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Rose Water: What It Is and How to Use It

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2018

Plus how to include it in your next batch of baked goods.

Rose water, a widely used ingredient in Persian, Middle Eastern, and Indian cooking, is, as its name suggests, water infused with the flavor of roses. Traditionally enjoyed in sweets such as cakes, nougat, baklava, rice pudding, and the yogurt drink lassi, rose water is predominantly made with petals from the Damask rose (Rosa x damascena). Featuring an intensely floral aroma and flavor, it's typically used quite sparingly.

We substituted an equal amount of rose water for the vanilla in recipes for rice pudding and sugar cookies and found that an even swap delivered a rose flavor that was too intense for most tasters. Using 50 percent of the amount of vanilla called for in the recipe produced a more subtle, pleasant result. That said, if you really love the flavor of rose water, you may want to bump up the amount to 75 percent.