Traditional Turkish Yogurt Soup- Serve Hot or Cold

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Thick Turkish yogurt
Thick Turkish yogurt at the market

Yogurt soup. Who would have thought?

Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey all claim yogurt as their own invention and believe their version is the best.

Having been lucky enough to spend time in all 3 countries, I can tell you it is good in all of them. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for the variety of yogurt-based products. Products like labna (strained, thick version of yogurt, becomes more like a spread), kefir (fermented yogurt drink, great for the probiotic benefits), aryan (a salty yogurt drink surprisingly refreshing) and dried yogurt are prevalent throughout this region.

The uses of yogurt are widespread. It can be used plain with fruit, nuts and syrups, as a healthy breakfast or dessert. Drinks like aryan and kefir are common in Turkey.

Aryan is as popular as any drink in Turkey, and to the displeasure of many, has replaced raki (an alcoholic aniseed drink) as the national drink. Many cafes and restaurants proudly produce their own in-house versions. Locals went out of their way to find the best aryan (a bit like home-brewed beer and a somewhat similar process)!

Garlic yogurt is common as a meze, in dips, or a topping for a rich lamb stew. It is the prime ingredient for the sauce which accompanies manti (Turkish ravioli). And here it features as a soup.

Yogurt soup is common, this is probably the most popular soup, competeing with Red Lentil soup for the title. We had fantastic versions at several restaurants, inlcuding Ciya Sofrasi in Kadikoy (Istanbul) and at Pumpkin in Cappadocia. It is served warm in winter and as a cold soup in summer.

Given the prevalence of yogurt in Turkey and how brilliant it is, I thought I should undertake some further research as to its history.

This was illuminating as I wasn’t quite aware that most people who now live in Turkey are descended from nomadic Turks who migrated from Central Asian countries like Turkmenistan and Mongolia. They migrated to what was known as Anatolia (the Asian component of what is now Turkey).

Like manti, my research indicates the Turks brought yogurt with them to Anatolia. And from there it spread to Persia, the caucuses, Russia, the Middle East, India, the Balkans and Eastern Europe. But how was yogurt discovered?

Like many other foods and drinks, it may have been by accident. Temperatures can reach 105 degrees fahrenheit (40 celsius) in Central Asia. These nomadic tribes would often milk their animals and then from time to time move camp. The milk was placed in leather containers or animal skins.

The sloshing of the fresh milk inside the leather container and the heat caused the milk to sour or clabber (curdle) forming small lumps. And hence yogurt was born. The word yogurt is derived from the old Turk word “yogurmak” meaning to knead or mould.

There are many references to yogurt dating back a long time. As far back as 2600 BC. The Bible mentions “sour milk” being offered by Abraham. Marco Polo specifically mentioned the peoples of Central Asia manufactured what is now known as yogurt.

Yogurt Soup ingredients www.compassandfork.comThese days yogurt is acknowledged as something very healthy for you. Many large companies now mass produce yogurt and it is now very widespread around the world, but be wary of flavoured yogurt and low fat yogurt products, they contain way too much sugar and chemical additives. Plain full-fat yogurt or making your own yogurt is the healthiest option..

It is a fascinating subject and if you wish to do some research yourself then this link will take you to the Turkish Cultural Foundation, where you can gather more detail about yogurt. As I was preparing this post I also received a great email newsletter about yogurt from Mark Sisson, The Primal Living guru. It contains a recipe for ayran and some great facts about yogurt.

So in honor of yogurt, here is a yogurt soup recipe. (Note: this is based on the version we had a Pumpkin in Cappadocia, after experimentation it is as close as we can get!)

Looking for Some More Recipes Featuring Yogurt?

Here are a couple more recipes to choose from:

Turkish meze platter. Healthy, tasty, Turkish appetizers featuring yogurt.

Use yogurt as a dressing in shish kebaps and Turkish stuffed eggplant, a personal favorite.

Looking for Some More Winter Soup Recipes?

If you fancy some other, warming soup recipes from around the world, here are some you might like.

For some spicy, South East Asian options, try this Tom Yum Soup or from Vietnam, the ever popular Beef Noodle Pho.

Another winter favorite is Butternut Squash Soup. This one is a little different, as we serve this soup with quinoa.

Black Bean Soup is a mainstay in Guatemala. Find out why.

And, two choices from Turkey. Don’t underestimate the great taste of Red Lentil Soup. It might be simple but it is a real favorite in our household.


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Yogurt Soup
Print Recipe
I have seen yogurt soup served as a refreshing, cooling summer soup containing cucumber. As well it can be served hot. It can be bulked up by adding rice or burghul. In this hot version, we will use cucumber.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time
4 10minutes 25minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 10minutes
Cook Time
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
  3. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, egg and flour. Add a ladle of the heated chicken stock and stir to combine. Then add this mixture back into the pot of soup, stirring constantly while adding so that the soup remains smooth. If you are using the rice, add it now. Stir occasionally.
  4. After 10 minutes, add the cucumbers. Simmer for a further 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the rice and cucumber are cooked and then remove from heat. Add the salt and stir then put aside.
  5. Prepare the serving sauce. Melt the butter. Add the chilli flakes and stir for 20 seconds. Add the dried mint and then immediately remove from the heat.
  6. Serve soup into bowls and pour the sauce over.yogurt soup
Recipe Notes

You can find a recipe for a good chicken stock here.  Please don't use stock cubes or bullion cubes.  Vegetarians can use vegetable stock.

If you want a lighter soup or wish to cut down on carbohydrates, omit the rice.

Turkish-style yogurt is thick.  If you can't find it then use Greek yogurt.

Pul biber, will give the dish an authentic Turkish taste.  You can substitute with red chilli flakes.


7 Responses

  1. Lesley Tune
    | Reply

    Great recipe! We really loved this soup and will continue to make it. I made it with grated zucchini instead of the cucumber. Thanks

  2. jayne
    | Reply

    I am a yoghurt lover in all forms so why not in a soup? this looks wonderful. I love when many different regions claim to have invented the same thing – a debate that will never be solved!

    • Editor

      Jayne, it was a surprise to us how popular and common yogurt is in this part of the world. Yogurt soup was everywhere in Turkey, we loved it.

  3. Farida
    | Reply

    Have you visited the whole world? your blog is so interesting, I love Ayran too 🙂 and this yogurt soup is very new to me, love the idea of it!

    • Editor

      Farida, you are so kind. We haven’t visited the whole world. I wish! But we have been fortunate enough to visit a number of countries in the last few years.Thanks for your comment.

  4. Neli @ Delicious Meets Healthy
    | Reply

    I saw yogurt soup and I immediately thought of ‘Tarator’ (that’s what we call cold yogurt soup in Bulgaria). I am Bulgarian and grew up in Bulgaria, but now live in the USA. 🙂 It was exciting to read that you have been in Bulgaria and that region. Not many people have ever heard of Bulgaria, or know where it’s located.
    By the way, the reason why Bulgaria is believed to be the homeland of the yogurt is because yogurt is made with B. lactis bulgaricus (milk fermented by lactic-acid bacteria found originally only in Bulgaria). Nowadays many countries produce their own yogurt but they still list L. Bulgaricus on the ingredients’ list. 🙂 I just had to add this when I saw you mention yogurt. 🙂

    • Editor

      Neil, Thanks for the addition, it is a very interesting fact. The bacteria is one of the things that makes yogurt so healthy! Bulgaria,Turkey and Greece all make fantastic yogurt. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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