How Is the Wendy's Frosty Different From a Milkshake?

We dug in to find out what sets it apart.

Wendy's Frosty
Photo: Wendy's/Allrecipes

It's all about the simple pleasures in life: like the taste of a cold and creamy Wendy's Frosty paired with an order of hot and crispy french fries. If you told me that you can resist ordering the delicious, sweet perfection that is a Frosty when you're in the Wendy's drive-through, I'd say you're lying. They're just too good to pass up.

We've done deep dives into what makes McDonald's food taste so good, but don't worry Wendy's, we didn't forget about you! Especially because your ice cream machine is always working and ready to serve up a Frosty treat (sorry Mickey D's, Wendy's has you beat there). Ok, so what makes a Wendy's Frosty taste so good and how is it different from a traditional milkshake?

The Iconic History of the Frosty

Dave Thomas opened his first Wendy's in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969. Alongside the famous old-fashioned square hamburger, the original menu also included the chocolate Frosty. Obviously, the Frosty has withstood the test of time as it remains on the menu today — now with a vanilla option too (which was added in 2006). There's even a secret menu Frosty that you can order — just request a pack of pecans to be added to your Frosty and you'll get that salty addition to the dessert without needing to order french fries.

The Frosty has also become a symbol of philanthropy for Wendy's restaurants. The fast-food chain has sold their Halloween-themed Frosty Coupon Books since 2003 and their Frosty Key Tags since 2010. These promotional items score customers cheap or free Frosty treats, and all profits from the coupon books and tags benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Those two Frosty-themed promotions alone have raised more than $67 million for the foundation.

Besides the exceptional combo of a sweet Frosty and salty french fries, customers also love the Frosty because it's different from a traditional milkshake that you'd get at any other fast-food restaurant or ice cream shop. But what makes it different?

How Is the Frosty Different From a Milkshake?

Thomas wanted a dessert that was a mixture of a thick milkshake and fluffy, creamy soft-serve ice cream. And that's exactly what he made with the Frosty. The consistency and texture are the key differences between a traditional milkshake and a Frosty.

According to Wendy's the Frosty was designed to be "thick enough to use a spoon, smooth enough to use a straw, and perfect when enjoyed on the end of a fry."

There are two things that contribute to the Frosty's thickness: the temperature and the ingredients. Frosty treats are served between 19°F and 21°F to ensure they stay thick, according to Wendy's. But the Frosty's ingredients are really what keep the dessert thick.

Wendy's boasts that its menu items are "real food," and it's assured customers that the Frosty is made from "fresh milk, cream, sugar, and cocoa." These ingredients check out for the most part. According to the ingredient list on the Frosty menu page, the chocolate Frosty contains milk, sugar, corn syrup, cream, whey, nonfat dry milk, cocoa, guar gum, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, natural vanilla flavor, carrageenan, calcium sulfate, sodium citrate, dextrose, and Vitamin A palmitate.

Pay close attention to the guar gum, cellulose gum, carrageenan, and calcium sulfate. These ingredients are found in a lot of ice creams to help keep them thick and long-lasting. Guar gum, cellulose gum, and carrageenan keep the Frosty thick and smooth textured. And calcium sulfate prevents the Frosty from melting too quickly.

Put all these ingredients together and you have a spoonful of thick, long-lasting, creamy dairy dessert goodness.

Why is the Frosty So Good?

Sure, a Frosty is basically a thick soft-serve milkshake, but it's still so darn good. It could be because its texture is unmatched, or it might just be the delicious flavors.

You may have noticed in the ingredient list that the chocolate Frosty contains both cocoa and vanilla flavoring. That's because Thomas didn't want his dessert to be so rich that it overpowered the hamburger. So, he mixed vanilla and chocolate flavors together to create the light chocolate flavor that's unlike anything else.

So you could try to recreate the dessert at home (we even have a Chocolate Frosty recipe to try), but nothing beats enjoying a chilled Frosty from its OG restaurant like Dave Thomas intended when he dreamed up this dessert more than 50 years ago.

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