Ayran is a refreshing Turkish drink made from just three ingredients: yogurt, salt, and water. Make an ice-cold glass of Turkish ayran to cool off on a hot day, for a light breakfast or afternoon snack, or to mellow a rich or spicy meal. 

an ayran turkish yogurt drink in a glass garnished with mint leaves, with another glass of ayran in the background.
Photo Credits: Elana Lepkowski 

Ayran (pronounced eye-raun) is a salty, light, and deliciously frothy yogurt drink that’s particularly welcome on a sweltering summer afternoon. That’s not only because it’s thirst-quenching; Ayran also replenishes the salt you naturally lose by sweating–like the Turkish version of Gatorade. And, honestly, I’d take this tart, salty, creamy drink over sugary sports drinks any day.  

Ayran is traditionally served as a refreshing way to lighten heavy meat dishes, like kofta or döner kebab. It’s also a popular Turkish street food, served alongside gözleme (savory stuffed flatbread), lahmacun (open-faced spiced meat flatbread), and pide (cheese and topping-stuffed flatbread shaped like a canoe).

My husband, Can, used to run to the local ayrancı (ayran seller) after his high school basketball practice in Tarsus, a small city in south-central Turkey. He and his teammates sat on plastic stools sipping tall glasses filled to the brim with ice and frothy aryan and snacking on warm, freshly made simit (sesame bread). 

Since our trips to Can’s hometown are few and far between, I do my best to recreate his childhood recipes at home. Though I don’t have the large metal yayık ayranı (churned ayran) machines that are so proudly displayed in Turkish lamb restaurants, a cocktail shaker and some college-days bartending techniques do the trick. And, on most days when I don’t have the time to make a full Adana kebab spread, this refreshing tart yogurt drink makes for the perfect afternoon snack. 

two ayran turkish yogurt drinks in glasses next to a sprig of mint.
Table of Contents
  1. What Does Ayran Taste Like?
  2. Ingredients for Ayran
  3. Best Yogurt to Use
  4. How to Make Ayran
  5. What to Serve with Ayran
  6. More Non-Alcoholic Drink Recipes
  7. Ayran (Turkish Salty Yogurt Drink) Recipe

What Does Ayran Taste Like?

Ayran is salty with a very tart flavor similar to buttermilk or kefir, with other variations throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East, from Persian Doogh to and North African Laban. In fact, the most traditional form of ayran is a byproduct of making butter, where the remaining sour liquid is referred to as yayık ayranı

Ayran is often compared to an Indian lassi. While there are traditional versions of an Indian lassi that are salted and churned like ayran, most Americans think of the sweet, smoothie-like mango lassi that’s become so popular stateside (try our mango smoothie if that’s more up your alley). Turkish ayran is light, frothy, tart, and savory, quite different from a creamy mango lassi but just as delicious in its own way.

The salted yogurt drink is sold throughout Turkey in plastic bottles that look like milk. In fact, a common pitfall of tourists in Turkey is trying the sour drink in their morning coffee, which I don't recommend!

I’ve gotten my hands on those small white bottles at my local Middle Eastern market, but the thick, flat beverage is not quite the same as the fresh, somewhat effervescent drink you get at old-school lamb restaurants in Turkey. I recommend making ayran yourself for a lighter, more refreshing drink.

ingredients for ayran turkish yogurt drinks including plain yogurt, water, salt, and fresh mint.

Ingredients for Ayran

You don’t need much to make ayran, which is part of the simple yogurt drink’s beauty. Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • Yogurt: Use plain, whole milk yogurt (more recommendations below). You can certainly experiment with flavored yogurt to make a sweet version of ayran. It won’t be ayran, but I bet it’ll still be tasty. 
  • Water: Use cold filtered water. 
  • Salt: My go-to is kosher salt, but any fine grain salt you have on-hand will work.  
  • Mint (optional): Dried or fresh mint is totally optional. I like mine with mint because I find it extra refreshing, my Turkish husband likes his plain. Some ayran sellers add mint, some do not. It’s up to you! 

Best Yogurt to Use

For this ayran recipe, use plain, unsweetened whole milk yogurt. Turkish yogurt, or yoğurt, is standard yogurt that’s strained through a fine-mesh cloth to remove the liquid whey. The result is a thicker, richer yogurt that’s similar to Greek yogurt with some minor differences in texture and flavor. 

While Turkish yogurt is typically strained once, Greek yogurt is strained multiple times. Turkish yogurt tends to be slightly runnier and lighter than the ultra thick Greek-style yogurt.

I have not found a great source for Turkish-style yogurt in the States. What I have found to be very comparable is “European-style” yogurt, which is also not widely available in most areas. European-style works well if you can find it, but plain, unsweetened whole milk yogurt is the next best thing!

If you’re working with Greek yogurt you just need to make up for its thick consistency. Add a splash or two more water, whisk the water and yogurt well before shaking to loosen things up a bit, and shake very vigorously to incorporate. 

an ayran turkish yogurt drink in a glass in front of a cocktail shaker and a plate of mint leaves.

