Turkish Drinks: Ayran – Yoghurt Not Milk

Ayran - Yoghurt Not MilkDad comes out to Fethiye for a visit so we phone him to check he got here okay.

Me: Hi dad. How’s your apartment? We’ll come round to see you in a few minutes.
Dad: (In a very grumpy voice.) Apartment’s fine and when you come round, bring some milk with you! I’ve bought two bottles and they’ve both been sour. It keeps curdling when I try to make a cup of tea and it tastes awful!

We have lots of conversations like this with people who come to Turkey and go self-catering. I can’t decide if there are lots of Turkish shop owners who have a good old chuckle to themselves as unsuspecting foreigners pay for their ‘milk,’ (only to return to the shop again a few minutes later to make another attempt) or if the shop owner thinks everyone loves ayran as much as they do. I prefer to think it’s the first option just because it’s funnier.

Ayran: A Turkish National Drink

Just as we recently learned the art of drinking that other Turkish national drink, rakı, we’ve only started to drink ayran in any quantity over the last couple of months; it’s an acquired taste! Ayran is not milk. It’s a mixture of natural yoghurt, water and salt and, as the hotter weather creeps along the shores of Southern Turkey, now seems like the perfect time to add Ayran to the blog.

You can’t miss ayran. It’s part of the fabric of Turkish society. It’s a fact of life. It’s sold in plastic bottles (exactly the same as a British milk bottle), plastic cartons, by the glass, people make their own – everyone drinks ayran and we’ve now joined the fan club.

4 Fantastic Reasons to Love Ayran:

1. Ayran is easy on the budget and filling

If you’re in Turkey on a budget, most of the eateries where you sit down to eat your food will sell ayran. The glass of ayran in the photo cost us 1 lira (about 40p). Eat your food, drink your ayran and it’ll be very cheap and, just as important, you will be extra full.

2. Ayran is good for you in hot weather

The summer months in Southern Turkey can see temperatures in the 40s and, especially along the Mediterranean coast, this is sometimes combined with sweltering humidity. This is where you begin to understand why Turks swear by ayran. Served icy cold, straight from the fridge, the yoghurt’s magical properties help cool down over-heated bodies while the salt replenishes those salts lost during bouts of ridiculous and uncontrollable sweating.

3. Prevention is better than cure…but ayran can help the curing process, too!

Because ayran is yoghurt-based it helps to settle the stomach should you be unfortunate enough to develop a dose of the Turkey Trots (you know; griping, gurgling stomach, running to the loo every few minutes). Again, the salt will restore those salts you lose while this unpleasant action is taking place! We all know too much sun and alcohol shouldn’t be mixed but we’ve all done it. In a majority of cases, this is what causes your illness – not last night’s kebab. Get yourself to the chemist, swig your medication down with an ayran and you’ll be back up and running in no time at all.

4. Ayran tastes good!

For some people (like us) it takes a while to get your head round drinking salty, watery, yoghurt. But, once you’ve acquired the taste, you’ll wonder why it took so long to have this traditional Turkish drink in your life.

Have you tried ayran? Are you an ayran fan? Have you ever bought ayran accidentally, mistaking it for a bottle of milk? 

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  1. I love Ayran, especially at lunch time with a kebab. LOL at your dad, I know too many people who have done this. It also works perfectly as a cure for a dodgy stomach.

  2. Your poor dad. We love Ayran and drink lots of it.

  3. the picture is perfect Julia, btw Ayran is my favorite drink:)

  4. Anonymous says:

    I discovered Ayran in Turkey in 2001 for the first time and loved it. I have it in my fridge here in Montreal since I am next door to an iranian grocery store where I also buy sumac, red pepper paste, pomegrenate melasse, safran, etc. For all the reasons you wrote, I agree, but it is an acquired taste.

  5. Yes, my Dad hated the stuff even after living here for 3 years!! But then he wasn’t even a yogurt man… me? I love it and we always have some in the fridge!

  6. Ayran is absolutely delicious when it’s hot, but only Turks (and Indians)seem to appreciate it. You can’t get it in Italy for sure.

