The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

I Like Ovaltine

What do Ovaltine, Horlicks, and Milo have in common? They were born in the West (Switzerland, US, and Australia respectively, if Wikipedia hasn't failed me, although today Ovaltine and Horlicks are owned by British companies), are very popular in the East (in addition to their birth countries...and...elsewhere), and less so in the US. They're all powder-based malted milk drinks, although Ovaltine and Milo are chocolate flavored and Horlicks isn't.

I can recall at least one instance where a Chinese friend was surprised when I told her that I didn't grow up drinking these beverages. "AREN'T YOU CHINESE?" she asked. (And yes, she asked in caps.) Does that go to show how imbibed these drinks are in Chinese culture? Even when I lived in Taiwan where I recall seeing a lot of Milo, I was never interested in trying it. It was only when I started living in New York City and frequented Chinatown's bakeries that I noticed these malted milk drinks on the menu alongside bubble teas.


A few weeks ago after eating at Sheng Wang, my friends and I went to Hon Cafe for desserts and drinks. I usually go for nai cha (sweet milk tea), but since Greg and Kathy were both getting that and I didn't want to order the same thing, I looked for another cheap, hot drink.

Me: What does Ovaltine taste like?

Greg: Like chocolate milk.

Me: That sounds boring.

Greg: It's a kid's drink with extra vitamins and stuff in it.

Me: ...That still sounds boring.

Yet, lured by the $1 price tag, I ordered it anyway. And Greg was only partially correct: Ovaltine doesn't taste just like chocolate milk, but like a sweet, mildly chocolate-flavored beverage with undertones of cereal. Ooooh. It may not taste as good as Momofuku Milk Bar's cereal milk (which I have yet to try), but it's certainly a better deal. I became addicted kind of...immediately.

It wasn't until a week later that I got to buy a huge jar of the powered stuff from a Chinese supermarket in Flushing, its location inexplicably on a shelf above the aisle of vegetables and not in any kind of beverage section, powdered or not. Is Ovaltine as important as vegetables? Maybe. I did look for Ovaltine earlier in non-Chinese markets and found it at a few bodegas, but it was the American version, not the red and yellow-clad Asian version. Whether there's much of a taste difference between the two, I have no idea, but I think the American one said to mix with milk while the Asian one said mix with water (update) I LIED, HAR HAR, UH it says mix with milk. Poop on that.

I've only made a few cups of Ovaltine so far, mostly to soothe my sickly throat, but I definitely didn't use as heavy a hand with the sugar as Hon Cafe. My homemade version was less magical. :( If you've never tried it before, it might be good to try it first from a Chinatown bakery/cafe (I assume most of them serve it) before making it yourself. You can tell I have no culinary prowess when I can't even make a good cup of Ovaltine. (I will gladly take your Ovaltine-making tips.) Not that what I made tasted bad—it was perfectly fine. I just need to work on my Ovaltine-making skills.


Edd / February 8, 2009 3:15 PM

Ive never been a fan of these malt drinks, ive only ever tried Horlicks but i just found it a bit weird really. I might have to try the chocolate ones because i like maltesers so i guess its the same kind of thing

SuperChomp / February 8, 2009 3:45 PM

I also thought that Ovaltine and Horlicks came ready-to-add-fluid and didn't need sugar adding...

I remember drinking Horlicks as a child. Then I became a lactard. Soon put an end to that. (In actual fact I stopped drinking it before then, but it sounds funnier that way, right? :] )

LySiNe / February 8, 2009 3:49 PM

The secret is to sweeten it with sweetened condensed milk. :)

I grew up drinking the stuff and that's how the stores always did it, and why mine never tasted as good. Cause I'm not as heavy handed as they are with it.

