September 2010 Issue

Rose Water
By Chef Kyle Shadix, MS, RD
Today’s Dietitan
Vol. 12 No. 9 P. 64

The idea of cooking with rose extract may seem peculiar, but in most of the Middle East, North Africa, and India; much of Southeast Asia; and part of the Mediterranean, rose water is as common in one’s pantry as vanilla extract is in the United States. It is often challenging for our Western palates to accept a floral flavor profile, especially when many of us associate such scents with air fresheners, bars of soap, or candles. 

Rose water is made by distilling rose petals, a process that dates back to the Golden Age of the Middle East. Since its entry into the culinary world, it has been used to flavor desserts and beverages and is so highly regarded that it is part of many religious ceremonies throughout the world.

Some classic dishes that commonly include rose water are Greek baklava, the infamous lassi drinks and rose-flavored crepes called malpoora from India, and the dessert mahalebi from Cyprus. In Iran, rose water is added in small quantities to almost all sweets, including tea, ice cream, cookies, and rice pudding. In western Europe, rose water is sometimes used to flavor marzipan, which is used as an ingredient in many classic desserts and treats such as almond croissants, madelines, cakes (eg, stollen), and tarts (eg, apple galettes).

Experiment with rose water by adding it to a freshly brewed pot of tea, using it as a flavor extract when baking, adding a dash to a bowl of melon balls (classic Persian fruit salad), including it in buttercream frosting, trying it in a salad dressing, or sampling my favorite: a teaspoon mixed with sugar-free Crystal Light. The opportunities are endless.

— Chef Kyle Shadix, MS, RD, is a culinary nutrition communications consultant in New York City and online at

Middle Eastern-Style Rice Pudding

Makes 4 servings

2 cups skim milk
1 tsp rose water
1/3 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup sugar
Garnish: honey, crushed pistachio nuts, and cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Combine milk, rose water, rice, and sugar. Pour in a pie plate and bake until most of milk is absorbed and tops are golden brown, about 1 hour. Allow to cool, then remove the skin from the top.

Transfer to a bowl and lightly dust with cinnamon, then drizzle with a touch of honey and sprinkle on crushed pistachios.

Nutrient Analysis
Calories: 150
Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 4 g
Sodium: 65 g
Carbohydrate: 31 g
Fiber: 0 g
Sugar: 19 g
Protein: 5 g