  7. @ Natalie: He does it every time – as do our friends. We’ve got bored of telling them not to do it! 🙂

    @ Simcha: We love it too, these days.

    @ Hulya: Thank you. I don;t know if it’s our favourite drink – but it’s definitely up there with the best.

    @ Anonymous: Lucky you. I bet not many people can get hold of it.

    @ Claudia: Ha ha. We weren’t yoghurt people either. We’ve gone from no yoghurt lifestyle to daily yoghurt lifestyle since living here.

    @ Italian Notes: Thought there might be something similar in India. Shame you can’t get hold of it in Italy.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I recently acquired a taste for plain yogurt and ayran. Now I’m addicted to both and have at least one of them daily. Yogurt is a miracle food. It’s good for your digestion and your immune system. I just finished a bowl of plain yogurt with mango and walnuts for breakfast. I just can’t seem to get enough of the stuff!

  9. @ Anonymous: That’s exactly the same as us. We’ve always got some type of natural yoghurt in the fridge now and we never used to like it. It’s so good in the hot weather.

  10. I’ve never heard of Ayran before, but it sounds like an acquired taste. Funny story about your dad. I can see how it would be an easy mistake to make.

  11. Your dad is so funny. I’m sure he’s still thinking, this milk isn’t right!

  12. @ Laurel: Yep, that’s my dad. He’s always doing stuff like that. 🙂

    @ Belinda: I know he’ll do it again next time he comes as well. 🙂

  13. Anonymous says:

    I love the frothy Ayran at the Tuesday and Sunday market. Always get it when we are out with village bread!

  14. I like yoghurt, but have never tried ayran. It’s getting hot in Texas though, so maybe I should try it 🙂

  15. Anonymous says:

    There are many people in Anatolia region who are over 100 years old.

    When asked what their secret is for living such a long life they all say yogurt.

    So it makes you live longer too. 🙂

  16. Anonymous says:

    Is UK yogurt taste the same as Turkish yogurt?

    I was told yogurt in America is almost always with flavor (strawberry, peach etc). Is this the case in the UK?

  17. Ayran is wonderful, and goes perfect with balik ekmek. A wonderful and cheap lunch.

  18. Woah- 40p? That is cheap! It sounds really interesting, normally I’m not a yogurt person, but I’ll always try something new!

  19. I haven’t tried it but do you think it is similar to Kefir albeit a runnier version. If I run across it a Turkish specialty market in the US I will be sure to try it. I love salty and yogurt-y drinks.

  20. @ Rosemary: Mmm, lovely with the village bread or a gözleme.

    @ Sabrina: It’s really easy to make your own and really good for you in hot weather. Have a go. 🙂

    @ Anonymous: We’ll start to drink even more then for a longer life. 🙂

    @ Anonymous: Yes, it’s the case in the UK, too. Brits looking for natural yoghurt have to go to the supermarket to buy Greek yoghurt. Turkish yoghurt is the same as this – although it’s all natural, without added flavours, there are still different varieties of natural yoghurt.

    @ hrafen: We usually go for a çay with balik ekmek and an ayran with meat dishes. Don’t know why. Just a habit.

    @ Jade: It should be a summertime necessity for everyone.

    @ Grace: I’ve never had kefir but it’snot nearly as complicated as that. If you like kefir, you’ll definitely like ayran though.

  21. Kuei-Ti Lu says:

    In Taiwan, there are both flavored and original yogurt. Some people also teach how to do yogurt by oneself.

    Now I wonder where I can find ayran in the United States or whether there is a recipe I can follow.

  22. Ha ha…funny! Maybe I’ll need to pull a “trick” on my in-laws this weekend with ayran. However, I don’t think my father-in-law would find it as funny as myself and my husband. =)

  23. For those in the UK Ayran is much the same as plain unsweetened Lassi, available at many Asian restaurants.

  24. @ Kuei-Ti Lu: It’s easy to make yourself. You just need some natural yoghurt and water it down, adding a little bit of water at a time. Then as much salt as you like.

    @ Joy: When you;re expecting the flavour of milk, you can imagine how nasty ayran must taste. It’s only good when you know what it is. 🙂

    @ hrafen: Thanks for that. I’ve just had to look Lassi up – and we’re from the UK. 🙂 It does seem similar.

