Rosewater, used since ancient times to flavor foods, is made from distilling rose petals. It features in French, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes and you can usually buy it from Indian or Middle Eastern grocers. Rosewater lends a delicate yet exotic flavor to sorbets, salad dressings, cookies, fruit compotes, pastries, candies and meats. A few substitutes will work in a pinch.
Rose essence is a concentrated form of the flower’s flavor. One part of rose essence matches the flavor of 4 to 8 parts of rosewater, so you should only use 1 teaspoon of rose essence as a substitute for 2 tablespoons of rosewater.
You may equally substitute any type of flower water for rosewater. Because there are many edible flowers to choose from, this gives you a wide range of options. You can use equal quantities of flower waters including hibiscus, orange blossom, violet, carnation, chamomile and jasmine.
Vanilla extract is an acceptable rosewater substitute. Like rose essence, vanilla has a concentrated flavor. Use 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla for every 2 tablespoons of rosewater in a recipe.
Almond extract is sometimes used instead of rosewater in marzipan recipes or when making almond paste because their flavors are similar. Use 1 1/2 parts of almond extract for every 2 parts of rosewater because the extract has a more concentrated flavor than the water.
Although lemon juice has a tart flavor, you must double the amount a recipe calls for when added in place of rosewater.
References and ResourcesThe Cook's Thesaurus: Extracts and Flavoring Oils
What's Cooking America: Edible Flowers Are the New Rage in Haute Cuisine
Joy of Baking: Baking Ingredient Substitution Table
The Kitchn: Ingredient Spotlight: Rose Water
CooksInfo.com: Rose Water