Yuizaki / February 8, 2009 4:24 PM

This brings back memories...only my mother would serve it with unsalted crackers on a winter's day. And it was good but I don't know's the same with those crackers and ice cream.
Ok...I feel nostalgic enough to buy a jar and make some to dunk crackers in. O_O;

umami / February 8, 2009 4:25 PM

I don't like Ovaltine at all but I do like Milo. You might want to apply my Milo method to Ovaltine, which is to put A Lot of it to your mug e.g. 4 tbsp then add sugar, milk or combination of them to taste.

anna / February 8, 2009 4:43 PM

I grew up drinking ovaltine, though I think the reason my mom made it for me was because it was healthier than chocolate milk. I used to have a giant glass of skim milk (the only kind allowed in our house) and ovaltine every night with dinner. Until I became lactose intolerant, that is. It makes really good hot cocoa, though, and is the reason I don't like over-chocolatey, super-sweet cocoa.

Jesse / February 8, 2009 4:43 PM

OH MY GOD, MILOOOOOOOO come to meeeee!!! My fav version of Milo or Ovaltine is one that is made with milk and tons of sugar. Like, half the drink's volume of sugar. Mmmm. Okay, maybe not. Maybe like 1/3 of the drink's volume. This is why my doctor told me never to drink Milo or Ovaltine EVER AGAIN. =(

cybele / February 8, 2009 5:36 PM

Ovaltine has sugar in it (some of malt sugars). It comes in two flavors, regular (malted) and chocolate.

It doesn't need additional sugar. (Though I suppose some honey would be nice if you have a sore throat.)

My recipe:

1 good microwave safe mug
12 ounces of milk (I use lactaid)
4 tablespoons of ovaltine

Directions: Pour 12 ounces of milk into cup. Add three tablespoons. Stir well. Put in microwave for 1:45. Lick spoon. Wipe. Then take one large spoonful of ovaltine and place directly in mouth. Allow to dissolve. Enjoy while watching your cup go round in the microwave. Repeat if necessary.

Jamie / February 8, 2009 7:12 PM

Ovaltine makes really good chocolate malt whipped cream. Just add about 1/4 cup to whipping cream and whip it. So yummy. A little sprinkle of salt makes it even better.

louanne / February 8, 2009 8:57 PM

i always preferred milo to ovaltine (big rivalry there when i was younger), and am not a fan of horlicks. ovaltine did/does sell chocolate sweets called ovalteenies though which i liked. :)

this is how i made my milo drink growing up. note that this is not a drink to make when you're under the weather as it's a little potent..

- fill half the cup with milo/ovaltine powder. (yea i mean HALF - 3 heaped tablespoons or something)
- 2 - 3 teaspoons of sugar
- add pure cold milk (none of that 'add water' rubbish)

stir a little but not too much and u get wonderful clumps of milo/ovaltine powder that you can eat with a spoon. i guess you can always add more powder if you want more clumps later on.

also known as a milo dinosaur although the method on how it's made varies :D

yum yum, now i have to go find a can of milo..

roboppy / February 8, 2009 9:07 PM

Whoaoohoh, thanks for all your Ovaltine memories and recipe suggestions! To answer the "Does it have sugar?" question, my jar says it has 8 grams of sugar per serving. (My version isn't the same as the American one.) Which doesn't really cut it for me. Har har. But the first ingredient is malt extract. Um. And there's tapioca syrup,. But it doesn't taste sweet enough without adding sugar, in my opinion.

...But keep in mind that I add a LOT of sugar to tea, or coffee when I rarely drink it.

They sell Milo at the supermarket around the corner from me, so I'll have to pick some up (haven't seen Horlicks yet). But if I have to add milk, this si gonna kinda suck because I don't drink milk...ever. Except if I'm going to make OVALTINE or MILO, I guess. Hm. Well. I guess I can get a bit of it.

Oh yeah, and I read this jar wrong because it doens't say to add water. Although the second ingredient is milk. FAIL.

dee / February 8, 2009 10:24 PM

i like milo way better than ovaltine! Oh pls pls try to eat milo by itself- yes by d spoonfuls! Ths is just d way i take milo, never as a drink ü

santos. / February 9, 2009 12:20 AM

the american and asian versions tasts different. generally the asian ones--it's produced in china, thailand, and the philippines--tend to be maltier than the western variety.

can you get ovalteenies? it's a compressed tablet of ovaltine. sort of a cross between a necco wafer and the inside of a malt ball.

