For the Best Chocolate Milkshake, Make a Black & White

July  6, 2018

One of my first gigs as a food writer was at my college newspaper. I reviewed local restaurants and covered breaking news like: The campus diner now has milkshakes! There were half a dozen flavors: vanilla, chocolate, coffee, Nutella, blueberry, and strawberry.

But there was something odd about the chocolate.

It tasted less like chocolate ice cream—which I’ve never, ever enjoyed, don’t @ me—and more like a melted hot fudge sundae, or frozen chocolate milk. So I called the diner and demanded answers. Because our readers deserved the truth.


Sure enough, the chocolate milkshake wasn’t, technically, a chocolate milkshake. It was a black and white, vanilla ice cream blended with chocolate syrup and milk.

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The difference here is so small that some would argue there’s no difference at all. Google chocolate milkshake and you’ll find several recipes with that very formula: vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, milk. But the flavor is totally different than when you start with chocolate ice cream.

And, in my opinion, way better. Vanilla ice cream brings balance and contrast, like cream cheese swirled into chocolate cake, or chocolate cookies sandwiched with buttercream. It also makes room for retro additions, like malt powder, which turns anything it touches into gold.

Black and white straws! For black and white shakes! Photo by James Ransom

It also gives you more control over sweetness. Making chocolate syrup is easier than schlepping to the grocery store, especially mid-heatwave when you’d want a milkshake most. And it’s the sort of staple that makes your fridge feel special. Keep around for weeks. Stir into hot coffee. Drizzle on gelato. Set out with strawberries.

I like to make mine with ultra-strong coffee instead of water, less sugar than you’d expect, and an un-shy amount of salt. The result takes itself very seriously, but swoons at the sight of sweet, milky vanilla ice cream. If you want to DIY here, too, I know just the recipe.

For bonus points, freeze your glasses before serving until they’re almost too cold to hold.

What's your favorite milkshake flavor? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jacqueline
  • Kate Fruchterman
    Kate Fruchterman
  • Stephanie B.
    Stephanie B.
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
  • Sharane Carr
    Sharane Carr
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Jacqueline July 11, 2018
What malt powder do you recommend? I’ve had some that are just awful...and malt syrup is just wrong.
Emma L. July 12, 2018
Hi Jacqueline! I use Carnation.
Kate F. July 10, 2018
This is exactly how I feel about BOTH chocolate ice cream and chocolate milkshakes! Chocolate ice cream never does it for me and chocolate shakes are always best made with vanilla + chocolate syrup :)
Stephanie B. July 7, 2018
As someone who shares your dislike of chocolate ice cream, I'm excited to try this! I love chocolate, but somehow chocolate ice cream is almost always just...meh. My chocolate sauce is cooling, it tastes amazing - looking forward to the malted milkshakes!
Emma L. July 8, 2018
Whew, it's a scary thing to admit that you don't love chocolate ice cream! And excited that you're excited—hope they turned out well :)
Sharane C. July 10, 2018
Stephanie B. - The way you feel about chocolate ice cream is the way I feel about coffee ice cream. But not liking chocolate ice cream is astonishing.