At Starbucks, the "Cream Based" (no coffee) frappuccinos all use a proprietary syrup base which I would like to emulate to be able to make a reasonable facsimile at home.

When the baristas make a "Vanilla Bean" frappuccino, the process goes something like this:

  1. Add a measure of whole milk.
  2. Add an appropriate measure of ice.
  3. Add 3 pumps of aforementioned cream base syrup.
  4. Add a few scoops of vanilla flavored powder.
  5. Blend.

The milk/ice ratio I can play with, I've found a replacement for the vanilla powder that works well, but I'm stumped at re-creating the cream flavored syrup, which unfortunately, is absolutely key to getting the right taste and consistency.

I see some folks selling jugs of the stuff on ebay, which I can only assume is pilfered stock because Starbucks does not sell it retail. Fortunately, there are pictures of the ingredients label on the jug, which gives me a good starting point.

The image of the base is below.

The ingredients are listed as:

  1. Water
  2. Sugar
  3. Salt
  4. Natural and Artificial Flavor
  5. Xanthan Gum (E415)
  6. Potassium Sorbate (E202)
  7. Citric Acid (E330)

I would like some suggestions for what kind of cream flavoring I should use to create my own. Whole milk powder? Coffee creamer? Something else?

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  • 2
    Have you played with sweetened condensed milk?
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 2:18
  • 1
    Xanthan gum and potassium sorbate are just emulsifiers, and citric acid is common enough. It's going to be the mysterious "natural and artificial flavor" where all the magic happens.
    – Aaronut
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 2:54
  • 2
    My guess would be either vanillin powder or castoreum (aka beaver butt juice, no, seriously, it tastes significantly more like vanilla than vanillin powder at incredibly small amounts). I'd lean most strongly towards castoreum, it's usually present in a product with a vanilla taste that doesn't spell out all of its ingredients. Castoreum doesn't look good on ingredient lists because people freak out over it.
    – Matthew
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 4:36
  • @Jolenealaska I have not. I've played with some mixtures of milk powders and sugar. But this will be my next test. Commented May 27, 2014 at 14:34
  • 1
    @Jolenealaska I've played with sweetened condensed milk - it was no good. The end result had far too much of a "milky" flavour. The actual drink has a very creamy flavour, like drinking ice cream, very little of the milk flavour comes through. I would imagine that this is because sweetened condensed is made from whole milk, thereby increasing the ratio of milk flavor to cream flavor in the drink. Acting on this, I decided to replace the sweetened condensed with just a few dallops of whipped cream, and this was closer to the original... So now what should I try, a sugar/heavy cream mixture? Commented May 30, 2014 at 18:46

7 Answers 7


I can't comment yet...but if I could, I might suggest using or swapping a portion of your sugar for liquid invert sugar, instead of caster or white granulated, in conjunction with the afore mentioned artificial flavorings, and possibly some more milk protien like sodium caseinate. Invert sugar is often used in candies that must maintain a soft creamy liquid center (like those queen anne cherry bon-bon things), and I think it would positively alter the end-texture. I bought some in Austin at a local cupcake/candy bakeshop that wasn't very expensive.(www.allinonebakeshop.com call them, the website doesn't reflect all of the cool products they have).

Hansson et al experimented with different sugar compositions for their beverages and noticed that there was a greater release of specific aromatic compounds using invert sugar. They posited that the glucose-fructose ratio that liquid invert sugar possesses, causes the water molecules to be more structred, thereby decreasing the amount of free water around. Hyrophillic(water loving) flavors in the mix are then more concentrated in the available free water, waiting to be tasted. The hyrophobic( water-hating/fat loving) flavors like to stick with the fats, so using a very good emulsifuer to effectively distribute/suspend the fats through the rest of the mix will be important for the end flavor profile. doi:10.1016/S0308-8146(00)00243-0

I might even add some turmeric to your mixture when you heat it (be aware of some yellow color transferrence), since the curcuminoids (bioactive ingredients in the turmeric rhizome/powdered spice) decompose into a few compounds like vanillin and ferulic acid when heated (longer the incubation = more vanillin as a result of its degradation). Here's one research paper doi:10.1016/S0731-7085(96)02024-9 I'm happy to provide additional peer-reviewed sources if desired.

One last thought on flavor additions...if you dont mind artificial, this is a gluten-free butter flavor: http://www.shanks.com/product-category/extracts-flavors/imitation-butter/ It almost goes without saying, that only a VERY small amount would be needed(maybe a drop or two at most to really round out that creme profile).


I know if you're into this type of thing that using a vanilla flavored whey protien powder can come close to the texture, it's a little fluffier and tends to make a couple ounces more than intended. But I would use a high quality one as I have not had good results with lower quality ones, i.e. the cheap ones. Or even like a breakfast replacement shake works well for the texture.


i don't know if anybody is still interested in this but, being addicted to matcha frappuccino and living in a country where we only have ONE starbucks in milan, i put my brain at work and made some experiment to reproduce the frappuccino base. what i've done is basically a 62brix sugar syrup (this way you don't need to add any kind of preservatives) mixing together 100grams of water with 165grams of sugar (i prefer brown sugar because i like its aroma with matcha but white sugar will work just fine), then i added one tablespoon of vanilla paste and lastly 5grams of xanthane gum (is really easy to find either on amazon or in some health food store because is widely used in glutern free baking) emulsify everything with a stick blender and store it in an air tight container. the consistency will be thicker than the original one but u wont need to add any more sugar to the final product.

  • hey, OP here, thanks for the reply. this is very cool. I just started thinking about this again a few days ago so it's interesting that you would post an answer now. I'm going to give this a shot! I'll let you know how it works out. Commented Aug 19, 2020 at 1:25

Xanthan gum is the secret. It's a thickener and is responsible for the creamy texture you're looking for. I've read instant pudding powder or soft serve base are good substitutes.


As a Starbucks employee, I know that base is extremely important. If not added, it can make the frappuccino separate and taste terrible. Base really is only a super thick, lightly sweetened liquid that acts like glue to give you a nice creamy, smooth frappuccino. The sweetness is really not the point of this ingredient, just the texture. You can try using simple syrup as a starting point.

  • 1
    You're right that the base is essential for the texture of the final beverage, so I'm not sure why you're advocating using Classic/simple syrup. The texture benefits of Frappuccino base are from the emulsifiers in it (xanthan gum and potassium sorbate). Simple syrup doesn't have those in it. If you haven't already, try making a Frappuccino with Classic substituted for the base - it doesn't work.
    – A_S00
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 21:49

I just found this Big Train Vanilla Bean Blended Creme Frappe Mix and I'm hoping that it will be the answer. It's found on Webstrauntant Store. I know that it isn't a homemade product but I think it will produce what you're looking for. I'm going to try some.


Old thread but if anyone is still searching for the key, binging with babish on youtube has a video where he makes the "orange mocha Frappuccino" from a certain movie, which was disgusting, but in the process of making a good tasting drink he showed how to make the Frappuccino base. Xantham gum is in fact crucial. As it says on the label, the last two chemicals are preservatives and absolutely not needed for home made (be glad you don't need them) and "natural and artificial flavors" can be whatever you want...I believe starbucks uses a combination of natural and artificial vanilla flavors. seeing as this thread is so old I doubt anyone will find this but just look for that video on youtube, babish is awesome. xantham gum is a strange powder.

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