What is airag and where does it come from?

Airag is a traditional Mongolian drink that is made from fermented mare’s milk. Some people in the countryside also make it from cow’s milk. Horse Milk is the traditional national beverage of Mongolia, you cannot miss it while traveling to the country.

mare's ferment

For many people outside of Mongolia, Airag is better known as kumis, which is the name given to all fermented mare’s milk beverages throughout Central Asia.

Airag pronunciation

Pronunciation is ”(ayirag)”

What does it mean Airag in Mongolian?

It means ‘Ferment’, and ‘Mix’. In Ancient time many Mongolians called Airag to “Iseg or Tsegee”. Nowadays the most of Mongolian people known “Airag tsegee” as Airag.

mares milk

What does Airag taste like?

Airag comes from mare’s milk that has been fermented and contains a small amount of carbon dioxide and up to 3% of alcohol. The fermentation process takes a few days to a week, and the final product has a slightly sour and acidic taste.

airag horse milk

The exact taste is a little bit different in each province. In some provinces milk is sourer, in another province it is sweeter because of the different kinds of grass and flowers that horses eat.

What are the benefits of drinking airag?

Aside from being a refreshing and delicious beverage, airag also has some health benefits. As it is made from fermented mare’s milk, airag contains probiotics which can help with digestion. Additionally, it is rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a nutritious drink.

fermented horse milk

lactic acid bacteria

A combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast leads to the process of fermentation of the milk. Airag is useful in treating severe illnesses related to the heart, lungs, and stomach. It is a potent source of Vitamin C and D, which in turn help build a stronger immune system.


Lactose is destroyed in milk during fermentation, resulting in the formation of lactic acid, ethanol, and carbon dioxide. This makes Airag suitable for lactose intolerant people.

Where can I find Mare’s Milk?

If you’re interested in trying Fermented Horse Milk, the best place to find it is in Mongolia. However, it is also starting to become available in some other countries, so it may be possible to find it in stores or online.

Khokhuur airag

If you are in Mongolia, the best time you can find Airag is only in July to October. The airag season in Mongolia begins in late spring when the mares give birth and lasts until early fall when the mares are no longer producing milk. During this time, airag is made almost daily on a family farm.

Most nomads keep some Airag in the winter. They use it as yeast for making bread /boortsog/ and other foods. However, we can also use yogurt as yeast, although I prefer well-fermented Airag as yeast.

It is produced in all province and some sums of Mongolia. However, Bulgan aimag has the best quality and it is famous in Mongolia. The highest concentration of airag makers are in:

Map mn bulgan aimag
Bulgan Province
  • Selenge
  • Khovd
  • Bayan-Ulgii
  • Khuvsgul
  • Umnugobi
  • Govi-Altai
  • Dundgovi
  • Tuv
  • Uvurkhangai

But here I found a really interesting product. Never miss this opportunity while you traveling in the country.

huhuuriin airag
Airag product

Are there any safety concerns with airag?

Raw Mare’s Milk is generally safe to drink, but it is important to be aware that it does contain alcohol. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is best to avoid airag as it can pass into breastmilk. Additionally, it can cause bloating and gas, so it is best to drink it in moderation.

Interesting facts

Fact #1

If you drink airag a lot, you will get drunk. Drunk driving punishment is very strict in Mongolia. So Mare’s Milk lovers have to be careful.

Fact #2

In 2019 December, UNESCO declared the traditional technique of making Airag in Khokhuur as an Intangible cultural heritage of humanity.

Fact #3

Mongolians drink mare milk when they play Dembee. Dembee is a very popular game in the countryside, especially in places where people make airag.

How to make airag?

The Mongolian dairy product airag-making technique, the traditional method consists of:

  1. Milking the mares
  2. Cooling the fresh milk
  3. Move the milk to a large open leather sack named Khokhuur.
  4. Stirring makes with a wooden masher
  5. Repeated many times over 500 times
  6. After one or two days, the Sour mare’s Milk is ready.

Fermentation process, technique is believed to date back more than 2,000 years and is an integral part of the Mongolian nomadic way of life. It is passed down from generation to generation, with each family adapting it to their own needs and preferences.

Hello, my name is Bayanbat. I was born in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. The written blog post is my real experiment of living in Mongolia. So if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

So, what’s your favorite Mongolian drink? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

  • Did Mongols drink horse milk?

    Yes, Mongols drink horse milk. We drink its laxative effect for medicinal purposes too.

  • Does horse milk have alcohol?

    Yes, It is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented mare’s milk. It includes 0.5-3.0% alcohol in Mongolia.

  • How long does Airag last?

    Airag is kinds of alcohol so the expiration date is one year. You can keep in a cool and dark place like fridge. If you want to keep it for a long time, you need to put a match with sulfur in the pot. Then you can cool or freeze it.

  • Is Airag healthy?

    It is rich in high amount of vitamin C and minerals, making it a nutritious drink. A combination of lactic acid bacteria and yeast leads to the process of fermentation of the milk. It’s suitable for lactose intolerant people.

Related links:


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