I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different rose water substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding rose water is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for rose water are rose extract, orange blossom water, lavender extract, and kewra water. You can also try dried rose petals, rose syrups, rose liqueurs, or dried hibiscus. Vanilla extract, almond extract, or cardamon are easy and accessible options. Or simply leave it out.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made a basic buttercream to try out all the different rose water substitutes.
Rose water has a refreshingly sweet, floral taste and a fragrant aroma. It’s commonly used in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Turkish cooking (if you’re having trouble finding rose water, make sure you check out any grocery stores near you specializing in these cuisines!).
I was looking for a substitute to replace the floral notes of rose water.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Rose petals (fresh or dried)
|1 tsp rose water = 1 tsp homemade rose water or 2 tsp crushed rose petals
|1 teaspoon rose water = ¼ to ½ teaspoon rose extract
|1 tsp rose water = ¼ to ½ tsp vanilla extract
|Orange blossom water
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio
|Replace in a 1:1 ratio
|1 teaspoon rose water = ¼ to ½ teaspoon lavender extract
|1 tsp rose water = 1 tsp rose liqueur (reduce sugar)
|1 tsp rose water = ¼ to ½ tsp almond extract
|1 tsp rose water = 2 tsp crushed hibiscus petals
|1 tsp rose water = 1 tsp of cardamom
|1 tsp rose water = 1 tsp rose syrup (reduce sugar)
|try incorporating it as an additional ingredient or topping where appropriate
|Leave it out
Common uses for rose water and the best substitutes
Here are some popular ways to use rose water and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For baking – rose extract, rose syrup, orange blossom water, lavender extract
- For jams and compote – orange blossom water, lavender extract
- For cocktails and lattes- orange blossom water, rose syrup, rose liqueur, vanilla extract
- For marinades and dressings – rose syrup, dried rose petals, orange blossom water
Rose petals (dried or fresh)
If you have your own rose petals you can make your own rose water. And yes, you can use the roses from your garden (as long as they’re organically grown)!
Homemade rose water will have a more subtle taste than the bottled version, so it’s a great option if you want a delicate flavor.
And if you don’t have time to make rose water, you can steep dried rose petals with hot water to brew a soothing rose tea or crush them to make rose powder, which can be easily incorporated into your cooking or used as an elegant decoration.
How to substitute: 1 tsp rose water = 1 tsp homemade rose water or 2 tsp crushed dried rose petals
One of the best substitutes I found for rose water is rose extract.
The flavor is very similar to rose water (as you might have guessed!), but it’s much more concentrated, and it can easily overpower your dish if you’re not careful.
A little goes a long way here.
When I was shopping for rose extract, I noticed some bottles labeled as “rose flavoring/ essence.” Be cautious with these, as the flavor might not come from real rose.
If you want a natural option, stick with pure rose extract.
How to substitute : 1 teaspoon rose water = ¼ to ½ teaspoon rose extract
I know vanilla extract tastes nothing like rose water, but it’s an easy baking substitute that won’t require you to make an emergency grocery run.
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.
I also recommend adding a splash of lemon juice alongside it to bring a fresh, citrusy brightness that’ll further elevate your dish.
Pro tip: don’t add more if your recipe already calls for vanilla – using too much can leave a bitter taste.
How to substitute: 1 tsp rose water = ¼ to ½ tsp vanilla extract
Orange blossom water
Despite the name, orange blossom water doesn’t taste much like oranges. Instead, it has a floral, aromatic flavor similar to rose water.
The orange bought a citrusy flair that added a touch of brightness to my buttercream, but it was subtle enough not to overpower it.
Orange blossom water (or orange flower water) works as an alternative for rose water in both savory and sweet dishes. And it’s delicious mixed into drinks to create a refreshing summer beverage.
How to substitute : replace rose water in your recipe with orange blossom water in a 1:1 ratio.
Kewra water is derived from the aromatic pandanus flowers and has a sweet floral essence that’s strikingly reminiscent of rose water, but with a delightful fruity zing.
Its potency also matches rose water. You only need a few drops to infuse your dish with its fruity, flowery goodness.
You might think this substitute would be difficult to find, but it isn’t – I got my bottle at Walmart, but you can also check your local Indian grocery store.
Pro-tip: don’t confuse pandan extract with kewra water! They come from the same plant, but pandan extract comes from the leaves.
How to substitute: replace rose water in your recipe with kewra water in a 1:1 ratio.
Another not rose-related substitute you can try is lavender extract
This extract offers a sweet, floral aroma similar to rose water but with intriguing hints of lemon and mint.