Steph / February 9, 2009 1:06 AM

hm. Maybe West Coast-y Asian Americans don't have these things, because I've never seen any of them, or heard of the two that aren't Ovaltine. And Ovaltine I heard of through that movie, A Christmas Story.

Jasmine / February 9, 2009 1:38 AM

I use to love Ovaltine when I was younger. I had Milo recently, and it didn't taste as magical. Adding a gallon on condensed milk didn't work either.

G / February 9, 2009 2:07 AM

Used to eat spoons of the stuff at my grandma's house. I loved how it went from powdery to almost chewy solid chocolaty. Or something. It's been a very long time and my grandmother isn't in the land of the living anymore. Guess I should go find a jar of that stuff in her memory.


Julie / February 9, 2009 2:16 AM

Yeah, we Filipinos grew up drinking it, too. Ever since the, every time I've tasted something malted, I've thought of Ovaltine. I haven't had it since I was a single-digit age, though. Maybe it would be even tastier with a scoop of chocolate milk powder/syrup mixed in, too.

May / February 9, 2009 3:38 AM

Mmmm Ovaltine... it's good with milk and sugar, but when I'm lazy I use:
1 heaping tbsp of coffeemate (coffee whitener)
1 tsp of sugar
3-4 tablespoons of ovaltine
and boiling water.

That's the easiest substitute I've found so far if you don't drink milk often. Plus coffeemate is powdered so you don't have to worry about it going bad...

The Integer Club / February 9, 2009 5:03 AM

If you leave Milo in the tin for ages, it 'matures' and becomes almost like toffee...thick, chewy, chocolate flavoured toffee...mmm. You dig a chunk out with your hands (or a spoon) and you can spend ages chewing on it. Probably not the best thing for your teeth but your tastebuds will thank you!

Vinna / February 9, 2009 6:25 AM

Definitely go with sweetened condensed milk! It gives you the sweetness and the milkyness you need for a good cup of Ovaltine or Milo. That's how all the coffeeshops in Singapore makes them.

Janice / February 9, 2009 7:25 AM

Ovaltine, Horlicks and Milo = Childhood memories ! I still drink Horlicks these days.

eunice / February 9, 2009 8:50 AM

wow, I just had milo for dinner. Okay, not plain milo but I dumped some cereal in it. Loved horlicks too. They must definitely be paired with sweet condensed milk to get that "Oooomp". At least for me! :D

mandy / February 9, 2009 9:01 AM

have you try ovaltine sweets?? i think horlick have them too. i love them as a kid and still do as an adult

Ed B. / February 9, 2009 10:59 AM

Boo Ovaltine! You should dump the jar of Ovaltine you got and buy yourself a huge-ass jar of Milo!

You should try dee's suggestion as well: eat the Milo powder by itself! Chocolate awesomeness!

Also goes well with oatmeal. ;-)

wonders / February 9, 2009 11:50 AM

I love olvatine! lols Everytime I wanna get a bottle of the mix, my bf laughs at me -=X lols I love used to love getting the iced ovaltine from the ghetto restaurant inside the tunnel in chinatown (between mott street & bowery, i think)

Kristen / February 9, 2009 1:34 PM

I find it funny that because we're all Asian we drank Milo/Ovaltine... but because we're all Asian (and thus lactarded) we had to stop drinking it.

I haven't had Ovaltine in years (since I found a worm in my jar. Blegh)

roboppy / February 9, 2009 1:54 PM

HOLY JEBUS people are very particular about their Ovaltine/Milo... :)

Haven't gotten the giantcan of Milo yet, but I will. Actually, I will be in charge of a Serious Eats taste test...which might be tricky because I don't think the "recipe" for each drink would be the same. How much condensed milk do you use per cup if you want to use condensed milk at all? I DUNNO WHAT I'M DOINNNNGG.

dee, G, Ed: Sweet jesus, I would've never thought of just eating the powder plain. Mebbe I will.

