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What Shakes Does McDonald’s Have and Why Are They Not Called Milkshakes?

By Lana Kisner | November 18, 2023

A thick and creamy milkshake is the perfect sidekick to any fast food meal, and you’ve probably ordered a shake from McDonald’s before to pair with your favorite menu item. But when you pulled up at the drive-thru and glanced at their menu, did you notice that McDonald’s shakes are actually not called “milkshakes?” Well, that’s because they’re not technically milkshakes in some states because of the dairy regulations.  

A Few More Things to Know

The U.S. government regulates milk and milk products under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, which provides guidance for manufacturing and grading milk products. In addition to that, each state has its own guidelines for classifying dairy products like milkshakes, ice cream, and custards. These classifications are defined by milkfat content and the addition of flavorings, stabilizers, and preservatives.

McDonald’s shakes are made with soft-serve ice cream that contains milk, but when all state classifications are considered, they don’t technically earn the “milkshake status” in every state. So what does McDonald’s do? They keep it simple and call them “shakes” everywhere.

McDonald’s Shake Flavors

McDonald’s has three standard shake flavors available at most locations – chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. They also offer some seasonal and limited-time flavors like the infamous Shamrock Shake. Here’s what they taste like.

1. Chocolate Shake

Courtesy of McDonald’s

McDonald’s Chocolate Shake is a decadent treat for any chocolate lover. It’s rich, creamy, and oh-so chocolate-y. It blends thick vanilla soft-serve ice cream with chocolate syrup, which is made with real cocoa.

2. Vanilla Shake

Courtesy of McDonald’s

The Vanilla Shake gets its flavor from the soft-serve ice cream and uses a syrup made with vanilla extract to intensify the flavor. All of this is topped with whipped cream before serving.

3. Strawberry Shake

Courtesy of McDonald’s

The Strawberry Shake is not only sweet and creamy but also refreshing with its fruit flavor. Strawberries and cream are a classic combination, and the strawberry puree concentrate used in the syrup makes this McDonald’s shake a tasty frozen treat.

Honorable Mention: Shamrock Shake

Courtesy of McDonald’s

The Shamrock Shake is the most popular seasonal milkshake flavor from McDonald’s. It has a festive green color and a minty taste. It’s made of vanilla soft-serve ice cream and the signature Shamrock syrup. 

The Shamrock Shake comes out every year in February and is available for a few weeks before St. Patrick’s Day and several days after. Not only has it been the perfect McDonald’s dessert to celebrate the holiday, but it also has become a beacon of spring for many superfans.

About the Author

Lana Kisner is a writer on the team with more than 15 years of experience in the food service industry. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, exploring new restaurants, listening to live music, and hiking with her dog.