of milk to ice cream, just add more of either one until you have the right consistency. The worst thing that can happen is that you end up with a larger milkshake than you were expecting, and that's a pretty great "worst thing." 

People forget about the possibility of making milkshakes, but in the late summer, when another scoop of ice cream can start to seem just a little, well, "vanilla," a milkshake can amp up the excitement. We transformed plain ice cream into a blueberry-graham shake, and we have many more ideas for helping you to turn that carton in your freezer into something spectacular and suited just to your tastes.

Here's how to do it:

1. Get out your blender, and ponder a deep question: Do you prefer icy shakes or silky shakes? If you prefer icier shakes, you'll want to crush a handful of ice cubes in the blender or by hand before you start. If you want a softer, smoother shake, let the ice cream sit out on the counter for a few minutes before blending it. 

Then, plop in several scoops of ice cream (we recommend two per person). Choose any flavor you want, but make sure it's high-quality, as the ice cream will determine not only the flavor, but also the texture, of your shake. We used vanilla ice cream because it's an endlessly customizable base, but go with whatever flavor you like.

For our purposes, sorbet and frozen yogurt also fall under the broad umbrella of ice cream; use those for less traditional shakes.


2. Next comes the milk: You can use any kind that you have in the refrigerator, be it whole (which is what we used), skim, or even dairy-free. The richer the milk, the richer the shake.

Pour in a bit of milk, then blend and test the viscosity: If your shake is too thick, add more milk; if it's too thin, add more ice cream. Rocket science, this is not. 


3. Finally, the add-ins: This is an opportunity to transform whatever flavor of ice cream you already have into something new and exciting (we used graham crackers and blueberries). Throw them in all at once, like we did, or go for more textural variety, and add the crunchy toppings when you're almost finished blending. Here's some creative fodder:

  • Chocolate syrupstrawberry syrup, or vanilla extract
  • Maple syrup, espresso grounds, malt powder, nutella, or peanut butter
  • Bourbon or rum
  • A spoonful or two of sweetened condensed milk (or a splash of cream) plus a couple of fat pinches of cinnamon 
  • A frozen banana or a handful of frozen strawberries, blueberries, or mango chunks
  • Cookies like graham crackers or Oreos 
  • Any candy bar, broken into pieces


4. Blend it all together. It will only take a few seconds in a powerful blender.


5. Top with whipped cream (here are 5 tips for making the best whipped cream possible) and other garnishes (we added some crushed graham cracker crumbs).

6. Sip through a large straw, or use a spoon to dig into a thicker shake.

What's your best milkshake creation? Tell us in the comments below!

Photo by James Ransom

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Stephanie June 30, 2018
What matters is the journey, not the destination. What I learned in my journey was that you indeed can mess up a milkshake, however big you make it. I also learned to not doubt my first instinct, which was to say “oho, so you can’t mess up a milkshake? You doubt my abilities then. I am master at failing at life. So though my destination was chocolate-raspberry milk, the journey to get there was an educational and frankly therapeutic one.
Stone December 30, 2017
Perfect! I made mine with milk sugar vanilla ice cream chocolate flavoring and 6 Oreos!! It was fantastic!
Rebecca C. October 10, 2014
I should post this MILKSHAKE TO REMEMBER but, it takes too long and i have no exact measures or pictures. About three autumns ago, I spent a night at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. The gift shop/coffee counter had a Apple Cider Chai Milkshake that went something like this: vanilla ice cream, apple cider, chai latte powder all blended together and topped with whipped cream. Sounds weird but tastes like an autumn dream come true. when I recreated it at home, I added in Newman's Ginger-Os sandwich cookies, in the last minutes of blending. OMG!
catalinalacruz August 24, 2014
Ice cream sodas are fun too. Add two scoops of ice cream to a tall glass filled 2/3 full with seltzer water or club soda. You can first put in a dash of vanilla or a splash of maple syrup if you want. Add chocolate syrup for an extra pop of flavor.
MissBrendaWi August 6, 2014
My greatest Milkshake is one from my favorite regional restaurant, "Culvers" for they use a custard base vs ice cream. One that comes with fresh strawberries.
hillarywith2ls August 5, 2014
Vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, Nutella, banana. Calcium, potassium, protein. Sooo healthy! :)