I’ve personally tried and tested a range of orange blossom substitutes for cooking to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding orange blossom water is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for orange blossom water are rose water, lavender extract, orange zest, or orange juice. You can also use orange oil or orange liqueur. Use vanilla extract or almond extract to vary the flavor. And if all else fails, you leave the orange blossom water out.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I baked a basic cake to put lots of different orange blossom water substitutes to the test.
Orange blossom water is obtained from the distillation of flowers from bitter oranges. It’s usually added to desserts, beverages, and even savory dishes to add a delicate floral and citrusy flavor.
I was looking for a substitute to replicate the delicate and aromatic flavor.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Rose water||replace in 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Lavender extract||½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp of lavender extract||10/10|
|Orange zest||½ tsp orange blossom water = 1 tsp orange zest||9/10|
|Honey||replace in 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Orange juice||replace in 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Orange or elderflower liqueur||½ tsp orange blossom water = 1-2 tsp orange liqueur||8/10|
|Orange extract||½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp orange extract||7/10|
|Orange oil||½ tsp orange flower = 2 to 3 drops orange oil||7/10|
|Orange bitters||½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp orange bitters||6/10|
|Vanilla extract||½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp vanilla extract||8/10|
|Almond extract||½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp almond extract||8/10|
|Orange-flavored sparkling water||1 tsp orange blossom water = 2-3 tsp orange seltzer/sparkling water||4/10|
|Other extracts||½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp of lemon extract||5/10|
Pro tip: make sure you’ve checked any Middle Eastern, Turkish, or African speciality food shops in your area before you decide to get a substitute!
You might be able to find orange blossom water there. You can also try liquor stores because it’s a common ingredient in cocktails.
Common uses for orange blossom water and their substitutes
Here are some common use cases for orange blossom water and the best substitutes for those situations:
- In baking – rose water, lavender extract, orange zest, orange oil, vanilla extract
- In sauces, syrups, glazes, marinades, and dressings – orange juice, orange liqueur, rose water, honey
- For drinks and cocktails – orange bitters, rose water, orange liqueur
- For tagines and couscous salads – orange oil, orange zest
Rose water is a great substitute for orange flower water.
It doesn’t have the bitter, citrusy notes orange blossom water has. But it has the delicate, floral undertones down to a tee. It pairs especially well with nutty flavors like pistachio.
And if you’ve got some (organically grown) roses in your garden it’s really easy to make your own!
Pro tip: some brands of rose water can be stronger than others, so start adding it slowly and adjust to taste.
How to substitute: replace orange blossom water in your recipe with a 1:1 ratio of rose water.
Lavender extract is another substitute that’s good for replicating the aromatic flavor orange flower water has.
Along with its floral notes, lavender extract also has hints of lemon and mint peeking through.
Because this is an extract rather than a water, the flavor is much more concentrated. And if you add too much it can get very soapy!
Less is more with this substitute.
Psst… it’s delicious in chocolate ice cream.
How to substitute: ½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp of lavender extract
Orange zest is an easy and fresh alternative to orange blossom water, and it works well in baking.
It doesn’t have a floral taste, but it has an intense citrusy kick that really brightened my cake.
Grate the zest as finely as possible, because you don’t want big chunks in your meal! Although in cookies and cakes I quite like the look of the orange specks.
The key when using orange zest is to steer clear of the pith (the white part).
A microplane (my go-to) is the best tool for the job, but you can improvise with a vegetable peeler if you don’t have one.
How to substitute: ½ tsp orange blossom water = 1 tsp orange zest
Honey is a good substitute for orange blossom water if you need something right away.
It’s pretty likely you’ll have a jar of honey hiding away in your kitchen somewhere, especially if you’re an avid baker!
And orange blossom water is often said to have honey-like notes to it, so there is some flavor similarities.
If you want the honey to have more of a liquid consistency, you can always mix it with a small amount of water.
How to substitute: replace orange blossom water in a 1:1 ratio with honey.
Another easy-to-access substitute for orange blossom water is orange juice. It works best in things like sauces, glazes, or custards.
The taste is much sharper than orange blossom water. But you can fix that with a little extra sugar, or even some honey.
Fresh orange juice is best because it’s more delicate. If you have orange juice concentrate, consider using less or diluting it with water.
How to substitute: replace orange blossom water in a 1:1 ratio with orange juice.
Orange or elderflower liqueur
Orange liqueur is another good orange blossom water substitute in sauces and glazes, it will bring a touch of sophistication. Cointreau or tripe sec will both work.
But you may need to adjust your recipe’s sugar content because most orange liqueurs are borderline syrupy!
Psst… you can also try St Germaine for more of a flowery flavor, it’s an elderflower based liqueur.
How to substitute: ½ tsp orange blossom water = 2-3 tsp orange liqueur + reduce other liquids in recipe by 2 tsp
Orange oil is extracted from orange peel and 2-3 drops will be enough to replace orange blossom water in your baking recipes.