The Integer Club: Holy crap, that sounds...kind of strange, but maybe we can keep a can of Milo around like a time capsule not to be opened until 2012.

Santos, Mandy: I did try them once! My friend Lee Anne brought them from China (I haven't seen them sold here). I don't remember them very well but I know I ate em all. ...That doesn't say much, does it. ;_;

Kristen: I don't think I was ever a lactard (everyone in my family seems to do okay with dairy..lucky us!), but when I was little mom would just tell me, "YOU'LL GET MUCUS!" if I drank too much milk and ate too much dairy. She threatened me with mucus. Yeeeup.

Amy / February 9, 2009 4:53 PM

In college I used Ovalitine as a healthy substitute for Nesquick chocolate milk. It had a fuller taster and made me feel less guilty about drinking chocolate milk.

About condensed milk, just flavor to taste.

Srin / February 9, 2009 5:51 PM

Much like the Chinese, the good people of Bengal drink Horlicks like the Constitution says they must. I always thought Horlicks was made in Calcutta and that Horlicks mania was limited to Bengalis.

Vincci / February 10, 2009 12:11 AM

We had Milo in our home when I was in Hong Kong, but I haven't had it in so long I wouldn't be able to describe the difference between that and regular hot chocolate without tasting it again.

Strangely, when I was really young I hated Horlicks but then I went through a Horlicks candy phase in like grade 4.

Gillian / February 10, 2009 5:31 AM

Didn't think Horlick's could be better? Here's how.

Add Baileys! (irish cream liqueur)

Completely works. Intrigued that over here in the UK I've never heard of Milo. Maybe I'm just blind.

Carl / February 10, 2009 3:49 PM

Ovaltine is totally the bomb! The "chocolate" flavor is pointless as it's just chocolate, lame, but the straight up "ORIGINAL MALT" flava is sooo good. I actually just ran out of my jar at home.

The best is to shake the jar of powder before you open it because then there's a malt dust cloud when you open it.

roboppy / February 10, 2009 5:15 PM

Attention peeps, I BOUGHT A CAN OF MILO, and I drank a few cups, and..uh..I probably have to adjust my recipe. But yes, Milo..and CONDENSED MILK. It tastes less cereal-y than Ovaltine it seems, but then I haven't had them side-by-side. I haven't looked for Horlicks yet. And there might be some other similar drinks in my local supermarket; when I was checking out I noticed HUGE ASS BARRELS of Ovaltine, Milo, and other things I didn't recognize (no Horlicks). They must be for large families. Or fallout shelters. I dunno.

So, drink power with booze and ice cream and many possibilities..thanks for the info, guuuuys.

Carl: And I want to inhale this cloud, I assume? OK!!

Christine / February 10, 2009 6:19 PM

We used to have Ovaltine and Horlicks everytime we went to my grandma's house, when we were lil wee ones. It would be made with one and a half spoons of condensed milk and three teaspoons of the mix, if I remember correctly. Hope that helps!

jk / February 10, 2009 7:17 PM

when my family used to visit family in asia us kids (all picky eaters) practically survived on milo cereal--similar to cocoa puffs but less sweet and more malty. the best part is when you drink the milk at the end. i don't think i've ever seen milo cereal in the states, unfortunately.

photobean / February 10, 2009 9:18 PM

I had an epiphany one day to mix my Ovaline with Horlicks and have been hooked every since! I'm not much of a coffee drinker so this has become my hot beverage of choice when i need a sugar rush.
2-3 heaping spoons of Ovaline
1-2 heaping spoons of Horlicks (you can change up the ratio depending on which flavor you like better. I prefer my concoction to be on the chocolatey side and less on the malty )
1 teaspoon of sugar
Fill mug 3/4 of the way with hot water
stir well
finish off with a splash of milk.
Havent had it yet with condense milk but i'll have to try!

