TDB Homemade: Shamrock Shake

It’s that time of year again when, in the past, I used to enjoy making my annual visit to…(gasp and shudder)…the Golden Arches.  I, like so many other people, am (er, was) a sucker for McDonald’s Shamrock Shake.  I’m not sure exactly what kept me going back for so many years — it might have been the novelty of something that’s only available once a year, or perhaps it was the nostalgia (involving some great college memories) that it invoked.  But I know one thing — it certainly was not the quality of the ingredients in the shake that kept pulling me back.  The last time that I tried it and saw the ingredients separate, in a matter of minutes, into an artificially-colored mess of grainy solids and oily liquid, I realized how suckered I had been.

So this year I set out to find a recipe to make at home, but when I Google-searched it, I came up with the same recipe posted over and over of ice cream, milk, mint extract, and green food coloring.  But I don’t want to artificially color what I make, and why use mint extract instead of the real thing?  With fresh mint leaves, perhaps I can cover both flavor and color bases, right?

My first attempt was made with some plain yogurt instead of ice cream (just because that’s what I had in the house at the time).  I started by making a simple syrup* that, when slightly cooled, I blended with an equal amount of loosely-packed mint leaves.  I then blended the mint syrup with some yogurt, milk, and a little vanilla.  I let the mixture freeze a bit and then blended it again to get a smooth and thick consistency.  Result — the color was a bright speckled green from the mint leaves, not an even, consistent color, but the mint was finely blended into the syrup, so the texture was smooth.  The flavor was good too, but the tartness of the yogurt gave it more of a smoothie quality than milkshake, and it didn’t quite hit the mark.

The next day I picked up some vanilla ice cream and tried again.  I simply mixed the ice cream, milk, and some freshly-chopped mint leaves with an immersion blender.  Result — the flavor was perfect, and the color, again, was a nice speckled green, but the mint leaf pieces didn’t blend completely and left a slight chewiness to the texture, which I didn’t like.

To avoid the chewy flecks of mint leaf, I steeped some mint in the milk overnight, strained it, then mixed the minty milk with an equal amount of vanilla ice cream.  The flavor was minty, creamy, and delicious!  But the color had only a slightly green hue, and what’s a Shamrock Shake if not green?!?

After a couple tries with some of my other favorite green foods, I tried adding some avocado to the creamy concoction, and I loved the result.  It turned the milkshake into a nice light shade of green without doing much to change the flavor.  In fact, I think the texture was improved by the avocado!

So, here we go, after 2 weeks of “research” and almost daily intake of ice cream (someone had to do it, right?), I provide you with the Two Dancing Buckeyes’ version of a Shamrock Shake.

FINAL RECIPE —  makes 4 8-ounce servings.


2 1/4 cups milk

1 cup coarsely-chopped and loosely-packed mint leaves

2 cups vanilla ice cream

1/2 avocado (this is mostly for the color, so it is optional)

whole mint leaves for garnishing


Heat the milk until it is steaming, but not boiling, and pour over the mint leaves.  Once it has cooled nearly to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight.  Strain the leaves from the milk with a fine mesh sieve (a French Press also works well).  Combine the milk, ice cream, and avocado in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into 4 frosty glasses and garnish with the mint leaves.


  • Use whatever flavor of vanilla ice cream you prefer (vanilla bean, French vanilla, etc.), but be sure to get “Premium” or “Super Premium” ice cream, such as Häagen-Dazs® or Ben and Jerry’s (I happened to use the Trader Joe’s brand, which was good).  This means that it will be more dense (less air added in the churning process), so it will hold up better as a shake.  Other airy, double-churned, or “light” ice creams, such as Breyers® or Edy’s®, will liquefy almost immediately.
  • Lesson learned:  at one point I attempted to thicken the shake by turning the milk into a custard.**  This added too much of an “eggy” taste to the shake, and it did not make it any thicker.
  • Whole milk and 2% reduced-fat milk work well, but do not use skim milk (too watery) or heavy cream (leaves your mouth feeling coated).
  • Look for a brand of ice cream with as few ingredients as possible.  Some brands sneak in fillers, stabilizers, preservatives, and even colorants to vanilla ice cream — keep it natural!

Variations:  consider adding one or more of the following…

  1. 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder per serving or some Organic chocolate syrup;
  2. 1 ounce of your favorite alcoholic additive per serving, such as Irish cream, hazelnut-flavored liqueur, or coffee-flavored liqueur;
  3. the seeds scraped from one-half of a vanilla bean (per 4 servings).

This was homemade, yet so simple, and, best of all, no mystery ingredients!!  The minty milk has to be made a day ahead, but the total time to make this is less than 10 minutes.  Of course, I do not purport this to be healthy or low-fat, but you get something natural rather than what is handed to you in the drive-thru***.  Enjoy!

*A simple syrup is equal parts of water and sugar heated to a boil and stirred until the liquid runs clear.

**A custard is made by slowly adding heated milk to a beaten egg yolk, then heating the mixture while constantly stirring until it thickens.

***For your comparison, click here to see the ingredients from McDonald’s website for their McCafé Shamrock Shake. Additionally, whether you frequent the Golden Arches or not, it’s a good idea to be knowledgeable about the nutritional effect of eating what they serve.  Take some time to explore their website to see what’s in some of the items that you (or a loved one) perhaps have consumed.

Leave a comment


  1. Allison

     /  March 11, 2011

    thanks for being the guinea pig for this! I, too, looked forward to the shamrock shake, but just knew it really didn’t qualify as a “milk” shake because of all the artificial ingredients, which totally grossed me out! I can’t wait to try this – although I’m a little unsure if I care enough about the color to add avocado 🙂

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