The Great Burger King Strawberry Milkshake Mystery


Milkshakes from McDonald’s are pretty mysterious, too, but it was the Burger King strawberry version that inspired this post. My wife is, among other things, mildly anorexic. She has to fight to make herself eat at times, knowing that if her five foot tall body drops below 90 pounds in weight, she’s in trouble. At 93 pounds, she’s okay, with 100 pounds marking her ideal (but seldom reached and only briefly retained) weight. With that ever in mind, I try to keep a couple of fast food milkshakes in the freezer.

She can get those down at times when nothing else will do.

We get most of Pam’s strawberry milkshakes from McDonald’s on Highway 92 in Sierra Vista, Arizona. It’s the handiest fast food outlet for us, considering where we live and the frequency with which I have to drive right past the place on my way to run errands in town. For years, our standard was three strawberry shakes for Pam and one vanilla shake for me, include a drink carrier, please. Now that we have a third resident in our home, we add a chocolate shake for her. At least two of Pam’s three shakes go into the freezer.

We’ve had no “mystery milkshake” issue when Pam drinks a shake immediately after it’s thawed in the fridge, but with her anorexia, that doesn’t always happen. And if the refrigerator time stretches out for too long, the formerly frozen product begins to separate.

The whipped cream on top shrinks down noticeably. No surprise there.

Sooner or later, the ugly action happens at the bottom of the container. In the case of McDonald’s a separate layer forms down low, something with a yellowish color if memory serves. Until this evening, I’d never thought to investigate and/or write about the phenomenon; we just threw out any shakes that got “that bad”.

A few hours ago, though, we had a paradigm shift. A while back, concurrent with a run to Bisbee, I’d picked up strawberry milkshakes at Burger King. Pam had one left. It had been around a while–long enough, in fact, that she’d marked the container with a Sharpie:


    Drink First

Which did not happen. I’d put the shake down from the freezer to the fridge just this morning, but around 7:00 p.m., I told my redhead,

“Look at this! It’s all spattery around the top, not too sure about that, but look at the layer on the bottom!”

“Ew-w-w-w! I’m not drinking that!

“Me neither.”

“What did they put in that?”

“I dunno. Almost looks like water…or…hey, I bet I know what it is. I bet its–”

And we finished the sentence together, “–high fructose corn syrup!”

Strawberry milkshake mystery from Burger King.  Is that separated bottom layer...high fructose corn syrup?

Strawberry milkshake mystery from Burger King. Is that separated bottom layer…high fructose corn syrup?

Well, that was gross. But was it true? High fructose corn syrup (which recent studies have shown to be carcinogenic and a producer of wrinkles in high enough doses) is hard to avoid these days, including every bottle of soda pop out there except for Sierra Mist Natural and cola products bottled in Mexico. It seemed likely the fast food chains would be using the stuff in their not so milky milkshakes, but were they, really?

Time to hit the Net, research the ingredients for Burger King’s strawberry milkshake.

A single Google search brought up a page which lists the 20 ingredients in a BK strawberry shake as follows (emphasis mine):

Milk Fat, Milk Non-Fat, Sugar, Whey Sweet, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Corn Syrup, Flavor(s) Natural and Artificial, Vanilla, Guar Gum, Mono and Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Phosphate, Carrageenan, Strawberry Syrup, Water, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate Preservative, Red 40

Yep. The BK strawberry shake done been fructified.

That’s a joke, folks. “Fructified” is defined as: 1. make something fruitful or productive. But it sounds like it should mean: 1. loaded with fructose. Doesn’t it? Really, doesn’t it? Of course, Burger King executives no doubt believe that by including high fructose corn syrup, they have made their product fruitful and productive in the profit making sense.

It’s also interesting that water is in fact a listed ingredient. Perhaps just to pull a bit of powdered milk back into a somewhat liquid state, you think?

The site did have one entry on the BK strawberry milkshake page that cracked me up:

Warning: Contains milk.

Imagine that, a fast food milkshake that contains milk.

The next time we get a McDonald’s milkshake that separates out like that, I’ll try to remember to take a photo so readers can compare the “degrees of separation” between the two brands. In the meantime, if our readers happen to know for a fact what that bottom layer of almost clear liquid might be, feel free to educate us. The Burger King strawberry milkshake qualifies as a medical mystery worthy of being solved before it turns to high fructose belly fat.

Not on my wife, whose body fat content tends to be next thing to nonexistent, but for the rest of us. The girth we save may be our own.

The milkshake mystery fluid, up close.  Blood plasma?

The milkshake mystery fluid, up close. Blood plasma?

12 thoughts on “The Great Burger King Strawberry Milkshake Mystery

  1. I have solved my milkshake problem. I go to The Frosty Jug, right around the block from me and watch them make their milkshakes. Nothing in them but ice cream and milk. The ice cream is pure Bluebell and no corn syrup in that stuff.

  2. That sounds excellent, except for the fact that we have no The Frosty Jug around here. We still haven’t thrown out the milkshake model shown in the photos. Pam just told me the “mystery layer” is rather solid and gel-like. We’ll see, when I get around to dumping the thing in the weeds. Hope it doesn’t kill the mesquite.

  3. I go to 31 flavors, real ice cream and real milk or sometimes dairy queen. I don’t leave my house often due to my illness and disability, so I just make my shake at home so easy to do why get that junk from fast food restaurants. I don’t even like eating at those places who knows what junk they put in their food…just ewww

  4. Good for you, Kerie. I’m pretty sure we’d go to 31 flavors, too…if we had one around here. 🙂

  5. Thanks, Tim. We have an immersion blender, though I had no idea that’s what it was called. (Had to look it up on Wikipedia.) However, neither of us is ambitious enough to do a whole lot of, you know, actual work in the kitchen. I think the real secret to success might be to import a cook. 🙂

  6. Stan
    May I simply just say what a comfort to find someone who really knows what they’re discussing on thhe net.
    You actually know how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    More people really need to check this out and understand this side of the story.

    It’s surprising you aren’t more popular since you certainly possess the gift.

  7. Thanks, Stan. I’m not sure about the popularity issue–it is what it is, obviously–but Google likes my work well enough to rank quite a few of my pages highly enough that they can be found, so that’s a good thing. 🙂

  8. Interesting article and comment section. Very interesting because my brother just handed me a gallon of Burger King strawberry shake syrup. He got a case of it from a customer of ours. He told me it looked good because they do not list that many ingredients on the jug. Lol, glad I read your article before I gave my kids a gallon of this junk!! I would be happy to send a pic along with my reply, just not sure how.

  9. A whole gallon, eh? Hm. I carry a digital camera on my belt, so snagging a photo is easy enough for me–just (a) take the pic, (b) upload to computer, and then (c) send an email with the photo as an attachment, usually a .jpg. But if you’re not set up to upload photos to your computer, then I have no clue, either. 😀

    If you do figure it out, my email address is listed on the Contact page, and thanks for commenting.

  10. My 88 year old mom-in-law asked for a strawberry shake and so I got her one at BK and when I observed the BK worker add the strawberry flavoring in to the plastic cup and then take 2 jugs of white goop and dump them in the cup and then mix in to a frothy foamy blend I questioned “is there any ice cream in these Milk Shakes?” and so I googled for answers and found this site for which I am grateful for the information and will NEVER buy another BK or McDonald’s shake again……my mom in law digested it okay but I feel bad for getting it for her……….we all can live better and longer without it !!!

  11. That we can, Gregory, and thanks for commenting. I’ve found a number of places locally that do use real ice cream in their shakes, thankfully. Of the major chains, Dairy Queen and Denny’s come to mind.

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