This Shamrock shake copycat recipe is a healthy, all real ingredient version of McDonald’s shamrock shake you can feel much better about drinking!
*This post was originally published 3/6/2012. It’s been updated with new photography and a video on how to make this healthier copycat version of McDonald’s famous shamrock shake. Some text is original.
Sunday afternoon Ulysses, Ginger and I went for a run on the bike trail near our house.
As we were walking onto the trail from the parking lot, a family of 4 was coming off the trail headed to their car when all of a sudden the little kid on his scooter screams “AND I CAN GET AN EGG MCMUFFIN TOO?!”
Ulysses and I just turned to each other and burst out laughing.
There’s a McDonald’s not even a quarter mile from the bike trail parking lot (irony at it’s best) so I guess that family’s Sunday afternoon plans involved some exercise and then erasing any and all strides they had made with that effort at the good ole golden arches with everyone’s favorite March treat, the Shamrock Shake.
People rave about these disturbingly fake green shake concoctions every year around St. Patrick’s Day and after trying one out of pure curiosity, I honestly can’t say I understand the hype.
A shamrock shake basically just tastes like a vanilla milkshake with some fake mint thrown in.
I truly think its seasonality (aka: short availability during the year) is the main reason for the cult like following this green drink has. It’s really nothing crazy special in my opinion.
But, it’s definitely not the first time I’ve gone against the crowd when it comes to food choices.
So, I decided to play around at home and try and recreate this green wonder.
Except of course, in a healthier, more “real-food” kind of way.
The result is what I’m calling a healthy shamrock shake. You could easily called it a shamrock smoothie too. To be fair, it’s more smoothie than shake but hey, semantics.
Let’s break this shamrock shake thing down, shall we?
When Is The Shamrock Shake Available?
I’m pretty sure McDonald’s likes to keep this a secret to preserve the hype but if using years past is any indication of the future, the shamrock shake usually becomes available mid-late February and runs through St. Patrick’s Day.
And believe me, 3-4 weeks of this thing is plenty.
Well, let’s go over the ingredients McDonald’s uses in their version.
What’s In McDonald’s Shamrock Shake?
According to McDonald’s, there are 4 main ingredients in the holiday shake:
- vanilla soft serve ice cream (not gonna lie, I love McDonald’s vanilla cones)
- “Shamrock shake syrup” (aka: a bunch of artificial dyes and flavors we’ll never know)
- whipped cream
- a maraschino cherry
I don’t know about you, but the vague “shamrock shake syrup” disturbs me a little. As does most food at McDonalds though I guess.
ps- a “large” shake will run you over 800 calories. Ouch.
I will say this though, the origin of the shamrock shake is pretty cool.
Apparently a franchise owner in the 70s came up with the recipe as a festive way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It was originally called the “St. Patrick’s Day Shake” before being renamed to its catchier current title.
From what I understand, proceeds (or part of them) from the sale of shamrock shakes used to go to the Ronald McDonald Foundation as well (not sure they do any longer).
What’s In This Healthy Shamrock Shake?
So in a quest to mimic whatever the shamrock shake syrup does to turn a vanilla ice cream base into a pale green concoction that looks like a leprechaun died in the cup only this time with ingredients we can all understand and no food dyes (food dyes are such a pet peeve of mine – don’t even get me started on “red velvet” baked goods), I came up with an ingredient list like this:
- Greek yogurt
- baby spinach
- fresh mint
And then some optional ones like:
- additional sweetener
- xanthan gum
- whipped cream
- cacao nibs or chocolate chips
The result is a sweet minty shake that borders on the line of smoothie.
Although, if you wanted it to be more shake like and turn this into more of a treat/dessert, replacing the Greek yogurt with vanilla ice cream would be perfect. Or even, matcha mint chocolate chunk ice cream! Don’t miss this Baileys ice cream either, it’s the perfect boozy way to celebrate St. Patrick’s day if shakes aren’t your thing.
I used to eat maraschino cherries by the handful when I worked in a restaurant in high school and college but these days, they’re just not something I keep in the house. By all means though, throw one on top for the full shamrock shake effect if you like.
So if you’re someone who loves the tradition of this green shake around St. Patrick’s Day but maybe you’re looking to keep the calories in check, I encourage you to give this healthier shamrock shake a try.
I think it does a great job of capturing that creamy vanilla milkshake like texture with the minty fresh taste of the original just in a way you can feel good about drinking while saving yourself some calories and the annoyance of the drive through line!
Looking for more green drink ideas like this healthy shamrock shake recipe?
Or, try this Maple Cashew Chocolate Chip Cookie Milkshake for a deliciously indulgent treat!
And if you want more green food recipes to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without all the fake ingredients, try green oatmeal!
Healthy Shamrock Shake
- 1 cup ice
- 1/2 frozen medium banana
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, vanilla flavor will work too
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 4 fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup milk, any kind or non-dairy alternative
- 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum, helps thicken the shake
- additional sweetener of choice, maple syrup, honey, sugar, stevia, monk fruit
- whipped cream for topping
- cacao nibs/chocolate chips for topping
- Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender in the order listed, including xanthan gum if using.
- Process until smooth.
- Pour into glass and top with whipped cream and/or cacao nibs/chocolate chips if desired.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.