  25. Kuei-Ti Lu says:

    Thank you, Julia! I will definitely try it this summer. By the way, is there any story surrounding ayran?

  26. Anonymous says:

    Ayran is available all over the Middle East and it is mass produced in several countries. Is it Turkish or is it Arabic? Ditto for Raki which is called Arak in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Again, is it Turkish or Arabic?

  27. @ Kuei-Ti Lu: I’m nit sure if there is any story surrounding it. We’ll have to do some research. 🙂 Good luck with making it.

    @ Anonymous: We’re sure it is but when we’re in Turkey, we drink Turkish ayran. The same with raki. If we we were in Lebanon, Syria or Jordan, we would be drinking arak. If we were in Greece, we would drink ouzo. There are too many crossovers with many cuisines of the world to actually determine where they originally came from. The main thing for us is to enjoy them for what they are. 🙂

  28. Yummy! I love ayran.

  29. @ Deniz: Us too. So refreshing in this hot weather.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I love Ayran but they don’t always taste the same!! I have been served a couple which have tasted awful!!! Some seem to better than others in my experience!!

  31. @ Anonymous: No, they don’t all taste the same. All down to personal taste. You’ll quite often see Turks adding salt to their carton of ayran because it’s not salty enough. We had one on Istanbul recently that might as well have been yoghurt, it was so thick. All good though – for us, anyway. 🙂

  32. Anonymous says:

    I got introduced to this stuff by Mosin @ City Doner in Gottingen, Germany. I was hooked ever since I first got it at his suggestion.

  33. @ Anonymous: Well, not many people are hooked the first time they try ayran so good for you that you were. Hope you’re still enjoying it. 🙂

  34. I have to say that the thought of drinking “salty, watery, yoghurt” doesn’t sound too appetizing but I trust your opinion. Glad that I learned about ayran here so I won’t make the “milk” mistake when I visit.

  35. Saad Durrani says:

    Well, it seems so odd but for years I have been drinking it in Pakistan as “namkeen lassi”. It is a known fact that there are many Turkish influences in our lives—we have same words for “friends (dost)”, “enemies (dushman)”, etc.

    On a hot summery day, Ayran (or Lassi) makes your heart sing.

  36. @ Cathy Sweeney: And ayran is an acquired taste for many people, too, including us. We really didn’t like it. Don’t make the milk mistake because then everyone knows you’re a first time visitor. 😉

  37. @ Saad Durrani: Ahh, we’ve heard the name ‘lassi’ before. So interesting how food (and drink) and language bridges countries and cultures. And we all agree that ayran / lassi definitely makes your heart sing on a sunny day. Thanks a lot for your comment. 🙂

  38. Judy Kellett says:

    In the interest of completeness, I mention that the Afghans have a similar drink called Doogh. which follows the same yoghurt, water, bit of salt line but which sometimes has dried mint, while the Indians like theirs with cumin and black salt.

    I love Ayran, and I make it for myself most days here in Australia. When I was in Turkey I drank it a lot, finding it just the thing after too much hiking round Ephesus or the Topkapi Palace. It’s a phenomenal restorative!

  39. I love ayran… it’s healthy, it’s fulfilling, it’s delicious… I can’t think of anything better than ayran to accompany Turkish kebabs.

  40. Bill Zablosky says:

    I don;t know if anyone has mentioned this but this drink is manufactured in Peterborough Ont, Canada at CDC Inc.and we just call it yogurt soda

    • No, no one mentioned it, Bill. Good to know you can drink ayran – yogurt soda – in Canada, too then. 🙂 You can get manufactured ayran here in Turkey but most people make their own.

  41. I recently discovered ayran via a Turkish cookbook by Ozcan Ozan. Since summers in Santiago Chile also get pretty hot, I’ve developed an enormous fondness for the drink. Between ayran and cerkez tavugu, maybe I’m turning into a Turk .

    • Hi Larry. Thanks for your comment. Think we’ve got the very cook book you mention! 🙂 Yeah, ayran is so lovely, especially when eaten with a kebab. 😉 Easy to get addicted to Turkish cuisine. 🙂

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