Chew Lin / February 11, 2009 5:54 AM

Another way of eating Milo/Ovaltine/Horlicks--white bread+condensed milk+powder of choice.

Unfortunately I didn't get to eat that much as a child, and we don't stock condensed milk in the house any more. =(

Side note: we buy the Australian rather than the Malaysian Milo in my household (we're Singaporean) because it tastes richer. You should do a taste test, I'll send you a tin!

Beverly / February 11, 2009 6:35 PM

I like Ovaltine, but I love Milo. As a kid, I used to sneak the powder when I had a sweet craving. If you haven't yet, and can find them, you gotta try the Ovaltine biscuits. Mmmmmmm

roboppy / February 12, 2009 12:21 AM

Christine: Thanks for the info! I put in like..3 tablespoons of mix...maybe that's what you meant. Or maybe it depends how much water you used, eek.

jk: Haven't seen the cereal here!

photobean: Whoaa okay I might have to try that.

Chew Lin: Damn, sounds like we have another taste test in our midst! I wonder what kind I can buy here?...prolly..not the malaysia. If I do a Milo-only taste test I'll let you know. ;)

Beverly: I haven't seen the biscuits! Doh.

alisonhogarth / February 12, 2009 7:09 AM


I spent a stint in Australia when a was a little kid and the lunchtime drink of choice was Milo. Back then it was AWESOME (caps needed). I think my granma was trying to feed me up.

I have a tin in the cupboard and after reading your post I really want some except there is no milk. WAH.

Chew Lin / February 12, 2009 9:41 PM

We will send you stuff! Friend is returning to the US next week, I think I can send him back with 200g tins of Milo and Ovaltine (Horlicks in glass jar, a bit hard, but I love malty compressed Horlicks tablets). There won't be problems with getting these past US customs and quarantine, yes?

LishyWishy / February 15, 2009 8:31 AM

Like many others from the East, I grew up with Milo, Ovaltine and Horlicks! (Yes, there was rivalry between Milo and Ovaltine. And after that another chocolate malt-drink called Vico came along!)

Strangely, almost everyone says they prefer Milo over Ovaltine. So does my mom, which is why she always have Milo in the pantry.

Anyway, the way I make is it by using 2-3 heaped tablespoons of Milo in a mug.
Add a little hot water and stir to dissolve any lumps.
Add a tablespoon of condensed milk and stir.
Top the mug with cold milk (full creamed milk is best)

I remember a childhood friend of mine who loves adding another tablespoon of milo to her iced drink. It's pretty good ;)

I didn't know that Milo's from Australia. I always thought it was from Malaysia and often complain that the Aussie Milo isn't as good :P

Lor / February 17, 2009 5:55 PM

I...uh...I have been known to eat Milo by the spoonful. Like, open jar, stick spoon in, and put in mouth. Then chew. Then do it again.

When I was a kid, I'd mix dry milo with dry powdered milk and then ingest. Freaking delicious.

roboppy / February 17, 2009 11:11 PM

alison: I hope you have some milk now. I'm just gonna keep some condensed milk on me at all times for the malty drinks..m....sweet milk goo.

Tim: That was quite a cheery song.

LishyWishy: Thanks for the recipe!

Lor: I haven't done the "eat a spoonful" thing yet...even though there is Milo in my kitchen right now. I should just give into the peer pressure.

adri / February 18, 2009 9:29 AM

nope, you can really add water to holicks but the amt of tablespoon of powder you have to put in is about 6 and 1 tablespoon sugar to get a good flavor. keep the water level around 1/2 cup, and you will get a decent flavor hahaha :P

vicki / February 20, 2009 10:56 PM

I've loved Ovaltine since I was a child.
I blend it with skim milk and ice to give me an evening "treat" when I'm dieting. I think it is good for a person.

