How to Make a Milkshake by Hand or in a Blender

  • A basic milkshake consists of ice cream and milk, but mix-ins and toppings provide endless variations. 
  • The easiest way to make a milkshake is with a blender, but it’s also possible to do it by hand.
  • Any kind of milk can be used for milkshakes, but full-fat milk gives the richest, creamiest results.
  • Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.

Milkshakes are one of the most nostalgic and indulgent American treats. They’re so easy to make at home too — all you really need is quality ice cream and your choice of milk. 

Meredith Kong, co-owner of Lick Ice Cream in Indianapolis, knows a thing or two about whipping up the perfect milkshake, and below, she gives us the low-down on how to achieve delicious results at home.

What makes a good milkshake?

  • The ice cream: Simple flavors like vanilla and chocolate pair well with a wide variety of toppings, but any flavor will do. The most important tip is using softened ice cream, which will allow everything to blend together as smoothly as possible. Kong recommends using ice cream with a high butter fat content like Häagen-Dazs.
  • The milk: For thick, rich milkshakes, use full-fat milk, but any milk will work, including plant-based options. “If you want to use plant-based milk, full fat coconut milk will be your best option for creaminess,” Kong says.
  • The mix-ins: From cookies and nuts, to candy bars and frozen or fresh fruit, the possibilities are endless. Chop them up in small chunks and blend them in the milkshake.
  • The toppings: Whipped cream, sprinkles and a cherry on top are a few classic toppings, but you can mix things up however you please. Fresh fruit, chopped nuts, syrups, and cacao nibs are great. You can even try healthy powders like matcha, turmeric, and blue spirulina for a fun and healthy twist.
  • The blender: A stand blender or stick blender at low speeds is going to give you the smoothest consistency, but you can also make a milkshake by hand with a whisk and a large bowl. 

Can I make a milkshake without a blender?

If you don’t have a blender, you can still make a tasty milkshake with a whisk and a large mixing bowl. Add ice cream to the mixing bowl and slowly incorporate the milk while whisking. Finely chop any mix-ins and whisk until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

Milkshake flavor ideas

Close up shot of a chocolate milkshake.

Use chocolate as a flavor base for milkshake and add chopped nuts or pieces of chocolate to top it off.

Arx0nt/Getty Images


Vanilla and chocolate are good ice cream bases for adding all sorts of toppings. Try fresh fruit with vanilla ice cream if you have a blender, and jam can work too in lieu of fresh fruit. Chopped nuts, pieces of chocolate, cookie, or brownie crumbles, and candies are popular too.

“Chocolate goes with anything” Kong says. “So if you want to have fun mixing and matching, this is your safest bet.” At Lick, Kong also pairs a scoop of coffee chip ice cream with a scoop of whiskey for an Irish coffee-style milkshake. 

For a healthy touch, consider adding superfood powders to vanilla. Unsweetened matcha and turmeric are great choices and blue spirulina is a fun choice that will turn vanilla ice cream bright blue. You can even mix in some cookie crumbles for a Cookie Monster shake.

If you need a pick-me-up, add a shot or two of espresso. Crunchy toppings like cacao nibs, sprouted buckwheat and nuts add a textural contrast, especially if you’re also adding fluffy whipped cream.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, try adding olive oil to vanilla ice cream for an olive oil milkshake and top with sprinkles of coarse sea salt. 

What about leftovers?

Kong does not recommend storing milkshakes. “If you try to freeze your milkshake, when it thaws the liquid separate a bit and the texture isn’t great,” she says.

If you made too much and need to store your milkshake, you can always freeze them in popsicle molds for later. You can also try putting serving glasses in the freezer an hour before you make a milkshake, to keep the shake cold and frozen for longer.

Insider’s takeaway

Milkshakes are easy to make at home with or without a blender, and a fun way to get creative in the kitchen. It takes just a couple minutes to make a milkshake with a blender once the ice cream is soft, and a little longer by hand. Fresh fruit, candies, nuts, baked goods, and healthy powders can all be used as toppings or mix-ins. Keep glasses in the freezer before serving to prevent your drink from melting too quickly.

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