Indian Cooking with Rose Water (Gulab Jal): Things to Know

Rose water, though originally an Iranian import, is now widely used across India. It is called gulab jal in Hindi and gulap jal in Bengali.

The name hardly leaves anything for guesswork about the ingredients used in rose water. Rose water is a byproduct obtained while distilling the rose petals and water during the process of rose oil making.

Rose water has a distinct and nice fragrance. Hence, it is added to certain foods and drinks to make them flavourful. Damask roses are usually used for traditional rose water as this type has a large number of petals.

Rose water contains some essential oils which are good for skin. In fact, rose water is used in making different types of skincare products.

Rose water is easily available in the market. However, most commercially made rose water uses synthetic flavour.

Rose water can be made at home. However, homemade rose water remains usable only for 4-5 days, after which, it goes bad due to bacteria contamination.

Commercial rose water contains preservatives and so can be used for several months.

Uses of Rose Water in Indian Cuisines

Cooking with Rose Water

Rose water is used in many dishes, especially deserts, Mughlai recipes and several Indian delicacies heavily influenced by Persian and Turkish cuisines.

When we talk about rose water, biryani is the first name that comes to our mind.

Rose water is added to enhance the flavour of meat-rice-spice rishtey (relationship).

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Saffron rose biryani – the name is enough to make you go crazy for a bite. It is often said that flavour is the first thing to titillate your taste buds even before the first bite or sip, rose water creates the magic.

It is also used in some spicy meat dishes, with the same purpose to make the delicacies full of flavours for the food lovers.

Though rose water adds a mild touch of sweetness while lending a strong flavour to any dish and drink, it is also used in some kinds of savoury delights.

Rose water finds a greater use in making sweets. It is used in rice pudding, cakes and many other deserts. Firini, a Kashmiri desert, uses rose water for its unique flavour.

Rose water is also used in making certain types of beverages. For example, gulab sharbat uses rose water instead of vanilla essence for its sweet smell.

Faloodah, a cold desert traditionally served with ice cream and rooh afza (a kind of syrup used in many sweet beverages) uses rose water for flavour enhancement.

You can add rose water to balance the tart flavours in strawberry and lemonade daiquiris.  A few drops of rose water can elevate flavours of any cocktail instantly.

How Does Rose Water Taste?

Rose water has a subtle, floral flavor with a slightly sweet taste.

It is commonly used as a flavoring in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Persian cuisine, and is often added to desserts and beverages like milkshakes and tea.

The taste of rose water can vary depending on the concentration and quality of the product, but in general it has a delicate and refreshing taste that is highly aromatic.

It is important to note that rose water should be used sparingly as its strong flavor can easily overpower other ingredients in a dish.

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Can You Use Any Rose Water for Cooking?

Not all types of rose water are suitable for cooking. It is important to use food-grade rose water that is specifically made for culinary purposes.

This type of rose water is made from distilled water and rose petals, and it does not contain any additives or chemicals that are harmful for consumption.

Rose water that is used for cosmetic or fragrance purposes may not be safe for cooking and should not be used in food preparation.

It is always recommended to read the label and ensure that the rose water is labeled as food-grade before using it in cooking.

Why is Rose Water Used in Biryani?

Rose water is used in biryani for its fragrant and aromatic properties.

It adds a subtle floral note to the dish, which complements the spices used in the biryani and enhances its overall flavor.

The use of rose water in biryani is a traditional practice that is believed to have originated in the Mughal era, when the royal chefs would use it to impart a rich and luxurious flavor to their dishes.

Today, it is a popular ingredient in many regional variations of biryani, particularly in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.

What Spices Go Well with Rose Water?

Rose water has a delicate and floral flavor that pairs well with a variety of spices. Some spices that complement rose water well include:

Cardamom: This spice has a sweet and floral flavor that pairs well with rose water.

Saffron: Saffron has a slightly sweet, floral, and earthy flavor that pairs well with rose water.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon has a sweet and slightly spicy flavor that complements the floral notes of rose water.

Nutmeg: Nutmeg has a sweet and slightly nutty flavor that pairs well with rose water.

Cloves: Cloves have a warm and slightly sweet flavor that complements the floral notes of rose water.

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These spices are commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines and are often used in dishes that include rose water, such as biryani, desserts, and drink

Questions & Answers:

Is Rose Water Used in Indian Cooking?

Yes, rose water is being used for Indian cooking in various forms. There are many sweet dishes and rice items where rose water is being used.

How Do You Use Rosé Water in Food?

You simply use one teaspoon of rose water after cooking the food. You just sprinkle water in the food when it's done.

Does Rosé Water Go with Chicken?

Yes, why not in the case of Chicken Biryani it goes well with Rose water at the end.

Does Rosé Water Go with Curry?

It is not suggested to use rose water in curry as it is making it more fragrant that will ruin the taste of it.

What is Rose Water Called in Different Languages?

Rose water is known as Golap Jol in Bengali and Gulab Jal in Hindi.


Rose water is a byproduct obtained from distilling rose petals and water during the process of rose oil making.

It has a distinct fragrance and is used in certain foods and drinks to make them flavorful.

In Indian cuisine, it is commonly used in sweet dishes, meat dishes, biryani, and beverages.

Rose water has a delicate, floral flavor that pairs well with spices such as cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

It is important to use food-grade rose water for cooking. The traditional use of rose water in biryani originated in the Mughal era.

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