Viennetian / February 21, 2009 10:38 AM

Never liked Ovaltine (Ovomaltine - called here) as a drink - but Im not a hot chocolate fan either. But I love to spoon Ovaltine out of the jar - and I like the chocolate covered Ovaltine bar - I think here they sell 3 or 4 different kinds - but I like the simpliest the best - its just pressed ovaltine with a very thin chocolate cover - mmmhhhh!!

Nore / March 2, 2009 12:33 PM

Ovaltine and Horlick memories...mmmmm! I love to order Horlick w/ tapioca balls from the Chinese bakery every time I visit my mom in Brooklyn!

Will Hughes / March 7, 2009 1:52 AM

There's quite a considerable difference between Milo variants.

Milo as sold in Australia (made in Australia) is crispy/crunchy and sized like a few raw sugar granules joined together.

It's favoured by our family served with ice cold milk, a spoon. We place the Milo into the bottom of a tall well dried glass, then oh so gently pour milk into the glass, so as not to disturb the milo. An air seal forms over the top of the milo if done correctly. You can use the spoon to coax small bubbles of milo to seperate and float to the surface, which you then capture and eat, taking a slurp of the milk.

The colder the milk, the dryer and taller the glass, the longer the air seal will remain intact. Yes, it's an obsession, OK?

Milo as sold in the UK (made in South Africa, iirc) is more powdery and tastes very different (more cereal-y). It's better served by mixing with hot milk, or if you must - water.

I havn't seen/tried Asian milo.

The 'aged' milo comment is referring to what happens when milo is left opened and absorbs atmospheric moisture.

To test without ruining the whole can/jar place several large tablespoons of milo on a saucer or similar, cover with a paper towel (or something to keep out greeblies, but still air-permiable) and leave in a cool/dark cupboard or similar for several days to weeks, depending upon how humid it is.

This milo caramel/goo spontaniously forms when inept people leave the can only partially sealed, or drop milo on the rim. I believe this is actually illegal in some Australian states ;)

roboppy / March 7, 2009 7:19 PM

Will: Thanks for the info! Crispy/crunchy Milo sounds interesting. I got the powdery sort...hohum. Maybe I'll try to age some.

yygall / March 15, 2009 12:02 AM

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned this yet, considering how a few seem to be from HK.
Like making HK style milk tea, coffee, and yuen yeung, evaporated milk is a must in Horlicks, Milo and Ovaltine. It just adds that extra dimension of milkiness that fresh milk alone cannot achieve.

Rozi Yunos / July 10, 2009 4:02 AM

Just stumbled on your blog, have to put in my two cents on this...

Never liked Ovaltine, it didn't taste chocolatey enough for me. It's always been Milo, but it has to be the Malaysian variety, because the Australian made one is too milky (which I avoid) and I remembered trying the South African made one when I was studying in UK (and craving for milo) and it was powdery alright. The M'sian made one is sort of corse in texture and granulated, and that yummy chocolate taste. Here M'sian made Milo is cheaper by a couple of dollars to the Aussie made Milo.

I take mine with water only, I find that it's sweet enough as it is and adding milk just ruins that chocolate taste.

Take one mug, two to three tablespoon of Milo, add hot water.

If you want it cold, same thing, only add the hot water enough to dissolve and top the rest with cold water and ice! Fantastic thirst quencher.

I take my horlicks the same way, although I'll only have it if I don't feel like having chocolate.

If I don't feel like eating, I just drink milo and it fills me up. Milo is on my comfort food list.

Here in South East Asia, you can get ready to drink milo in 1 litre box or those 250ml juice size box. And you can also get milo in singe served 3 in 1 pack which you just open up, pour content into mug and add water. Don't have to worry about how much milk or sugar to add in.

We also have cakes which the ingredients are milo and horlicks. Maybe one day I can send some over to you somehow just so you could try it.

I don't remember seeing Ovaltine in the shops lately...

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