Among people in the know (and plenty of Uproxx commenters), Culver’s is often cited as having the best milkshake in the fast food game. That’s a bold claim when spots like Shake Shack throw down with salted caramel shakes, In-N-Out rolls with the Neapolitan shake, and even Whattaburger hits home runs with their Dr. Pepper shake. Drinkable ice cream is a very competitive world, friends.
Where Culver’s really stands out is with their use of Fresh Frozen Custard ice cream that each store churns every day. That freshly churned custard is the base of the Culver’s milkshake and a mile ahead of the homogenized goo that places like McDonald’s and Burger King pump into oft-broken machines. So does the final Culver’s product really taste better? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Below, we’re reviewing a small vanilla milkshake from Culver’s to see just how well it stands up. We chose vanilla because it’s the baseline by which all other shakes are built and judged. We’re scoring the shake on three elements: consistency, flavor, and drinkability. How thick and ice-cream-like the shake is will be the trump card but the depth of the vanilla flavor in the shake and the ability to drink it through a straw is almost as important.
Let’s dive in and see if this shake deserves the hype!
Culver’s Milkshake (Vanilla)
As we mentioned above, the shake is made with Culver’s signature Fresh Frozen Custard which is made in the store daily. Wisconsin cream is used along with fresh Wisconsin milk. The vanilla is “world’s finest vanilla” according to Culver’s. Overall, the shake does come out of a fast-food shake machine you see in most joints. It’s not like this is getting mixed up in front of you.
The creamy custard really does come through. You know you’re drinking ice cream in shake form. It feels way closer to a Wendy’s Frosty, edging towards DQ Blizzard in thickness. Point being, there was no question that this was made from real-deal ice cream/custard.
The vanilla was rich but not overpowering. That being said, this felt more like you were drinking a vanilla flavoring agent than real vanilla. It was slightly muted with a clear fast-food vibe that leans sweeter than vanilla-forward (akin to Starbuck’s vanilla sugar).
That being said, it wasn’t overly sweet. The flavor was all just kind of average and fine.
This was a thick shake. The first 1/3 of the milkshake was almost easier to eat with the straw than suck it through said straw. The last 2/3 was pretty easy to work with the straw and really smoothed out nicely once you could drink it that way. Though, I imagine if you’re going through a drive-thru and taking this back home, it’ll be enough time to let the shake melt a little, making it more drinkable through the straw.
Overall, I found it a little annoying since this isn’t a Frosty or Blizzard and served with a simple blue straw. You could easily use a spoon to start “drinking” this shake.
This is a good shake. The ice cream is tough to beat. It’s not perfect, though. I prefer my shakes a little more drinkable and flavor-forward. This felt more like it was highlighting the ice cream/custard and not the flavor. Once the shake melted a little bit, it got way better. Turns out, being able to drink a shake through the straw with a burger in my hand is pretty damn important to me.
In the end, if I were to give this shake a grade from A to F, I’d go solid B+. It’s good! It’s a fast-food milkshake that’s got a nice, creamy base. But it was slightly forgettable, too. Is it the best? I don’t think so. If you do, that’s fine — but probably says more about the generally weak competition than it does about Culver’s itself.