Orange blossom water is a delicate, citrusy, lightly floral ingredient. It has a unique bitterness to it, and is frequently found in French or Middle Easteren cuisine. It has many uses, but is commonly seen as an ingredient in baked goods, like cakes, or in salad dressings and drinks.
While it isn’t possible to completely capture the unique taste of orange blossom water, there are still orange water blossom substitutes. Ingredients like rose water, orange extract, liqueurs, or even classic orange juice can fill in for orange flower water. It all depends on your recipe, and what flavor you are hoping to capture.
What you substitute for orange blossom water comes down to what you need it for. Thankfully, orange is an easy to find flavor, meaning that there are plentiful options for replacements.
1. Orange Zest
Orange zest is a simple orange blossom water substitute, but one that can get out of hand easily. The fine orange peel zest will carry the bitterness that you may be hoping for from the water. However, it is rather potent; try to only zest ½ of one orange for this application.
Orange zest is best used as a replacement for orange blossom water in baking. Structurally delicate cakes like chiffon or genoise sponge will benefit from the light addition. Take care to balance out the missing moisture with a new liquid to prevent your cake from drying out.
2. Rose Water
Made from rose petals rather than orange blossoms, rose water is a fairly strong distillation. Just as you would with orange blossom water, use rose water sparingly. Since it has such an intense aroma, add it in small doses with plenty of taste tests.
Of course, this does mean that what you are cooking is going to taste of rose, rather than orange. At the very least, it will still create a floral fragrance in your dish.
For anything you would use orange blossom water in, you can instead use rose water. Even in savory dishes like Iranian jeweled rice, rose water would be perfectly applicable in place of orange flower. In fact, 90% of rose water is actually produced in Iran, making it right at home in this dish.
3. Orange Extract
An orange blossom water substitute that will retain a punch of citrus is orange extract. Orange extract is very potent, so it is best added a few drops at a time and then sampled.
You can use orange extract in anything you would use orange blossom water in. Just as with zest, be sure to replace any lost moisture in your recipe if you are whipping up an icing or sauce.
4. Orange Liqueurs
There are plenty of orange liqueurs commercially available that could stand in for orange blossom water. Talking about liqueur, learn more about Disaronno and its taste.. Each brand will taste different, so try to experiment and find your favorites. Cointreau, for example, is on the bitter side, while Grand Marnier is embellished with spices and sweet vanilla on top of the orange.
Cointreau and Grand Marnier are both types of triple sec. Triple sec is a French orange liqueur, containing anywhere from 15% – 40% alcohol by volume, made with dried orange peel. It is typically on the sweeter side, and can work nicely as an orange blossom water substitute.
It is best to use orange liqueur in place of orange blossom water in sauces, glazes, or custards. For those concerned about these being alcoholic, the amount of liqueur you’d use to substitute for orange blossom water is scant. This means that your final product will have a negligible alcohol content.
For 1 or 2 tablespoons of orange blossom water, sub in 2 to 3 tablespoons of liqueur, respectively.
5. Orange Juice
Found much more commonly in home refrigerators, orange juice can work well to replace orange blossom water. For best results, look for 100% juice versions of the drink, or squeeze the oranges yourself if possible. If the flavor is too sharp, a touch of sugar can even out the tartness.
As with orange liqueur, orange juice applies seamlessly into sauces, icings, glazes, or custards. When lightly diluted, it can also lend a hand to cakes or savory recipes, though it is best used sparingly.
A note about orange juice: it will come up lacking in some of the bitter, floral notes of orange blossom water. To replace that floral elegance, try a drop of rose water along with the orange juice. If you’d like to emphasize the bitterness, add a shake of orange zest.
While it will change the flavor of your cooking, there is no harm in using another extract in place of orange flower water. Other citrus extracts like lemon or lime will keep the feeling of orange. Or, step completely out of the box with cherry, almond, or peppermint extract.
This is truly up to the chef’s discrepancy; changing the extract means altering the entire body of what is being prepared.
For cocktails, sauces, or icings, sticking with citrus might compliment the other elements in the cocktail, or what the icing will cover. There is even room to get unique with flavors like yuzu or grapefruit. If using grapefruit, be wary of the sharp bitterness it will bring to the table.
In a baked good, an extract such as peppermint or almond may add bold complexity. Orange blossom water is a staple ingredient in French cooking, as is almond flavoring. Soft, fluffy French madeleines will fare deliciously even when orange blossom water is substituted for almond extract.
Can You Make Orange Blossom Water At Home?
Yes, but it is a time consuming process, and will not be helpful if you are in a pinch. Orange blossom water can be made at home by grinding orange blossoms into a paste and letting them sit in a sealed jar of distilled water. The paste will need to sit for two weeks before it is strained out.
Orange blossom water is a specialty product that can lend a beautiful floral tang to your cooking. However, it may not be accessible to everyone, or perhaps you’ve simply run out. In this scenario, you may find viable orange blossom water substitutes right in your cupboards.
For cakes and baking, orange juice or orange zest will provide the desired pop of citrus. In syrups or sauces, try orange juice or even a liqueur. Rose water or extracts can do any job that orange water can, if changing the overall taste is of little concern.