How to Make Ayran

To imitate the traditional ayran frothers, I employed techniques from my college bartending days. I make this yogurt drink like an egg white cocktail, where you need to get a lot of air to make a nice foam. Here’s how I do it: 

  • Combine. In a cocktail shaker, add ½ cup of plain yogurt, ¾ cup of water, and salt to taste (I do a healthy pinch). Use a fork or spoon to stir the ingredients together until combined. 
  • Dry shake. Close the shaker and press hard on the top to seal. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds or so to aerate the mixture. 
  • Add ice. Turn the shaker so you’re holding the larger side. Carefully open the top (you may need to hit the side with the palm of your hand). Add a handful of ice, close the top and seal well, and shake vigorously once more. Put some muscle into it! You want to make it as frothy as possible. 
  • Serve. Hold onto the larger side of the shaker and open the top once more. Pour into your serving glass, garnish with a sprinkle of dried mint or a fresh mint sprig if you’d like, and serve immediately. 
an ayran turkish yogurt drink in a glass garnished with mint leaves.

What to Serve with Ayran

Ayran is a great way to satisfy an afternoon snack craving, on its own, with spicy pickles, or with freshly baked simit

For a Turkish-style meal, serve with grilled meat. Put a long serving plate in the center of your table and stack it with freshly baked lavash. Add whole sprigs of fresh parsley, tomato wedges, mild long green chili peppers, sumac-rubbed sliced red onion, and lime or lemon wedges all around the table. Grill some kebabs–chicken, beef, lamb, your choice. Use a piece of lavash to push the cooked kebabs right onto the lavash bread, removing the skewer. 

While the meat rests and the juices seep into the lavash, make the cooling ayran yogurt drink. Serve it right away, as it’s best when it’s cold and frothy. Your favorite friend gets the piece of juicy lavash bread that rested right under the kebabs, soaking up the flavor like a sponge.

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5 from 5 votes

Ayran (Turkish Salty Yogurt Drink)

Headshot of Devin Fuller by photographer Aya Brackett. She's waring a white shirt and teal skirt and she has blond shoulder-length hair.Devin Fuller
an ayran turkish yogurt drink in a glass garnished with mint leaves, with another glass of ayran in the background.
Ayran is a tart and frothy salted yogurt drink that’s a popular relief for hot Turkish summers. Enjoy this refreshing savory drink for an afternoon snack, light breakfast, or alongside roasted or grilled meats like kebab or kofta.
Prep – 4 minutes
Total – 4 minutes
Cuisine:
Turkish
Serves – 1
Course:
Drinks

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup whole milk yogurt (plain & unsweetened)
  • ¾ cup cold water
  • Kosher salt
  • Dried or fresh mint, optional, for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Combine. In a cocktail shaker, add the yogurt, water, and salt to taste (I do a healthy pinch). Use a fork or spoon to stir the ingredients together until combined.
  • Dry shake. Close the shaker and press hard on the top to seal. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds or so to aerate the mixture.
  • Add ice. Turn the shaker so you’re holding the larger side. Carefully open the top (you may need to hit the side with the palm of your hand). Add a handful of ice, seal well, and shake vigorously once more. Put some muscle into it! You want to make it as frothy as possible.
  • Serve. Hold onto the larger side of the shaker and open the top once more. Pour into your serving glass, garnish with a sprinkle of dried mint or a fresh mint sprig if you’d like, and serve immediately.

Notes

  • Ice: If you’d like fresh ice, fill your serving glass with ice and pour the ayran slowly into the glass, leaving the ice in the shaker. I usually don’t bother, but it’ll keep the drink from getting watery if you’re a slow sipper. You can also serve ayran with no ice if you'd like.
  • Method: If you don’t have a cocktail shaker, you can achieve a similar result by pouring the ayran between two extra large glasses or pitchers. Pour it from high to get as much air in there as possible. I recommend doing this over the sink!
  • Yogurt: Greek yogurt is thicker than Turkish yogurt. If you’re working with Greek yogurt, add a splash or two more water. Whisk the water and yogurt very well before shaking to loosen things up a bit, and shake very vigorously to incorporate.
  • Visit our shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils, honey, jams, and spices.

Nutrition

Calories: 74.7kcalCarbohydrates: 5.7gProtein: 4.3gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2.6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1.1gCholesterol: 15.9mgSodium: 65.2mgPotassium: 189.9mgSugar: 5.7gVitamin A: 121.3IUVitamin C: 0.6mgCalcium: 153.5mgIron: 0.1mg
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Devin Fuller is a San Francisco Bay Area native who started her culinary career begging for kitchen shifts at a Hawaiian plate lunch chain in college. She is the associate editor of The Mediterranean Dish, has contributed to Bon Appétit Magazine, and is the co-author of At Home in the Kitchen, Simple Recipes from a Chef’s Night Off with Chef David Kinch.
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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I make my own yogurt so I usually have plenty around. This is a really good drink! It reminds me of kefir. I will be making it often!