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Difference Between Smoothie and Milkshake

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Smoothies and milkshakes are sumptuous choices for cooling down during hot days. They can easily be prepared at home, enjoyed on-the-go, and are usually a commonplace menu item in most cafés and restaurants. Because different ingredients can be added to their core recipe, these beverages exist in countless blends and varieties.

How is a Smoothie different from a Milkshake? 

Some overlap does exist with these drinks, as both usually feature milk and sweeteners. However, ice cream is mandatory for a drink to be a milkshake, while smoothies can substitute yoghurt, creams or fruits instead. Milkshakes are also typically enjoyed as a beverage to accompany food, while some smoothies are treated as liquid meals.

What is a Smoothie?

Banana, Strawberry and Blueberry Smoothie

A smoothie is a type of beverage commonly prepared by mixing a liquid base with a blend of fruits, ice, and sweeteners. Most are served cold or at room temperature.

Smoothies are highly varied in their ingredients and preparation. Yoghurt, milk, fruit juice, and even ice cream can be used as the liquid base. Fruits, vegetables, and ice are often pureed and blended into the mix.

In health-conscious circles, smoothies made from fruits, proteins, nuts or other dietary supplements often replace solid meals. The drink can be seen as a time-saving and convenient way to prepare food. Patients requiring liquid diets may also be allowed to consume foods in the form of smoothies. 

What is a Milkshake?

Strawberry Milkshake

Milkshakes are cold drinks with milk and ice cream as the principal ingredients. They are thick, creamy and frothy in texture and are customarily topped with whipped cream. 

The drink can be blended alongside other ingredients, including syrups, chocolates, extracts, whole fruits, or shake mixes to enhance its sweetness and flavor profile. 

Due to its base recipe, the range of milkshakes flavors and varieties more closely resemble those of ice cream. Additionally, its thicker consistency also allows for toppings such as scoops of ice cream (similar to a float), fudge, and caramel sauce.

Milkshakes are enjoyed as a frozen drink on their own, or to accompany meals or snacks.

Differences between a Smoothie and a Milkshake

Liquid Base

Milkshakes, by definition, are prepared with a base concocted from blending milk and ice cream together.

Smoothies allow for more creativity; apart from milk, the drink can be blended with a base of fruit juices, yoghurt, nuts, vegetable purees, or even certain types of cheeses. 

Use of Dairy

It is evident from the term “milkshake” that the beverage inherently requires a dairy product to act as its liquid base. Milk and ice cream is the preferred combination. Homemade shakes usually use fresh ingredients. However, many restaurant-sold versions are prepared with instant, powdered milkshake mixes.

Smoothies can also include milk and ice cream, although many recipes can omit them and other dairy-based products altogether. Lactose-intolerant or health-aware individuals may use substitutes such as plant milks derived from soy, almonds, or other sources, or choose other liquid bases instead.

Other Ingredients

Due to its core ingredient, a milkshake is often further flavoured with ingredients that are frequently paired with ice cream. 

Additional flavors can come in the form of fresh ingredients or powders, with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry being popular choices. Milkshakes can also be topped off with a helping of whipped cream, ice cream, syrups, butterscotch or fudge sauces, or fruits and berries.

The composition of a smoothie can be far more diverse, and tailored to different nutritional needs. They can be adapted to help with dietary restrictions, fat and weight loss, muscle growth, weight gain, and micronutrient intake. 

Purees for smoothies can consist of nuts, vegetables, fruits, roots, or even leaves. Honey, yoghurt, gelatin or tapioca balls can also be included. 

Consistency and Texture

Smoothies vary wildly in thickness and texture due to the diversity of ingredients as well as personal preference. Some can be thin and light on the stomach, while others can be as thick as a milkshake. Others can be far thicker, resembling a true puree due to the presence of nuts or other thickeners.

Thickness and a smooth, creamy texture are considered standards for milkshakes. Particularly thick milkshakes which stay in the container when turned upside down are referred to as “concretes.”

Serving Temperature

Both beverages are commonly enjoyed as frozen beverages.

Milkshakes – which contain ice cream - are ideally served very cold as a general rule, both for flavor and because of its role as a drink for cooling off.

Smoothies are also enjoyed as cold beverages, although they are more versatile and can be found as room-temperature drinks. When made as a health drink in certain cases, smoothies can even be found as a warm drink.

Beverage Type

Unlike milkshakes, which are firmly considered as beverages to be enjoyed on their own or as a side to food, people can prepare smoothies as meal replacements.

Comparison Chart: Smoothie Vs Milkshake 

Liquid BaseMilk and ice creamHighly varies; fruit juices, yoghurts, purees, cottage cheese, milk
Use of DairyMandatory. Mixes can be fresh or powdered.Optional. Dairy alternatives, such as soy or almond milk, can also be used.
Other IngredientsFlavors that pair well with ice cream, i.e. strawberry or vanilla. Toppings include fudge, caramel, berries and whipped cream.Highly varies; nuts, vegetables, fruits, roots, leaves, honey, yoghurt, or tapioca are common.
Consistency and TextureVery thick, smooth and creamy as a standard.Reflects the ingredients used. Can be watery or thick as a milkshake.
Serving TemperatureFrozenCold or room temperature. Can even be serve warm 
Beverage TypeEnjoyed on its own or as an accompaniment to solid foodCan be consumed as a replacement to solid meals

How are Smoothies and Milkshakes similar? 

Both a smoothie and a milkshake are prepared by blending together a liquid base with other ingredients. 

The resulting mixture is then commonly served cold, and enjoyed as a means to relieve the sensation of heat. Consequently, they can become quite popular during hotter months.

Milkshakes and smoothies can also overlap in their use of dairy products, fruits, and sweeteners, and be consumed on their own. Being drinks, they are convenient ways to enjoy a sweet treat and gain an added boost of energy, and even other nutrients.


Does a smoothie have milk?

Smoothies don’t necessarily have to contain milk, or any dairy-based ingredient for that matter. The liquid base of a smoothie can instead be made from juices or purees consisting of fruits, vegetables, legumes, leaves, and more. 

Dairy substitutes are popular for vegetarian and vegan smoothies. These can include nut milks or other plant-based liquids.

The mixture can be thinned and cooled by introducing crushed ice as well.

What makes milkshakes thick?

Thickness in milkshakes is highly desirable. Ice cream is touted as the key to creating a truly thick and enjoyable blend; a higher proportion of ice cream to milk can therefore produce thicker shakes. 

Fat content also contributes to shake thickness. Using high-fat milk or other dairy products is another way to create thicker blends.


Milkshakes and smoothies are beloved staples for people needing to cool down or enjoy a sweet and frozen treat.

The two beverages can be distinguished by their use of dairy and other ingredients, consistency, range of serving temperatures, and roles as beverages.

Milkshakes - as a rule - use milk and ice cream for their base, are thick and creamy, and are consumed as a standalone treat or side to solid food. Meanwhile, smoothies vary immensely in the liquid base and ingredients used. As a result, their consistency and serving temperatures are also variable; health-conscious individuals can drink smoothies as meal substitutes.

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About the Author: Tom Vincent

Tom Vincent graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and social studies. He then started his higher education at the University of François Rabelais in Tours with a DUT Information Communication. To expand his knowledge, he also followed a professional degree in e-commerce and digital marketing at the Lumière University of Lyon. On this project, he is in charge of articles covering language, industry and social.
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