You might have heard of things like malted milk, a malted milkshake, a malt shake, chocolate malt, and more, all of which can add to confusion about the ingredient, the flavor, or the finished recipe (and which is it: a milkshake or chocolate milk?)
“Chocolate malt” in America appears to have morphed into a catch-all term, so it can be confusing. Let’s take a deep-dive into everything that chocolate malt can be, from a beer-brewing ingredient, to a combination of delicious ingredients for cakes, and more.
What is chocolate malt?
Chocolate malt can be an ingredient, a combination of ingredients, a flavor, or a finished recipe. Malt, perhaps the confusing “unfinished” part of that term, is a cereal grain. The process that develops the starches into sugars is called malting. Chocolate, though, is adjacent to the malt.
Malt flavoring can be added to lots of recipes without chocolate, so the “chocolate” and the “malt” are indeed two separate things. Malt has its own nutty, caramel-like depth. For example, malted milk powder is milk powder that also contains malt extract, and is often used in a chocolate malt milkshake, or you can stir it into your cookies for a rich and nuanced taste.
So let’s look at everything that “Chocolate Malt” can be…
As a finished drink: Chocolate malt is often referred to as a shortened term for what is actually a Chocolate Malted Milkshake (aka malt shake that may or may not have any chocolate in it) or Chocolate Malted Milk (similar in flavor and consistency to chocolate milk) that uses malted milk powder with cocoa, or a drink mix (like Ovaltine) that contains malted milk powder.
As an ingredient in brewing beer and some kinds of baking: Chocolate malt can be a kind of robust grain mixture, like barley, mixed with cocoa and chocolate, like this. It is also another name for the “black malt” important to alcohol processing and giving dark beer its color.
So it’s important to know what you are asking for when you say, “Hey, make me a chocolate malt,” or you could end up with an interesting concoction.
What is the difference between chocolate and chocolate malt?
Chocolate as a sweet candy (and not a neutral ingredient, like say in molé) is a combination of roasted cocoa beans, milk, and sugar. Chocolate malt is a flavor combination that includes chocolate flavoring plus malt flavoring. So chocolate malt can include finished chocolate or cocoa powder or other kinds of chocolate.
What does chocolate malt taste like?
It depends on what meaning of chocolate malt you are referring to. As a milkshake or drink mix, like a traditional chocolate shake with a nutty finish. As a drink mix to make hot cocoa, like “chocolate malt powder,” it’s sweet and chocolatey, with a distinctive nutty and mocha-like flavor. The “chocolate malt” used in brewing beer tastes like a sweet, thick, dark “hoppy” grain.
Remember, malted milk (the addition of malt extract to milk) or malted milk powder is the original “base” of most recipes that use chocolate malt, so the chocolate can be added via cocoa, chocolate syrup or other ways.
Tillamook brand “Malted Moo Shake” ice cream doesn’t mention malted milk powder on their list of ingredients, per se, but “Extract of Wheat and Barley,” which is essentially, malt extract. You get that malt-forward flavor that you can taste alongside the vanilla and chocolate.
How to use chocolate malt
There are so many different ways that you can use malt flavor and chocolate together. The most popular method is to mix it into a malted milk.
To do this, you just need to combine milk, malted milk powder or an appropriate malt extract, and a squirt of chocolate syrup to taste. Mix well with an immersion blender.
Chocolate malts (the handcrafted milkshake kind) were extremely popular about a century ago, and you can still find them at some higher-end ice cream counters. You can also add chocolate malt to your baking, especially in recipes that call for chocolate or cocoa powder.
If you’re unsure how much malt to use, err on the side of caution and add just a tiny bit to the frosting or the batter. You’ll get that luxe, delicious, malty flavor without overpowering your senses.
Although less common, some home cooks swear that malt gives their homemade sauces a little bit of a kick. For example, add a touch of malt to barbecue sauce or chili for a rich, slightly sweet tang.
How to make a chocolate malt
Chocolate malts as “chocolate malted milkshakes” are almost like upgraded versions of your favorite milkshake, and they are super simple to make at home if you have malted milk powder, vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and some kind of chocolate like cocoa powder or Hersheys chocolate syrup on hand.
Essentially, all that you need to do to make a “chocolate malted milk” (like chocolate milk but flavored with malt) is stirring together chocolate syrup and malted milk powder to your milk of choice.
Chocolate malt recipes
In addition to the classic chocolate malt, there are plenty of things that you can do with this particular ingredient. Since it plays really well with baked goods, chocolate malt is an exceptional ingredient that adds a lot of depth to your existing dishes. Just a tiny sprinkle of chocolate malt flavor can elevate any cookies, cakes, or even bread pudding.
For exceptional flavor and depth, don’t just make standard chocolate chip cookies. All you need for this recipe are common cookie ingredients plus a bit of traditional malted milk powder or chocolate malt powder.
This cake is packed with malt, from the batter to the frosting, and crumbles on the top. This recipe seems to be based on a regular chocolate cake but just has a bit of a twist. The malt cuts through the sweetness of the cake and lends it a very caramelly flavor.
Chocolate Malt Bread Pudding is an excellent alternative to your traditional bread pudding, and malt plays very well with all of its flavors. Stir in some crushed malted milk balls and chocolate chips for additional goodness. It’s also an excellent way to use up any bread that you might have, and it makes in just about half an hour.
These tender, chewy Chocolate-Malt Sandwiches by Martha Stewart will be a welcome recipe to bring to your next cookie exchange! The recipe calls for malt infused throughout the cookie, so you’ll get a deep malt flavor in both the cookie itself and the decadent filling. You can customize the sweetness of the recipe by adding in more or less chocolate or vanilla extract.
This rich malted milkshake made with dark chocolate and warming spices like cinnamon and cayenne is a tasty deviation from the original malt recipe you may be more familiar with. If you love the heady flavor of malted milk and chocolate malts but want something slightly spicier and grown-up, this dark chocolate malt might be precisely what you’ve been looking for. The base is delicious vanilla ice cream and cocoa powder, plus plenty of whole milk.
The bottom line
While “chocolate malt” tends to be a catch-all phrase that can mean a flavor for different recipes, different ingredients like the dark color of malt extract used in brewing beer, or recipes for chocolate milk or a chocolate milkshake that include malt flavor, a chocolate-flavored malt in its basic form (a cooked grain) doesn’t really exist. The chocolate is always malt-adjacent, and a chocolate flavoring comes alongside a malted milk powder or malt extract to create a flavor of “chocolate malt.” Clear as malted mud?