What is Malted Milk Powder?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Malted milk powder is a combination of wheat flour, non-diastatic malt flour, and powdered milk. These ingredients are evaporated to give the powder its fine appearance and to make it easily absorbable in liquids. It often contains additional ingredients, like sugar, flavorings like vanilla or chocolate, and preservatives. Some forms are fortified with vitamins to boost its nutritional value.

Malted milk powder is used to make malted balls candy.
Malted milk powder is used to make malted balls candy.

Since malt powder is naturally sweet, many people enjoy malted milk powder. When Horlicks® first manufactured it in Chicago, it was sold as an infant formula. It quickly became popular among adults too, and many people used it to encourage children to drink more milk. The powder really gained popularity in the 1920s when it was added to milkshakes and used in the candy malted milk balls, which are covered with a layer of chocolate.

Some types of malted milk powder are fortified with vitamins.
Some types of malted milk powder are fortified with vitamins.

A few years prior to items made with malted milk gaining popularity at soda fountains, Switzerland was enjoying Ovomaltine, later to be known in the US as Ovaltine®. In the 1930s, radio shows like Little Orphan Annie popularized the drink, which contained eggs. Later variants would contain vitamins to add to the claim that Ovaltine&reg: was very healthy

Flour made from wheat is used to make malted milk powder.
Flour made from wheat is used to make malted milk powder.

In the 1950s, Carnation® became a successful distributor of malted milk powder for use in drinks. Like Ovaltine®, Carnation offered plain and chocolate versions of the powder. These two companies soon replaced Horlicks® as more popular brands, and now it’s much more difficult to find Horlicks&reg: on the market.

In the 1930s, radio shows such as "Little Orphan Annie" popularized Ovaltine.
In the 1930s, radio shows such as "Little Orphan Annie" popularized Ovaltine.

While most malted milk powder variants began without sweeteners, relying on the natural sweetness of barley malt, most modern variants add plenty of sugar. They still may be great ways to get a child to drink milk, especially when calorie consumption is too low, but in general, the sugar content is so high, they should be considered treats rather than staples.

The powder can be used in a variety of baked goods to give them more flavor. There are recipes for pancakes, biscuits, and muffins made with the basic powder, without the extra addition of sugar and preservatives. These add slightly more protein to baked goods, and many assert they significantly improve the taste. Malt powder on its own is a natural sweetener, which means that the sugar required in recipes for these baked goods can usually be reduced.

Malted milk powder could be used as a way to get a child to drink milk.
Malted milk powder could be used as a way to get a child to drink milk.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I have been able to find malted milk at Ralph's (Kroger) here on the West Coast of the USA.

It seems that many people have forgotten what it is, or don't care for the tastes it imparts, hence you don't see it offered in restaurants or coffee shops.

To me, there is almost nothing tastier than a glass of chocolate malt milk. And I didn't even grow up in the 30s 40s or 50s.


You can easily find Horlicks at most Indian grocery stores.


What is the difference between barley malt powder and barley flour made from malted barley?


How much is the milk content in the Malted Milk by carnation? I am allergic to milk. Thanks.


I'm Steve J. in Fairfax, virginia. I bought some malted milk powder at a Central market in austin, texas. I needed it for a vanilla malted cookie recipe and boy was it worth looking for it. Maybe available online?


Have you tried Soda Fountain Malted Milk Powder? It's online. They have awesome malt!


Looks like Harris Teeter in Tysons also carries it! Carnation brand. Don't know how much. -Sabrina in Fairfax


Steve in Fairfax, The Bethesda Co-Op has it! NOW foods, 16 oz. package for $6.89, I believe. Healthway in Fairfax, right by Trader Joe's, can get it for you, (but you'd have to put down a deposit and wait 30 days). Good luck! -Sabrina in Fairfax


Hey Steve Johnson in Fairfax, Did you try Wegman's? They have a British section. I was also going to try Healthway and the Bethesday Co-Op. The Co-Op has a well-stocked bulk section, so they may have it. I'm going to call, first. I'll let you know if and where I find it. -Sabrina in Fairfax


I'm wondering if it is possible to buy malted milk powder without the sugar added? thom


I found Carnation in a local ShopRite in Connecticut and it is a fairly small store. I was trying to duplicate the pancakes I have at the diner and this was an ingredient.


Anyone know why most Sonic Drive-Ins are taking "Malts" off the menue?


You can buy it at Super Walmart. I bought some in Fredricksburg and Culpeper ones this year. I know I bought it at the one in Sterling but it's been a couple of years. Good luck. I moved to South Korea and that was one of the items I made sure to bring with me.


...just bought Horlicks (500 gm) at Save-on-Foods, Edmonton, Alberta, CAN.....I think it is an Overwaitee Chain out of Vancouver. ($7.49)...for use in a fantastic cookie.....TONY


Found Carnation and Ovaltine at Kroger in TX


Hi Steve, In answer to your question, Carnations Malted Milk Powder is available at Harris Teeter and some Target stores (grocery dept).


I have searched all the major grocery chains in Northern Virginia - Safeway, Bloom, Giant, Whole Foods, Trader Joes. None carry any form of malted milk. Who can tell me where you can buy malted milk powder (any brand) in a store?- Steve Johnson, Fairfax, Virginia, USA


Does anyone know where I can find Horlicks?

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