The Surprising Versatility of Malted Milk Powder

This nutty treat is not just for chocolate malteds.

Published June 14, 2022.

Probably no one sipping a malted milkshake or crunching on a chocolate-covered malt ball would suspect it, but the origins of the eponymous ingredient, malted milk powder, date back millenia. That’s when the first beer makers in the ancient Near East discovered that allowing cereal grains to sprout just a little—or malt—was not only essential before brewing them into beer, but also produced interesting new flavors.

What is Malted Milk Powder?

Fast forward to Chicago in the late 19th century, when James and William Horlick, two brothers who had emigrated from England, discovered how a liquid infusion of malted barley and wheat could be dried into a powder and made into a nutty-tasting drink when mixed with milk. They soon added dried dairy to the mix (prior to refrigeration and pasteurization, fresh milk could contain dangerous bacteria), and malted milk powder was was born. Initially marketed as a nutritional food (its sugars, converted from starches during the malting process, made it easy to digest), malted milk powder became beloved for its taste. By the middle of the 20th century, drugstore soda-fountain counters across the country were blending malted milk powder with ice cream to make nutty, caramelly-tasting milkshakes, and candies such as malt balls had become an American favorite.

Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter

The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.

How to Use Malted Milk Powder

In addition to those soda-fountain treats, malted milk powder has become popular for lending a complex toasty flavor to pancakes, such as our Deluxe Blueberry Pancakes, and it can enhance a number of other treats with its roasty, caramelly notes as well. Below are a few of our favorite applications. Start off with about 1 tablespoon of the powder per serving, and then adjust to taste.

  • Stir into hot chocolate or a cup of coffee for subtle, deeper sweetness
  • Toss with popcorn to create compelling sweet/savory contrast
  • Stir into cream, and then make whipped cream to top ice cream sundaes or pies
  • Add to crème anglaise to accompany fruit desserts, cakes, or puddings

To experiment with adding malted milk powder to other foods, choose sweet recipes with simple flavors that allow milk powder’s malty flavor to shine through.

Deluxe Blueberry Pancakes

Fresh fruit and a diner trick take the most beloved of flapjacks to the next level.
Get the Recipe

Malted Hot Chocolate Mix

Hot chocolate mixes often disappoint. We wanted a thick, chocolaty, indulgent drink.
Get the Recipe

Creamy Malted Milk Chocolate Frosting

The ultimate cupcake isn't complete without the ultimate frosting.
Get the Recipe


This is a members' feature.