And I mean just 2-3 drops – its flavor is very potent!
A heads up, though. Orange oil isn’t shelf-stable like extracts, so you’ll need to keep it in the fridge to preserve it.
How to substitute: ½ tsp orange flower = 2 to 3 drops of orange oil
Orange extract is very similar to orange oil – but the process to make it is quicker and dirtier, meaning the flavor isn’t as pure or clean.
It’s still more potent than orange blossom water though, so don’t use too much.
Orange extract is easy to find (check the baking aisle), but you can also make it from scratch with fresh oranges.
Simply steep orange zest in vodka (or sweet white wine) for a few days, strain it out, and voila – homemade orange extract!
Psst… some people suggest mixing this with a splash of lemon juice to get a more rounded flavor.
How to substitute: ½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp of orange extract
Someone once told me that vanilla extract was the ‘salt’ of the baking world, because you can add it to pretty much anything and it will help enhance the flavors.
So if you don’t have any orange blossom water, but want something to add that extra bit of oomph to your recipe. Consider reaching for your trusty bottle of vanilla extract.
Pro tip: if your recipe already has vanilla extract in, don’t add much more. Too much vanilla extract will turn your food bitter.
How to substitute: ½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp of vanilla extract
Not a fan of orange blossom water’s floral notes? Try orange bitters instead!
It’s a cocktail flavoring made with the peels of bitter oranges (the same variety used for the flower water) and warming spices like cinnamon and cloves.
The flavor it adds is very different to orange blossom water. It’s sharper, more bitter, and reminds me of fall!
I love mixing orange bitters with plain sparkling water for a quick and refreshing drink, but you can also use it in baking.
How to substitute: ½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp of orange bitters
Another frequently mentioned substitute for orange blossom water is almond extract.
It has a different flavor profile, in that it’s more nutty than floral. But it does have some fruity notes, and the flavor isn’t as in-your-face as other options on this list.
Meaning it’s good where a more delicate touch is required. Or for pairing with stone fruits like peaches, plums, and apricots.
Pssst… Simply Recipes has a fun and informative explanation of why it pairs well with these types of fruit.
How to substitute: ½ tsp orange blossom water = ¼ to ½ tsp of almond extract
You can always skip the orange blossom water if it isn’t the focal point of your dish.
Sure, you’ll miss that extra flair orange blossom water brings.
But your dish will still turn out great! And you can compromise for the missing flavor by adding in another complimentary spice like nutmeg, cardamon, or cinnamon.
How to substitute: omit orange blossom water from your recipe and follow the remaining instructions as usual
Other flavored extracts you can use
Orange water has a similar role to extracts in cooking and baking. You add a small amount to impart a subtle flavor to your dish.
If you’re willing to experiment with different flavors, you can use pretty much any extract you want! Swap ½ tsp orange blossom water for ¼ to ½ tsp of extract.
Here are a few examples:
- Rum extract: rum extract has a warm, sweet twist that works well in rich dishes, or around the holiday season. The scent of rum in the kitchen always reminds me of eggnog!
- Lemon extract: try lemon extract for a more acidic kick than orange blossom water. It’s a baking staple, so you can get it almost anywhere that sells baking supplies. But I recommend making it from scratch for a fresher, more vibrant flavor.
- Cherry extract: cherry is definitely not as delicate as orange blossom water, but it offers a robust and sweet flavor with hints of vanilla and almonds. It also has a subtle floral note. Try it in any recipe where dark chocolate is involved.
- Spearmint extract: not a fan of floral under notes? Use spearmint extract to jazz up your baked goods with a refreshing minty twist instead. And if you want to be even more adventurous, use peppermint extract to add a cooling sensation to your food.
Orange seltzer – avoid this substitute
Seltzer is a far cry from the elegant taste of orange blossom water. Instead I thought it made my cake taste cheap and synthetic.
I wasn’t a fan!
Although if you’re a fan of orange seltzers in general, I can see it being okay in small amounts.
Can you make orange blossom water from scratch?
Yes, you can make your own orange blossom water, but you’ll need to source fresh orange blossoms from pure Seville orange trees that have not been treated with pesticides. Not an easy task!
Once you have the blossoms, you can use The Spruce Eats’ infusion method is relatively easy but will take a long time because the flowers need to steep for about 2-3 weeks.
The resulting flower water will also have a milder flavor than your regular bottle.
Best Orange Blossom Water Substitutes [Tried And Tested]
- ½ tsp rose water
- ¼ to ½ tsp lavender extract
- 1-2 drops orange oil
- 2-3 tsp orange bitters
- 2-3 tsp orange liqueur + reduce other liquids in recipe by 2 tsp
- 1 tsp orange zest
- ½ cup orange seltzer/sparkling water
- ¼ to ½ tsp orange juice
- ¼ to ½ tsp almond extract
- ¼ to ½ tsp vanilla extract
- skip it
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen orange blossom water substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.