What Is The Difference Between Shake and Malt?

As a mother of two kids, I’ve seen a lot of birthday parties, and made even more shakes. They are simply a logistical blessing, especially if you have to find a way to conveniently satisfy dozens of children at the same time. But, birthdays aside, shakes are indeed very tasty, caloric and energizing beverages.

If you don’t turn them into big fat dairy bombs they can be made into a very nice addition to your diet, which is the fact I abused every single time when I needed to make a quick meal for my family and had no time or ingredients to dwell into something more elaborate.

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 the 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 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.


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 thicker the end result will be.

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 the chocolate malt, you’d get the 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 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.

Malted Milk Benefits

  • Malted milk powder also has some very unique benefits. For instance, a 10g of malted milk powder contain 1g 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.

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

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup malted milk
  • 1 pint chocolate ice cream
  • ¼ cup chocolate milk powder
  • Sweetened whipped cream

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.

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.

It doesn’t take more than a passing look on these two cold beverages to see that although their ingredients are very similar, they have something different about them. For example, 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 (also check out my apple peeler reviews). Now, putting malted milk powder into this whole mix wouldn’t make any sense, no matter whether you are looking from 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.

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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