Ayran - Middle Eastern Yogurt Beverage

Ayran - Middle Eastern Yogurt BeverageAmericans love yogurt. We particularly like it sweet, often with berries or fruit, and even flavored like favorite desserts and pies. We like it in single portions and easy to grab on the go, including, but not limited to, the ever-popular squeezable tubes for children. We also have what is marketed as ‘drinkable yogurt.’

Turkish Ayran - Yogurt BeverageNow we are certainly not the inventors of yogurt nor yogurt drinks. Nothing is ever simple here. Most often, in America, yogurt in a beverage is used as a thickening protein choice for a smoothy. This may be a concoction of ice, yogurt, milk or other juice, whole fruits, vegetables, and even greens. What ever happened to the simple yogurt drink of long ago? The one that got us to this point in the first place?

It is most likely that yogurt was invented stumbled upon by accident, thousands of years ago, by the germ/culture exposed tits of a the animal being milked. Left to sit out in the heat, as there would have been no refrigerators, these bacteria could have quickly “done what they do,” turning this ‘contaminated’ milk into yogurt.

As for the name, yoğurt is a Turkish word taken from their verb yoğurmak, which means “to knead”, and similar verbs yoğunlaştırmak and yoğunlaşmak, to “condense,” “concentrate,” or “intensify.” Just based on the cultural history of the world, we know that we owe yogurt to at least some place in the Middle East.

As for the origin of yogurt as a beverage, that too, is assuredly, Middle Eastern. As simple of a concept as it is, mixing 1 part yogurt with 1-2 parts water and little bit of salt, it goes by many names and there are many variations:

  • Turkish: Ayran; usually with a little added salt
  • Greek: Ariani; Greek yogurt, water, and salt
  • Iranian: Abdug; commercially prepared and carbonated
  • Armenia: Tan; salted with cucumber and often fresh herbs such as parsley or mint
  • Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Kazakh: Chalap, shalap, chalob; very thick yogurt, salt, and carbonated water
  • Arabic: Aryaan; same as Ayran
  • Arabic of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan: Laban Bi Sikkar; often with the addition of sugar
  • Afghani: Dugh; usually salted, sometimes carbonated, and often with mint
  • Indian: Lassi; usually savory with spices, particularly cumin, and fruits, but sometimes sweet with sugar and fruits
  • Indian: Borhani; spicy drink with chilies, black salt, mint, mustard, and often cumin and pepper (This is mostly served at weddings.)

Basic Ayran – Yogurt Beverage

By: Semiserious Chefs
Servings Very


  • 1 part Greek style yogurt
  • 1 to 2 parts water*
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt per pint of beverage; or more to taste
    • fresh herbs; parsley, mint, cilantro, dill
    • spices; cumin, coriander, pepper, mustard
    • blended cucumber, garlic, or green onion

*Try some of the suggestions from the regions listed above including substituting carbonated water.


  1. Very simple; whisk everything together, or blend as desired. Shaking this mixture in a lidded canning jar also works very well.

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