You can easily get a bottle of this at your local Walmart, or you can make it from scratch if you have some lavender in your garden (make sure no pesticides have been used) and 3 weeks to spare!
Psst… in a similar vein, earl grey extract would also be an interesting substitute.
How to substitute : 1 tsp rose water = ¼ to ½ tsp lavender extract
Popular liqueurs like Parfait D’ Amour and crème de rose are infused with rose flavor, so can add a subtle flowery hint to your dishes.
They’re a no-brainer when crafting elegant cocktails, but don’t shy away from using them in your baking and cooking adventures either!
Just be mindful of the sugar in your recipe because liqueurs can be very sweet.
St Germaine is another option (an elderflower liqueur), or you can be more adventurous and try an orange liqueur like cointreau.
How to substitute: 1 tsp rose water = 1 tsp rose liqueur (reduce sugar if needed)
Dried hibiscus is another rose water alternative you can consider.
This versatile ingredient imparts a botanic note reminiscent of rose water with a tangy, cranberry-like twist.
These vibrant flavors can be unleashed by brewing it into a tea or crushing it into a fine powder (just like with dried rose petals), ready to be added to your cocktail or cupcake icing.
Most big-name grocery stores carry these flowers by the bag, but you can order them online – you can even buy them already ground for more convenience!
Make sure the flowers have been organically grown for culinary uses.
How to substitute: 1 tsp rose water = 2 tsp crushed hibiscus petals
Cardamom is a different but decent rose water substitute, thanks to its lovely floral notes.
It’s much easier to find, making it a convenient optio. And a small amount will give your dishes a warm, fragrant depth.
There are two types of cardamom – black and green, but I recommend sticking with green cardamom for a more delicate flavor profile.
Pro-tip: you can also add a dash of cinnamon to bring a sweet twist.
How to substitute: 1 tsp rose water = a pinch of cardamom
While not an exact substitute for rose water, almond extract offers an easy and unique way to jazz up your dishes.
With its potent, slightly sweet taste, you only need a tiny amount to make a significant impact.
Almond extract goes with any dessert, but I found it’s an especially good replacement for rose water in dishes with peaches, plums, or apricots.
Its nutty notes provides a delicious contrast to fruity flavors and adds a touch of sophistication.
Psst… you can also try amaretto.
How to substitute: 1 tsp rose water = ¼ to ½ tsp almond extract
Another rose water substitute you can try is rose syrup.
It’s got the floral notes down to a tee, but it’s far sweeter than rose water (hence the name), so you’ll have to adjust the sugar in your recipe, especially if you’re baking!
It’s great in cocktails, and if you have some handy try it in your morning latte too! Thank me later.
How to substitute : 1 tsp rose water = 2 tsp rose syrup (but reduce the same amount of sugar), or omit the sugar entirely and use an equivalent amount of syrup
Rose jelly or jam might not be the most versatile substitute for rose water, but it can be a delightful addition to specific recipes, infusing them with a sweet, floral boost.
Incorporate this jelly into frostings and glazes or spread a few dollops of it over your baked goods to give them an instant touch of rose.
And if you have any rose jelly leftover, pair it with warm, buttery scones or crepes for the ultimate brunch treat.
Pro tip: the jam will pack a sweet punch that I like to offset with a spritz of lemon juice.
How to substitute: try incorporating it as an additional ingredient or topping where appropriate.
Leave it out
If rose water isn’t the star of the show in your dish, you can skip it.
Sure, you’ll miss out on that delicious flavor and aroma, but fear not – your dish will still taste fabulous as long as you’ve got the rest of the ingredients and stick to your trusty recipe.
How to substitute: omit and follow the rest of the ingredients and processes.
Rose oil – substitute to avoid
Rose oil sounds like a decent substitute at first, but according to The Spruce Eats, purchased rose oil is not considered “food-grade safe.” The same article says you can consume it if you made it yourself, but I would leave the rose oil for beauty treatments, just to be safe.
Best Rose Water Substitutes
- 2 tsp crushed dried rose petals
- ¼ to ½ tsp rose extract
- ¼ to ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- ¼ to ½ tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp cardamom
- ¼ to ½ tsp lavender extract
- 2 tsp rose syrup or omit sugar and use equivalent amount
- 1-2 tbsp rose-flavored alcoholic drinks, reduce the same amount of sugar
- 1 tsp crushed dried hibiscus
- 1 tsp kewra water
- rose jelly
- skip it
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen rose water substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.