Can milkshakes be gluten free?

Milkshakes are a classic treat that many people enjoy. However, for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, determining if milkshakes can be gluten free is an important question. The main ingredients in a traditional milkshake are milk, ice cream, and flavorings like chocolate or strawberry. At first glance, these ingredients appear to be naturally gluten free. But there are some factors to consider before declaring all milkshakes safe for a gluten free diet.

Are all milkshakes gluten free?

Traditional milkshakes made with just milk, ice cream, and flavorings like fruit or chocolate are gluten free. Pure dairy products like milk and ice cream do not naturally contain gluten. And ingredients like strawberry or cocoa powder used for flavoring are also gluten free. So a milkshake made with high quality dairy and real fruit or cocoa would be gluten free. However, some add-ins used to make specialty shakes could add gluten.

Gluten free add-ins

Many additional ingredients used to make specialty milkshake flavors are gluten free, including:

  • Whipped cream
  • Nuts like peanuts or almonds
  • Nut butters like peanut butter or almond butter
  • Chopped fruit like bananas or cherries
  • Pure extracts like vanilla, almond, or mint
  • Food coloring
  • Salt

Using gluten free ingredients like these to create custom milkshake flavors will result in a gluten free treat.

Potential sources of gluten

Some milkshake add-ins could potentially introduce gluten, including:

  • Malted milk powder – contains barley
  • Cereal mixes – may contain wheat, barley, rye
  • Cookue crumbles – may contain flour
  • Candy pieces – may contain barley malt
  • Flavored syrups – may contain gluten ingredients
  • Blend-ins containing cookies or cereal

Always check the label on any packaged ingredients. Homemade ingredients like cookie crumbles should also be examined to ensure they are made with gluten free flour.

Hidden sources of gluten in milkshakes

In addition to obvious ingredients like malt powder and cereal, there are some hidden sources of gluten that could contaminate an otherwise gluten free milkshake:

Shared equipment

Milkshake blenders and other equipment may be shared with products containing gluten. Cross contact is a risk if equipment is not properly cleaned between uses. At restaurants, the employees making your shake should be aware of this risk and have procedures in place to avoid cross contamination.

Stabilizers in ice cream

Some commercial ice creams include ingredients like dextrin or maltodextrin for texture and stabilization. These substances are derived from corn or potato starch and are gluten free. However, sometimes wheat-based ingredients are used instead. So check ice cream labels carefully if following a gluten free diet.

Flavoring extracts

Pure vanilla or almond extracts are gluten free. But some artificial flavorings may contain gluten from wheat-derived ingredients. Opt for pure flavorings whenever possible.

Thickening agents

Most milkshake recipes don’t call for any thickening agents beyond the use of ice cream. But some recipes do include small amounts of cornstarch, flour, or other starches to help improve thickness and texture. Always verify these ingredients are gluten free.

Are the most popular milkshake chains gluten free?

Many popular milkshake restaurant chains offer gluten free options. However, precautions are still needed when ordering. Here is the gluten free status at some top milkshake spots:


Most McDonald’s shakes are gluten free, but the following precautions are recommended:

  • Choose a gluten free flavor – vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry
  • Avoid flavor add-ins like cookies or candy pieces
  • Request to have your shake made first to avoid cross contact
  • Verify with staff that clean blenders are used


Chick-fil-A has confirmed their milkshakes are gluten free when ordering:

  • A gluten free flavor – chocolate, vanilla, or cookiedough
  • No cookie or candy add-ins

Their cookies and candies contain gluten, so avoid those add-in mix-ins when ordering.


Arby’s was the first national fast food chain to offer a gluten free menu. Their jamocha shakes are gluten free when ordered without candy pieces or toffee bits, which contain gluten.

Burger King

Burger King states their vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry milkshakes are gluten free. But they advise checking locally, as ingredients may vary.

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen confirms their classic chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry shakes are gluten free. They recommend avoiding add-ins like cookies and candy pieces.

Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box does not recommend their milkshakes for those with celiac disease due to potential cross contact. They add cookie pieces to their shakes, increasing gluten risk.


Wendy’s states their chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry frosties are gluten free. Their shakes are thickened with corn starch but do not contain malt. Their chocolate shake syrup contains hydrolyzed wheat protein, so the chocolate shake is not gluten free.

Making gluten free milkshakes at home

Making homemade gluten free milkshakes is an easy alternative to ordering them. You have full control over the ingredients when making them yourself. Here are some tips:

Choose high quality dairy

Use pure dairy products from brands that don’t contain questionable additives or starch thickeners. Organic valley, Stonyfield, and Straus are examples of high quality dairy brands. Making shakes with gluten free non-dairy milk is also an option.

