What Is The Difference Between Shake And Malt?

I’ve attended a lot of birthday parties and prepared, even more, shakes as a mother of two children. They are just a logistical gift, especially if you need to simultaneously accommodate dozens of youngsters.

But birthdays aside, shakes are in fact really delicious, calorie-dense, and energetic drinks. They can be transformed into a very lovely addition to your diet if you don’t turn them into giant, fat dairy bombs, which is a truth I took advantage of every single time I wanted to prepare a quick supper for my family and didn’t have the time or resources to linger into anything more sophisticated.

Difference Between Shake And Malt

So, milkshakes and I have a pretty long history.

Why on Earth then was I completely oblivious to the differences between traditional and malt shakes? Until recently, I had a very simplistic view on this matter. Milkshakes are what I make at home. Malts are the milkshakes I buy at those sweet old-timey diners and soda fountains.

It was only recently when one of my friends asked me, “Do you prefer to make milkshakes or malts?” and I dropped one big, absent-minded “Huh?!” when I realized that I have one huge blind spot I need to address.

After all, it was my culinary ego at stake. Well, here’s what I gathered.

The Long History of Blurred Lines Between Milkshakes and Malts


As it turns out, the term milkshake reaches all the way back to the late 19th century (1885, to be more precise). However, unlike the current milkshakes which are based on milk, sugar, and ice cream, Victorian milkshakes had one pretty interesting addition – booze. Malted milk powder followed just two years later. Originally intended as a dietary supplement for babies, malted milk very quickly became popular amongst adults as well, and eventually found a way into the milkshakes of the time.

Very affordable, highly caloric, easy to carry, non-perishable, and admittedly boozeles, malted milk powder saw a huge rise in popularity in the scarce times of the prohibition. Back then malted milkshakes were “the shakes.”

So, I guess this mindset stuck pretty long in my family, even after milkshakes and malts parted their ways, and malted powder lost its pristine position as the go-to-shake ingredient. For me, using malted milk powder was just another way of making a milkshake. Now, when I finally realized that the prohibition era is over, I see that differences between malts and milkshakes are present, so there’s really no point at being stubborn and insisting on the same name.

Related: Greatest milk frothers on the market

What Malt Brings to the Table


Obviously, the only thing that separates milkshakes and malts today, is the inclusion of malted milk powder. But, although I somehow managed to completely ignore it, that small variation makes all the difference in the world.

Malted Milk Taste

  • Malted milk is a sweetener that’s made of whole milk evaporated into powder, and mixed with salt, sugar, wheat flour, and barley. The whole package has a very toasty, buttery flavor that’s just a bit savory. However, that’s not all. The main reason why malted milk remains popular even now is the rich choice of available flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry are probably the most popular options). The more malt you add to your traditional milkshake, the less of the additional flavorings you’ll need to use, and the thicker the end result will be.

Malted Milk Benefits

  • Malted milk powder also has some very unique benefits. For instance, a 10g of malted milk powder contains 1g of protein, as well as vitamins D, B-6, B-2, potassium, and selenium. All these goodies respectively help you to easily metabolize carbs, protein, and fat, strengthen the communication between muscles and nerves, and serve as powerful antioxidants. Oh yeah, I forget to mention – malted milk is very easy to digest. If you are recovering from illness, you can’t wish for better food.

Malted Milk Nutritional Facts

  • A usual, flavorless cup of malted milk made with regular, whole milk packs approximately 230 calories, and 9.5 grams of fat (more than half are saturated fats). If you’d switch flavorless malt with chocolate malt, you’d get similar results – 225 grams of calories and 8.7 grams of fat (5 grams saturated fat). If we compared this with the nutritional value of regular milk, we would see that a good old cup of milk packs approximately 150 calories and 8 grams of fat, 5 of which are saturated. So, the bump in calories is present, but that’s the price you have to pay for the added flavor anyway. In my opinion, it’s more important that malt doesn’t add to the overall amount of saturated fat.

A Milkless Alternative To Milkshakes

  • Finally, milkshakes require milk. Malts do not. Some of my vegan friends are using milk-free malt powders to make some pretty good malts. Though I am pretty satisfied with staying at the low-fat level of self-restraint, I can tell you – try one of these, they are amazing.

Disadvantages of Malted Milk Powder


One of the most obvious disadvantages of all malted products, milk powder included, is the added sugar, and there’s simply no way around it.

That, by itself, wouldn’t be so bad, if you’d at least get the sweet flavor you came to expect from a milkshake. But, the inclusion of salt and sodium bicarbonate cuts the entire package short of sweetness and gives it a pretty savory edge.

Because of that, you are often tempted to add more sweet ingredients and turn the shake into a sugar bomb.

The Difference in Recipes


By now, it should be clear that the inclusion of malted milk powder presents a really big difference even on its own. However, that’s not the end. This slight difference results in drastically different products and entails a fair share of recipe variations.

In short, though I didn’t distinguish them, I prepared milkshakes and malts in a completely different way.

Here are the two recipes to illustrate what I’m saying:

(Malted) Chocolate Shake


This recipe is very easy to prepare. Basically, all you have to do is to put all the ingredients into the blender and blend them until they reach desired consistency. The cream, of course, comes at the very end.

See also: Quality Cocoa Powder Reviews

Banana Milkshake


  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 6 chopped almonds
  • 1 fresh cherry
  • Sweetened whipped cream

This milkshake is, essentially, prepared in the same manner as the previous malt. Just put everything in the blender, whizz it a couple of rounds, pour it into a glass and put the cream on the top.

See also: My Favorite Whipped Cream Dispenser


It doesn’t take more than a passing look at these two cold beverages to see that although their ingredients are very similar, they have something different about them.

For example, a milkshake can be made without ice cream. You can use low-fat dairy products to cut the number of calories. If you are on a diet, you can even prepare a completely dairy-free, fruit-based shake.

Now, putting malted milk powder into this whole mix wouldn’t make any sense, no matter whether you are looking from a nutritional or taste perspective.

That leads us to what I consider to be the biggest and the most prominent difference between malts and milkshakes.

Malts (or malted milkshakes) are inherently sweet, heavy, and packed with calories. I prepare them only on special occasions and like to classify them as desserts. Because they are devoid of this one ingredient, traditional milkshakes give you much more nutritional freedom.

Sure, you can make them as sweet and caloric as possible. But, if you are trying to lose some weight, you can easily turn them into a healthy and low-calorie replacement for some of your meals.

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