Learn how to make distilled rose water at home through this traditional simple and easy recipe made with just 2 natural ingredients! Steam distilled rose water captures the amazing floral scent and taste of rose flowers.
The resulting clear liquid has a long shelf life and can be used in culinary creations like baked goods, or used as part of a skincare or haircare routine.
Table of contents
Why Make Your Own Rose Water?
Roses have been used as a food, medicine and perfume since ancient times. The process of growing roses specifically for perfume and rose water may have originated in ancient Persia, where roses are still used extensively throughout the modern day region in cuisine and as perfume and herbal medicine.
The rose water we buy at the store is a byproduct of making rose oil and essential oils. It can be expensive to purchase but is easy to make at home for a fraction of the price. Rose water is collected through steam distillation of rose petals. This simply means that when the petals are heated with water, the resulting steam is cooled to create a clear distilled liquid or hydrosol. True rose water or rose hydrosol is clear.
Many recipes for homemade rose water that you see online are not made properly and are in fact just rose tea or rose infusion. A rose infusion is made by simply adding fresh or dried rose petals to boiled water and covering and steeping them as would would brew a pot of tea. Rose infusion will take on the color of the petals, often a pink hue. It will have an aroma and taste of rose but will not keep for long. Rose tea needs to be refrigerated and used within a few days unless you add preservatives to it.
Many homemade rosewater recipes online also say to use distilled water but that is not necessary if you are distilling the rose petals as is shown in this method. All you need to make real traditional rose water are high quality roses and tap water. Its very easy and straightforward!
Fresh Rose Petals: The best tasting and most aromatic rose water starts with high quality fresh roses. The taste and scent of the rose water will be dependent on how fragrant the roses are so choose the most fragrant roses for this. All rose varieties are edible but roses from the florist may be sprayed with pesticides/fungicides and are not safe for consumption. Use only unsprayed organic roses or foraged wild roses for the best results.
Here on Nantucket Island, there is an abundance of wild beach roses (rosa rugosa) and other wild rose varieties that have a strong rose scent and are perfect for making rose water. Garden grown roses are also perfect to use. If you don’t have roses in your yard or can’t find wild roses where you live, search out a local flower farmer or florist in your area that uses local flowers to find the best roses you can for this recipe. Another thing to keep in mind is that roses are most fragrant and therefore are best picked in the morning before the sun beats down on them.
Water: Tap water is completely fine for this process because we are distilling it. You don’t have to start with distilled water. I like to boil the water first to get it hot so it will come to a simmer right away instead of starting with cold water straight from the tap.
How to Make Edible Rose Water at Home
Step 1: Fill a tea kettle with water and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, remove the fresh petals from the roses. Gently rinse the petals in a bowl of water if they have sand or bugs on them.
Step 2: Place a small empty heatproof bowl into the center of a large pot and place the rose petals around the bowl in the pot. The rose water will collect into the small bowl. Cover the rose petals with boiling hot water, being careful not to get any water into the small bowl in the center of the pot. Cover the pot with the upside down lid so that the handle is facing down into the pot. The lid will trap steam and guide the condensation down towards the center of the lid so it will drip down into the bowl.
Step 3: Place ice cubes on the inverted pot lid and simmer the pot over low heat for about 20-30 minutes. As the ice melts, soak the melted water up with a dry towel and add more ice to the lid as needed. Use kitchen tongs to remove the soaked towel as the water may be hot to the touch. The ice helps cool the steam and create condensation on the underside of the lid which will drip down and collect into the empty bowl.
Step 4: Turn off the heat and remove the lid with pot holders. The clear liquid that has collected in the bowl is rose hydrosol or distilled rose water. Use pot holders to remove the bowl from the pot and let it cool to room temperature. Transfer the rose water into a bottle for storage.
How to Store Rose Water
Rose water made in the traditional method of steam distillation is not perishable and can be stored at room temperature. Store it in a tinted or clear glass bottle and keep it out of direct sunlight and heat in a cabinet. It will last for years.
Rose Water Uses
Rose water recipes: Rose water adds a floral taste and aroma to foods and is especially suited to baked goods and pastries. Rose water has a strong rose flavor so it is best used sparingly – a teaspoon is usually more than enough to add flavor to recipes. Its floral flavor is a wonderful addition to cakes, cookies, ice cream, custard, rice pudding, scones, syrups, etc. Rose water is used in many traditional Middle Eastern recipes such as Turkish delight, Persian granita and ice cream, and baklava. Try adding it to teas, drinks and cocktails for a floral flavor.
Rose water toner: Rose water can be used as part of a daily skin care routine. It acts as a natural skin toner that can help soothe irritation and redness thanks to the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of roses. Use it as a face refresher in a spray bottle or simply pat a few drops directly onto your skin with your fingertips. Rose water is gentle enough to use on all skin types.
Rose water hair mist: Rose water can be used as a daily hair and scalp treatment to soothe scalp irritation. As a mild astringent, rose water can help counteract an oily scalp and hair. Rose water is high in Vitamins A, E, C and B3 which nourish a healthy scalp and may promote hair growth.
Rose water room spray: Rose water can be used as a fragrant room spray, although its scent will dissipate rather quickly.
Rose water as medicine: Roses have been used as herbal medicine for centuries. Roses have anti-inflammatory properties which help soothe dry skin and skin irritation and are also known to soothe sore throats and aid with indigestion. They have powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties that help prevent and fight infection and heal wounds. Roses contain powerful antioxidants that can help prevent cells from damage and have anti-aging effects. Roses have antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties that aid in mood enhancement and may relieve headaches.
The best roses to use are whichever are the most fragrant and freshest in your area. All rose blossoms are edible and can be used in this recipe as long as they are unsprayed and organic or wild harvested. The most fragrant roses will produce the best results. Some fragrant rose varieties to consider include Rosa rugosa (beach roses), Rosa damascena (Damask rose), Rosa gallica (French rose). I used wild harvested beach roses and fresh rose petals gathers from our garden. Some fragrant rose varieties from David Austin Roses that we have in the garden include Royal Jubilee, Wollerton Old Hall, Bathesba, Teasing Georgia, and Lady of Shallot. If you can, try growing your own roses to reap the benefits of this amazing plant.
It depends. Grocery store roses are sprayed with pesticides and fungicides and are not safe for consumption. Locally and organically grown roses from a flower farmer should be fine, just check with the farmer to make sure they aren’t sprayed.
You can use dried rose petals but fresh petals will produce the best results and most fragrant rose water.
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DIY Rose Water Recipe
- 3 cups ice cubes
- 1 wide stockpot
- 1 small heat proof bowl
- 4 cups fresh rose petals loosely packed, from organic or wild roses
- 3 cups water brought to a boil
- Place a small empty heatproof bowl into the center of a larger pot and place the rose petals around the bowl in the pot.
- Cover the rose petals with boiling hot water, being careful not to get any water into the bowl in the center of the pot.
- Cover the pot with an inverted lid so that the handle is facing down into the pot.
- Place 1 cup of ice cubes on the inverted pot lid and simmer the pot over low heat for about 20-30 minutes. As the ice melts, soak the melted water up with a dry towel and add more ice to the lid as needed. Use kitchen tongs to remove the soaked towel as the water may be hot to the touch. The ice helps cool the steam and create condensation on the underside of the lid which will drip down and collect into the empty bowl.
- Turn off the heat and remove the lid with pot holders. The clear liquid that has collected in the bowl is rose hydrosol or distilled rose water. Use pot holders to remove the bowl from the pot and transfer the rose water into a bottle for storage.
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