Select gluten free ice creams

Ice creams from brands like Breyers, Ben and Jerry’s, Haagen-Dazs, and So Delicious are labeled gluten free. always double check labels to verify gluten free status.

Use fruit or chocolate

Fresh fruit like banana or strawberry make great milkshake add-ins. Opt for chocolate syrup or cocoa powder rather than premade sauces, which may contain gluten thickeners. Ghirardelli and Hershey’s are examples of gluten free cocoa powder brands.

Avoid malt ingredients

Leave out any malted milk powder or malt flavoring, which contain gluten. Use almond, vanilla, mint, or other gluten free extracts instead for flavor.

Thicken safely

Xanthan gum or guar gum are gluten free thickening options if needed. Or use extra ice cream for thickness. Just 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum thickens a whole blender-full of milkshake.

Top it off

Whipped cream, sliced fruit, crushed nuts, chocolate chips or shaved coconut are all delicious gluten free milkshake topping ideas.

Gluten free milkshake recipes

Here are some delicious dairy free and vegan milkshake ideas as well:

Classic chocolate milkshake


  • 2 cups chocolate milk or non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup chocolate syrup
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • Whipped cream for topping


  1. Add milk, chocolate syrup, and ice cream to blender
  2. Blend until smooth and creamy
  3. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings if desired

Berry banana milkshake


  • 1 cup strawberry yogurt or non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream or non-dairy frozen dessert


  1. Add all ingredients to a blender
  2. Blend until smooth and creamy
  3. Top with sliced banana if desired

Cookies and cream milkshake


  • 2 cups milk or non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup chocolate sauce
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream or frozen dessert
  • 1/4 cup chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed


  1. Combine milk, chocolate sauce, and ice cream in blender
  2. Blend until smooth, then add crushed cookies
  3. Blend briefly to mix cookies in, but leave some texture
  4. Top with whipped cream and cookie crumbs

Are milkshakes part of a gluten free diet?

Many people following a gluten free diet do enjoy milkshakes as an occasional treat. However, there are some factors to consider when incorporating milkshakes:

Nutritional value

Milkshakes taste great, but they are high in calories, sugar, and fat. Too many can lead to weight gain and other health issues. Those with celiac disease often already struggle to maintain proper nutrition. So excessive milkshakes in place of nutritious meals is not advised.

Potential for symptoms

Even tiny amounts of gluten can cause symptoms in those with celiac disease. So there is some risk of a reaction if a milkshake is cross contaminated. Many do choose to accept this small risk on occasion for a special treat. But those highly sensitive may want to avoid the gamble.

Importance of variety

A diverse, balanced gluten free diet is important for gut health and nutrition. Relying too heavily on any one food like milkshakes as a source of calories can lead to deficiencies over time. Varying dairy intake with other gluten free options helps maintain overall diet quality.

Blood sugar impact

Milkshakes and other sugary treats can spike blood sugar levels. Those with diabetes or pre-diabetes need to be extra mindful of portions and frequency to maintain stable blood sugar. Checking glucose after consuming shakes helps identify if they destabilize levels.

Milkshake substitutions for a gluten free diet

For those unable or unwilling to regularly consume store-bought or homemade milkshakes, some tasty alternatives provide a similar sweet treat:


Making smoothies with yogurt, fruit, and milk or juice gives you flexibility to control ingredients. They offer similar creaminess to a shake. Blend frozen bananas or other frozen fruits to help thicken them.

Nice cream

Throw frozen bananas or other chopped fruits into a blender or food processor to make creamy “nice cream.” Experiment with mixing in peanut butter, cocoa powder, or other gluten free flavors.

Yogurt parfaits

Layering yogurt with fresh fruit, nuts, coconut, or chocolate chips in a glass gives you the feel of a parlor treat. Use gluten free granola as the topper.

Fruit and cream

Fresh seasonal fruit topped with whipped cream or gluten free ice cream gives you a simple fruity dessert. Berries, peaches, bananas and cherries all work deliciously paired with dairy.

Ice cream floats

Root beer or other gluten free soda poured over a scoop of ice cream makes for a refreshing float. Top it with whipped cream if you miss the milkshake look.


Many classic milkshakes can easily be made gluten free at home by controlling the ingredients.Restaurant milkshakes range in gluten safety depending on precautions taken by staff to avoid cross contamination. Most major chains offer some gluten free options, but individuals need to assess their own level of comfort consuming them. While milkshakes can occasionally be part of a balanced gluten free diet, focusing on more nutrient-dense foods and varying sweet treats is recommended for overall health.

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