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The Difference Between a Malt vs Shake

Learn about the differences and similarities between malts and shakes.

For many people, the only difference between a malt and a milkshake is simply the word the delicious beverage is called. Many people believe the two words describe the same thing.

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However, these two drinks are not the same. Both are ice-cream-based and come in different flavors, but a distinct ingredient sets the two drinks apart. If you have ever wondered what ingredients make a malt and a milkshake, look no further. 

Although the two are often confused, I’ll help you learn all of the differences for the next time you pick out an icy treat after dinner.

In this guide, I will break down all the little things that make the difference between a milkshake and a malt.

I will also answer some common questions from people about these treats, such as the calorie count and what a malt or “malted milkshake” is. 


What is a Malt?

Malts are a bit rarer than milkshakes, so this is often the one that people know less about.

“Malt” actually describes the key ingredient that sets it apart from a milkshake, which is the addition of malted milk powder. Malted milk powder is made from evaporated milk, barley, and wheat flour. 

The malted milkshake was reportedly created by a Walgreens employee named Ivar “Pop” Coulson in 1922, who had the idea to mix the malted milk powder with ice cream. 

To make a malt or “malted milkshake”, you blend milk and ice cream, then add the malted milk powder. 


What is a Milkshake?

A milkshake is the more common drink of the two, as you are likely to find milkshakes at many nearby fast-food restaurants. 

A milkshake is made with ice cream and milk, sometimes with toppings or other additions blended within the drink. A popular choice is to blend cookie crumbles or candy into the beverage. 

Milkshakes can get quite elaborate, with different flavor combinations and additions used to heighten the appeal.

In modern times, there are nearly endless possibilities as far as milkshake flavors. Many candy companies partner with fast-food restaurants to have their candy-flavored milkshakes (such as Oreo or Reese’s) sold in restaurants.


How are Malts and Shakes Different?

The main difference between malts and shakes is the addition of malted milk powder in a malt.

Both drinks started with blending ice cream and milk, but only the malt includes the addition of malted milk powder. 

Due to the addition of malted milk powder, malts are typically a bit thicker and sweeter than milkshakes. 

Malts also usually come in fewer flavor options than milkshakes. Malts are typically limited to the classic flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. 

Malts are not as commonplace as milkshakes, though you can typically find them in old-school diners or malt shops.


Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about malts and milkshakes.


Is a malt the same as a milkshake?

Malt and a milkshake are two different drinks. Some people confuse the two, but the ingredients are slightly different. 

Malt is made with ice cream, milk, and malted milk powder and often comes only in the classic flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. A milkshake is made with just ice cream and milk and many more flavor options.

Milkshakes often include additional flavors and toppings, while malts rarely include extra flavors or toppings. It is common for milkshakes to have extra treats blended into the drink, such as candy. 


What has more calories, a shake or a malt?

While both are treats, malts are generally higher in nutritional value and lower in calories than milkshakes.

Malted milk powder is a type of sweetener with a lower sugar content than the amount of sugar needed to sweeten a milkshake. 

Malts and milkshakes both contain vitamin D due to the milk content. Because of the malted milk powder, malts also contain decent amounts of vitamins B2, B6, selenium, folate, and riboflavin.

These vitamins mean that generally, malts are more nutritionally dense than milkshakes while also having fewer calories, since milkshakes often include flavors with more mix-ins or toppings.


What is the purpose of malt?

The original purpose of malted milk powder was to provide infants with a nutritional supplement in the 1800s. 

The J & W Horlick Company was the first company to focus on selling malted milk powder as a nutritional supplement.

They developed tablet forms of malted milk powder called “diastoids”. Diastoids were special tablets advertised as something that could be sent to the “men on the front lines” of war so that soldiers and officers could easily and quickly get the necessary nutrition.


Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now know the main difference between malts and milkshakes is the addition of malted milk powder.

While either one of these delicious beverages is a great option for a warm summer day, choosing a malt over a milkshake may bring with it extra nutritional benefits along with a thicker, sweeter beverage perfect for enjoying with friends. 

Check out some of our favorite ice cream shops where you can order a sweet treat, whether it’s a malt, a shake, or just a classic cone!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.