It all comes down to one key ingredient. 
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You'll find milkshakes at just about every fast-food chain, but you'll probably need to visit an old-fashioned diner to find a malt, or what's sometimes called a malted shake. This soda fountain staple is a classic American treat, but how is it different from a milkshake, or is it just another name for the same thing? Here's what you need to know. 

What Is the Difference Between a Malt and a Milkshake?

Malts and milkshakes are not the same. To be fair, they have a lot in common, but one key ingredient sets them apart. 

two chocolate milkshakes on pink background
Credit: Peter Ardito/Meredith

What Is a Milkshake?

Back to the basics: What is a milkshake, exactly? A milkshake is a dessert drink made with ice cream, milk, and additional flavorings all blended together using a milkshake machine. 

What Is a Malt?

A malt, or a "malted shake," is a milkshake made with the addition of malted milk powder. This gives the shake a bit of a toasty, rich taste that enhances classic milkshake flavors like chocolate or vanilla. It also creates a thicker consistency. 

What Is Malted Milk Powder? 

Although some brands add sweeteners and flavorings, malted milk powder at its most basic is made from malt barley, wheat flour, and dried whole milk. And while that might sound like a strange combination, it's likely that you've had malted milk powder before. If you've ever had a Whopper, Ovaltine, or those robin's egg candies popular at Easter, then you've tasted malted milk powder. Its flavor is a little sweet and a little savory, making it the perfect addition to a classic milkshake.