A Lighter Shamrock Shake Recipe That Doesn’t Need 73 Grams of Sugar Like McDonald’s

Every holiday comes with its traditional fare. During Lent the fast food chains bombard us with fried fish sandwiches. People lose their minds over Cadbury Easter eggs each spring. Candy corn makes Halloween more enjoyable. And for most of fall we add pumpkin to anything that will sit still. Few restaurants other than your surly neighborhood Irish pub get any attention on St. Patrick’s Day, but during the last ten years, McDonald’s has moved in on that market.

They didn’t do it with corned beef or potatoes or even soda bread, but instead with something not even remotely close to being Irish. They did it with ice cream.

Their Shamrock Shake has almost become the stuff of drive-through legends, falling behind its popular brother the McRib. With much fanfare the restaurant announces “It’s Back!” and fills customers with this cool, creamy mint shake just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Other than the fact that mint is green and St. Patrick’s day is green, we’ve yet to find much connection between the holiday and the herb.

What we have found is that the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake, for the small 12 ounces, will fill you up with 530 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 73 grams of sugar. That last one sent even us in to a bit of shock. Seventy three grams of sugar in a 12-ounce cup is, to put it mildly, a lot.

This will not do. Unless there is a patron saint of diabetes, nothing can save you from the repercussions of the coma that is sure to come from that.

So, like we do, we made our own. It’s not filled with green dye, so not quite as festive, but it is just as minty; and if we may be so bold, tastes quite a bit better. Made with ice cream, our 12-ounce treat has 321 calories, 4.8 grams of fat, and 28 grams of sugar. Made with the frozen yogurt alternative, those numbers keep going down. Your choice.

Homemade Shamrock Shake

Yields 1 shake; 12 ounces


2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves

1 1/2 cups light vanilla ice cream or light vanilla frozen yogurt

1/2 cup skim milk

1/4 tsp. real peppermint extract


Place all ingredients in a blender (we used a Ninja Kitchen System 1200) and blend until smooth. Add more mint if desired. If too thin add more ice cream. If too thick, add more milk. Serve immediately with a sprig of fresh mint and/or light whipped cream.

Is it nutritionally perfect? No. Admittedly, a three-hundred calorie dessert isn’t something you can have every day. But if you find yourself wanting a Shamrock Shake and are willing to take five minutes to make one for yourself at home, then the indulgence is a little easier to swallow.

Try Our Other Recipes

Talenti Frozen Sangria

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Why You Should Cook With Clover

Recipe and images by Dana Shultz

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