Pretty common in African, Indian, and Middle Eastern sweets and foods, rose water is an excellent ingredient to have in your kitchen.
The flavor and unique fragrance it offers are difficult to replicate. But sadly, using rose water is not always possible. Once the bottle empties out, you’re set to either look for a replacement or use something else.
But sometimes, getting out there to look for a new bottle is not an option, so you’ll need an alternative.
Here’s where its substitutes come into action. You’ll find several ones that you can use instead of rose water to give that unique taste and smell to your foods. Want to know what we’re talking about? Then read up!
What Is Rose Water?
Rosewater comes from the distillation of rose petals. As we all know, rose is that strong-colored flower that has a unique smell. And from that smell, it also gets a super tasty flavor.
The advantage of rose water is that it matches with almost any type of food. It is a little sweet with a touch of floral, ideal for sweets and pastries, as well as all kinds of fruity desserts.
But people use it for almost anything, including lamb stews, rice pilafs, rice pudding, baklava, and more. The delicacy of its flavor plus the strong fragrance is virtually unmatched. Luckily, the sweetness and the smell, while unique, are not too hard to reach with other ingredients. Here, we’ll tell you all about those alternatives.
10 Substitutes for Rose Water
To match rose water in terms of flavor and smell, we had to look for the most similar things out there. We came up with 10 substitutes that are totally worth considering.
1. Rose Essence
The first one is the rose essence. There’s nothing closer to rose water than this. Not only because it comes from roses, but because it holds the same unbeatable fragrance that will delight almost anyone at first smell.
But the rose essence has a drawback. It is way stronger than water in both fragrance and flavor. So, if you’re using it as an alternative to rose water, try to use way less in your recipes.
You could say rose essence is 4 times stronger than rose water. So have your calculator around to calculate precisely how much you need for your recipes.
2. Jamaica Flower Water
Also known as Hibiscus, the Jamaica flower is one of the closest things you can get to rose. And it is just as sweet but has a slightly different flavor.
The advantage of Jamaica flower is that you can add the same amount as if you were using rose water. And the taste and smell won’t change too much from the original recipe of anything you are preparing.
This flower is very popular in Mexican cuisine as well as Caribbean countries. If you want to make something with a super similar flavor to the rose that also has that Caribbean touch, then this is an excellent choice.
3. Orange Flower Water
While different from rosewater in terms of flavor and smell, it is still pretty common in the same regions as rosewater. You can find it in African, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, French, and Spanish kitchen as one of the main ingredients in many desserts and meals.
But the taste is not that different, either. You can easily mask the lack of rosewater with orange flowers, and it would be pretty hard for someone to perceive it.
To replace rose, you can use the same amount in any recipe as well. They are similarly strong and sweet, so the results won’t be too far. Especially if you’re making something that involves meat, then orange flower water won’t disappoint.
Another excellent option to replace rosewater in a recipe would be vanilla. It has a similar concentrated flavor and smell to rosewater, which makes it ideal for giving certain foods that specific scent & taste.
But be careful. Vanilla is slightly stronger than rosewater in sweetness and smell. So if you use more or even the same amount as if you were cooking with rosewater, you may end up with something overly sweet or smelly.
The advantage with vanilla is the versatility. It has a different smell and taste than rosewater that actually fits better with most desserts. So that makes it difficult to ignore as a substitute.
Similarly to vanilla, there’s lavender. This is more of a herb than it is a flower, yet it has a very similar taste to rosewater. The smell is different, though – and not as popular in foods.
But many people still use it to create sweet dishes. And it works wonders with dairy meals and other preparations that could really use floral sweetness in their recipes.
The only issue is the flavor, though. While it is not as different from rosewater as other herbs can be, it has an earthy and more floral touch that makes it more challenging to match in recipes. If you’re replacing rosewater with lavender, try not to use too much.
6. Almond Extract
Now we’re veering off flowers and plants, and we’re talking about fruits & nuts directly. This time, we go over almond – one of the sweetest seeds there is.
Being so sweet makes it easy to mistake with rosewater. While it doesn’t have too much of a smell, the taste is so similar that many recipes in the Middle East can go with either almond or rosewater, and there wouldn’t be much of a difference.
But of course, almond extract is slightly stronger in flavor. So you must use it carefully on your recipes.
7. Lemon Juice
Lemon seems like a counterintuitive substitute to rosewater, but it wouldn’t be a wrong choice either.
The tart and slightly bitter flavor of lemon make it less sweet, so you’ll need to add some sugar to match rosewater effects. But still, it works wonders and delivers a slightly different but still super enjoyable touch.
Remember, lemon can be a little too strong in some cases. So, use it carefully.
The taste of cinnamon is unique, but it can still match the taste and smell of rosewater in some cases. Especially in pastries and dairy desserts, cinnamon can easily replace rosewater, and most people won’t be able to realize it.
But similarly to other alternatives, cinnamon can be pretty strong with its spicy, woody, and overly sweet flavor. So try not to overdo it and end up with a too strong smell.
Cardamon is closer to lavender and lemon than it is to rosewater. But it still boasts a citrusy and herbal touch that can resemble rosewater in some meals. You can use it as a substitute in meals that use meat or chicken, and you may not even find the difference.
This time, try to use a little more cardamom than if you were using rosewater. While it is not soft per se, it is still not as powerful as rose water.
Pandan is one of the most overlooked alternatives to rosewater, but it is actually one of the best. You can actually describe pandan flavor as rose-like. The difference is in the color and the smell, as it delivers a more vanilla fragrance with a tone of muskiness.
But pandan is pretty soft. So if you’re using it as an alternative to rose, you’ll need to use a little more. It will work wonders in desserts.
Which One to Go for?
Well, if you went through each one of these alternatives, then you should have the right idea already.
Remember to consider our recommendations in terms of the amount to use and the type of recipes each ingredient would work better at. That will give you an advantage when using each substitute correctly.
So, what are you waiting for? Don’t let your lack of rosewater hinder your cooking results and start using these alternatives now!