What is an Ayran?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ayran is a Middle Eastern yogurt drink which is especially popular in Turkey, although it is consumed in other regions of the Middle East and Mediterranean as well. In Turkey, this beverage is so popular that it is readily available in most fast food restaurants, and it is a common offering in the summer, when people view ayran as a refreshing drink in the heat. Some stores sell ayran pre-made, but it is also very easy to make.

Ayran is made with yogurt.
Ayran is made with yogurt.

The simplest form of ayran is made by blending equal parts of yogurt and water with salt to taste. The result is a thin drink which is often covered in a fine foam. Ayran is traditionally served cool, and it may be shaken or whisked right before it is served to ensure that it is frothy. People drink ayran alone, and also with meals, especially meals with spicy meats, where the yogurt helps to cool the mouth between bites.

Ayran is popular throughout the Middle East.
Ayran is popular throughout the Middle East.

Some variations on basic ayran are used by cooks in various regions of the Middle East. For example, cucumber water and various floral waters can be used in lieu of plain water, and ayran may be flavored with fresh mint, cracked pepper, or garlic, among other things. In Iran, it is sometimes carbonated. Savory versions of ayran pair especially well with meals, while sweeter versions may be drunk along as refreshments.

Ayran, a Middle Eastern yogurt drink, is sometimes made from camel milk.
Ayran, a Middle Eastern yogurt drink, is sometimes made from camel milk.

You may hear ayran called laban arbil, doogh, sheninah, moru, or tan, depending on where in the Middle East you are. In Turkey, ayran is naturally salty, which can come as a surprise to people who might be expecting a sweet yogurt drink. Some people have suggested that the salt flavoring references a time when yogurt was heavily preserved with salt to ensure that it would keep in the heat of the Middle East. Many traditional foods are very salty for reasons of preservation, so this theory is quite plausible.

The type of yogurt used has a profound impact on the flavor of ayran. Sheep's milk yogurt is more tangy, while goat's milk yogurt can be almost sharp and sometimes slightly acrid. Cow's milk yogurt is sweet and much creamier, and ayran can also be made with horse or camel's milk yogurts. The yogurt used is generally the traditional strained yogurt of the Middle East, so people making ayran with yogurt which has not been strained may need to use less water to get the consistency right.

Sheep's milk yogurt can give ayran a more tangy taste.
Sheep's milk yogurt can give ayran a more tangy taste.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

ysmina

@simrin-- Ayran is so good! I miss the ayrans I used to have in Turkey. I especially miss "yayik ayrani" which is ayran that is made by mixing ayran for many hours. It froths up a lot this way and it is served with a spoon so you can eat the froth first and then drink the ayran.

Ayran is very healthy and you're right it's very good for when you've been in the sun for a long time. My mom tells me to have ayran whenever I feel dehydrated and weak. The salt raises blood pressure and the protein gives energy.

discographer

I had doogh at an Iranian restaurant once. It was kind of sour and had dry mint in it. It was not bad but I didn't expect it to be sour.

Is that how it's supposed to be or is that what happens when the yogurt goes sour?

I've also had lassi, which is the Indian version of this drink. I love mango lassi, it is sweet, fruity and creamy like a shake. It's my favorite yogurt drink. I think it's made with plain yogurt, sugar, milk and mango pulp. I always order it when I have Indian food, it's so delicious.

SteamLouis

When I was in Turkey, ayran was offered everywhere. It's probably the second most popular drink there after black tea. When I visited, it was the summertime, so you could even see street vendors selling open and packaged ayran.

I didn't like the taste very much at first because I'm not too fond of plain yogurt. But I quickly realized that when I was tired and hot, the ayran made me feel better. I don't know if it was because it was cold or salty but it literally helped me go on. I couldn't have gotten through so much sight-seeing without it.

It also tastes pretty good with meat. My Turkish friend said that whenever I have kabobs in Turkey, I should order some ayran with it. Some fast-food restaurants that served Turkish gyros and kabobs had meals with the ayran already included in it.

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