The Turkish yoghurt drink, ayran, has caused much confusion – dare we even say distress – over the years.
By that, we mean confusion for the foreign visitor; especially British holidaymakers looking to buy ingredients for their essential morning cup of tea! Here’s a little tale to explain what we mean…
Ayran – Drinking Yoghurt, Not Milk
Dad 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!
This is our ‘tee hee moment’ because we know exactly what’s happened. We have lots of conversations like this with people who come to Turkey and go self-catering.
We 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.
The first supposition is definitely funnier!
What Is Ayran Made Of?
Just as we learned the art of drinking that other Turkish national drink, rakı, we only started to drink ayran in any quantity once we’d lived here for three or four years; it’s an acquired taste!
Ayran is not milk.
It’s a yoghurt drink – a mixture of natural yoghurt, water and salt and, as the hotter weather creeps along the shores of Southern Turkey, it’s a fantastic summer drink. These days, we can’t imagine life without it!
Of course, we drink ayran year round; not just in summer.
But if it’s served ice cold on a roasting hot day, it’s liquid heaven. “Buz gibi ayran,” is a favourite Turkish phrase, often said with dreamy smile. “Ayran like ice.”
You can’t miss it when you’re in Turkey. 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), glass bottles, plastic cartons, cardboard cartons, by the glass, people make their own – everyone drinks ayran and we’ve definitely joined the fan club too!
So, now you must be wondering…why is ayran good for you?
Ayran Benefits – 4 Fantastic Reasons to Love This Yoghurt Drink
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. Eat your food, drink your ayran and it’ll be very cheap. And, just as important, you will be extra full.
These days, we’re living in a world where we know of the importance of trying to reduce our plastic usage. If you’re in an eatery and you order ayran, ask if they serve açık (ach-erk) ayran. This is our favourite version anyway as it’s super fresh and you get a lovely light foam spooned over the top.
It’ll typically be served in a traditional copper cup or in a glass.
Much better this than a small carton that has been mass produced in a factory. Açık ayran is more fun, too. If you don’t use your straw, you can have a frothy moustache while you drink it.
Some places even serve it with a spoon so you can take your time, eating the foam top before reaching the ice cold yoghurt drink below.
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, 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.
Shopping in the summer heat can get quite taxing on occasion but a gözleme and yoghurt drink combo can give the necessary fuel to get round the stalls for the necessary fruit and veg.
3. Prevention is better than cure…but ayran can help the curing process, too!
Because it’s 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, sip some ayran throughout the day and you’ll hopefully be back up and running in no time at all.
4. Ayran is good sporty replenishment
If you do a lot of exercise like we do, ayran is great replenishment for when you have finished your workout. According to the NHS, dairy drinks (especially milk) help your body recover quicker.
We love to glug a glass down after a long run – it replaces salts, and, after just burning so many calories, it takes away those immediate hunger pangs, too. Until your next meal.
5. Well, ayran just tastes great!
For some people (including 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.
And it’ll really feel like a taste of Turkey if you can get it served in a classic copper or pewter cup.
How Do You Make Ayran?
So, now that we know this yoghurt drink is not only tasty but it’s also good for us, what if you can’t buy ayran in the UK or wherever else you might be reading this? Well, thankfully, it’s really easy to get the taste of Turkey and make your own ayran at home.
How To Make Ayran
- 500 g strained natural yoghurt
- 1 litre cold water
- 1 tsp salt
- In a large mixing bowl, add your strained (süzme) yoghurt.
- Add your water a little at a time, stirring as you go so that you keep a smooth consistency.
- Add more water if you want it thinner.
- Mix in your salt.
- Whisk with a hand blender for around 30 seconds until you get a foam on top.
- Refrigerate for roughly one hour and then carefully ladle into glasses, keeping the frothy texture.
- As with all our recipes, calories are meant as a rough guide. The brand of yoghurt you use - and the amount you use - will cause differences.
- You can choose how thick or how watery you want your ayran to be. These measurements are not fixed.
- Serve your ayran with a sprig of fresh mint if you like.
- Our recipe makes just under 1 litre of ayran. The consistency of yoghurt differs so you could get more than 1 litre.
- If you can't find Turkish süzme yoghurt, Greek natural yoghurt is a similar consistency.
And that’s our very simple homemade ayran recipe. As we’ve said in the notes to this recipe, you can choose how thick or how watery you want it to be. If we buy branded varieties, I often just pour two thirds of a glass and then top up with cold water.
Açık ayran is different. It looks really thick because of the foam on top but the consistency of the actual yoghurt drink is perfect for my taste.
When you make your own at home, the consistency will have changed slightly when you remove it from the fridge. Your froth, created by blending, will have gone slightly creamier, giving you the taste of that lovely homemade texture.
And if you feel it’s too thick, just add more water.