We tried vanilla milkshakes from 5 fast food restaurants and the winner was clear
The INSIDER Summary:
We tasted vanilla milkshakes from five fast food chains to see which one is best.
We tried shakes from McDonald's, Chick-fil-A, Burger King, Dairy Queen, and Wendy's.
Chick-fil-A came in first place and Burger King came in second; both of their shakes tasted homemade and had the most authentic vanilla flavor.
McDonald's came in last because of its overwhelmingly artificial taste.
A vanilla milkshake may seem like a rather mundane dessert option, but find one with a creamy, authentic vanilla flavor and it'll satisfy even the sweetest of sweet tooths.
We tested the treat at five different fast food chains to see which one is best. The versions we sampled were from:
Keep scrolling to read our thoughts and to see the final ranking.
McDonald's McCafé Vanilla Shake
Our first stop was a McCafé, McDonald's coffee shop that's mostly known for its coffee, pastries, and sweet drinks. We ordered the vanilla shake, which, at just $2 for a small, is an extremely affordable way to treat yourself. The drink is made with McDonald's vanilla soft serve and comes topped with a healthy dollop of whipped cream.
At first sip, we were struck by the overwhelming sweetness of the shake. It was loaded with vanilla flavor, but the kind of artificial vanilla flavor that serves as a tell-tale sign you're drinking something from a fast-food chain as opposed to something homemade. While McDonald's got the creaminess and the texture of the milkshake right, the flavor left something to be desired.
Chick-fil-A's Vanilla Milkshake
We had high expectations for Chick-fil-A, mostly because the chain refers to their vanilla shake as being hand spun, a term that means the milkshake is hand mixed by a human rather than a machine. Plus, it's made with "Icedream," which the chain describes as "a delicious, dairy treat with an old-fashioned vanilla taste."
The treat exceeded expectations. Apparently, handspinning makes a difference, because Chick-fil-A achieved the homemade taste that McDonald's so clearly lacked. The vanilla flavor was both delicious and authentic, and although the shake was a little over $4, it was a heaping portion that spilled over the sides of the cup. A bright red Maraschino cherry added a nice — if mostly aesthetic — touch.
Burger King's Vanilla Hand Spun Shake
Our next stop was Burger King, whose vanilla shake is also hand spun. And that wasn't its only similarity to Chick-fil-A's milkshake. Burger King's version was about the same size and cost pretty much the same. The taste was comparable too — creamy, authentic, not too sweet.
We were pleasantly surprised by the shake. In the past, we've found that BK's savory offerings don't usually live up to other chains' like McDonald's or Wendy's. But we really enjoyed this treat, which served as further evidence that milkshakes mixed by humans are better than milkshakes mixed by machines.
Dairy Queen's Vanilla Shake
Since Dairy Queen is a chain that's known for its ice cream — namely its blizzards — we were excited to try their vanilla shake. Like at Chick-fil-A and Burger King, the milkshake was hand spun and a size small cost just over $4. However, it was noticeably smaller.
Our first taste was one of blandness and disappointment. The shake didn't have much vanilla flavor; it tasted more like milk than anything else. The chain's website describes the drink as "vanilla soft serve blended with vanilla syrup and milk..." Maybe the person who mixed our shake didn't get the vanilla to milk ratio right, or maybe that's just how DQ shakes are. Either way, we weren't all that impressed.
Wendy's Vanilla Frosty
Wendy's was our last stop. The chain doesn't offer a vanilla milkshake, but they do offer a vanilla Frosty, which they refer to as "a cool, creamy, real-milk dairy dessert." For those who are unfamiliar with a Frosty, it's basically a slightly more frozen and less liquid version of a shake.
The treat was by far the cheapest of the five we tried ($1.08). That said, it's definitely not hand spun, considering we were handed one straight from a freezer upon ordering. The Frosty was good, but it certainly didn't blow us away. It tasted a lot like your average vanilla soft serve, but in a beverage cup instead of a cone. If you let it sit and melt for a bit, you can eventually drink the Frosty like a regular milkshake, which is what we did.
After finishing our taste test, we decided that Chick-fil-A and Burger King were the top two contenders. These shakes tasted the most homemade, and had the most authentic vanilla flavor out of all five of the drinks. If we had tried the two of them blindfolded, we wouldn't have guessed they were the product of fast food chains. In the end, we simply liked the taste of Chick-fil-A's better — but only by a little bit. That could be because BK adds "vanilla sauce" to their shakes, which sounds artificial. Chick-fil-A doesn't add sauce.
We weren't crazy about Wendy's Frosty, but there wasn't anything that was necessarily bad about it, which is why the treat earned third place. DQ beat out McDonald's because, although it lacked flavor, we'd rather have some blandness than a whole lot of artificial flavor, which is what we experienced with the McCafé shake.
For a truly satisfying vanilla milkshake, your best bet is Chick-fil-A or Burger King. If you're willing to sacrifice taste for value, then go with a Wendy's Frosty. If you find yourself at a Dairy Queen or McDonald's, indulge in one of the many other treats the chains offer; you'll leave a happier customer.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Animated map shows what the US would look like if all the Earth's ice melted