Shamrock Shake Showdown: Homemade vs. McDonald's

shamrock shakes
McDonald's shake, left; My shake, right
Every time St. Patrick's Day rolls around I have one thing my mind: Shamrock Shakes. When I was a wee lass, McDonald's was reserved as a special treat. We would get one of those green shakes once a year -- and they were magical!

Shamrock Shakes disappeared in the dark ages of the 1990s. They're back now! But since the 1990s I have been making my own Shamrock Shakes. How do my shakes compare with the real ones? I had to find out! So we did our own taste test here at The Stir.

Keep reading to see how the homemade Shamrock Shakes compare with the real deal.


There are dozens of homemade Shamrock Shake recipes around the Internets, but they all have the same four ingredients: Vanilla ice cream, milk, mint extract, and green food coloring. (Except this one made with kale... ehhhh.) Here's my recipe.

Shamrock Shake a la Stir

  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon mint extract
  • 6-8 drops food coloring

Really, the food coloring is up to you. Just remember, a little goes a long way -- just like that mint extract! I poured all of this into a blender and vioila, green, minty milkshake!

And the Oscar goes to... Oh you know who is going to win this one. Fresh ingredients vs. mass-produced? The homemade shake was the clear favorite among tasters. Only one taster said he preferred the McDonald's shake.

Everyone agreed that the McDonald's shake was much sweeter and had a more even consistency. This is what the one fan said he likes about the shake -- it's super-sweet, and it has that perfect "milkshake" mouth-feel. But others complained that it was too sweet, had a chemical flavor, and was "soupy." One taster said she didn't like the way it coated her whole mouth and compared it with Maalox. Ew.

The consistency of my homemade shake was nowhere near as smooth as the McDonald's shake. I think you really would need an emulsifier or fancier equipment to get that perfectly smooth texture. But most tasters still preferred it because it tasted "fresh," "more like ice cream." You could taste the mint a little more and it tasted more "natural."

So there you go! In case you're wondering, here's the ingredients list for the McDonald's Shamrock Shake:

Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream: Milk, sugar, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, dextrose, sodium citrate, artificial vanilla flavor, sodium phosphate, carrageenan, disodium phosphate, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate.

Shamrock Shake Syrup: High fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, water, sugar, natural flavor (plant source), xanthan gum, citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative), yellow 5, blue 1.

And here's the ingredients from the ice cream I used. As the recipe above shows, I just added milk, food coloring, and mint extract to this.

Cream, Skim Milk, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Natural Vanilla

But honestly, the biggest surprise? Half of my colleagues wouldn't try either shake! Turns out, disliking anything mint-flavored is a thing. Who knew? I didn't.

Do you like Shamrock Shakes? Have you ever tried making your own?


Image via Adriana Velez

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