Azerbaijan: Rose Ice Cream

Posted by on Sep 20, 2014 in Recipes | 12 comments

Today on our VeganMoFo world tour we head further west to Azerbaijan, one of the entry points to Central Asia and our last stop in the region.  There are no two ways about it: Central Asia is tough for vegans.  With the exception of a few side dishes, very few traditional Azeri foods are vegan and when you say you don’t eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy, it’s hard for Azeris to understand. I remember one particular moment when I ordered a vegan pizza without cheese at a local restaurant. They understood the no dairy thing, but when my pizza came it was laden in ham. I sent it back and asked them to make me a new one. They brought it back with some of the ham picked off, but didn’t get everything. I sent it back again.  I had similar experiences in other Central Asian countries I visited.   It’s probably lucky I ate bread at that time, because otherwise I may have just starved. 

Maiden Tower

Maiden Tower

Azerbaijan is at once a fascinating and depressing part of the world.  Azerbaijan has oil, and so its economy is growing by leaps and bounds. New construction was going on everywhere when I was there.  But the benefits of the oil wealth accrue to just a few, make the country incredibly expensive for all people, and exacerbate the inequalities that have existed in the country since the fall of the Soviet Union.

An alley way with typical buildings in the old town

An typical alley the old town

Lovely buildings in Baku's old town

Lovely buildings in Baku’s old town

The government in Azerbaijan is one of the most repressive in the world. It’s so-called democracy is a sham. It’s an autocracy, pure and simple. Human rights abuses are rife. Corruption is a way of life. 



Palace of the Shirvanshahs

Palace of the Shirvanshahs

But the country has a rich history and a poetic air about it.  Baku’s old town is lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed my strolls around it.

Relics inside the palace

Relics inside the palace

Azerbaijan's carpets are listed by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage

Azerbaijan’s carpets are listed by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage

One afternoon I heard music from a fenced-off courtyard next to me; I stuck my head through an opening and saw traditional Azeri dancers being filmed for a TV show. I lingered for a while, enjoying the scene. 

Azeri Dancers

Azeri Dancers

It was also one afternoon in a little traditional tea house in the old town that I tried for rose jam for the first time.  And what a revelation that was! Rose-flavored foods taste exactly as they smell. Some people like it, some people don’t, but I love it. 

Rose Ice Cream

Rose Ice Cream

And so I’m bringing you today a simple recipe for rose ice cream.  I used rehydrated organic dried rose buds for this dish; you can usually find these in tea stores (rose tea: yum!) and maybe well-stocked health food stores. Although all roses are edible, unless you can find organic ones or have them growing in your garden and are pesticide free, you really don’t want to eat them.  The amount of pesticides used on those perfect-looking roses you find at the store is insane and definitely not something you want to put in your body. Plus most of them don’t smell and the flavor of roses really comes from their aroma. 

Rose Ice Cream
Serves 4
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  1. ¼ cup dried rose petals or buds (make sure stems are removed)
  2. 1 cup hot water
  3. 1 cup brazil nuts, soaked for at least 12 hours
  4. ¼ cup maple syrup
  5. 2 packets of stevia (or more maple syrup to taste)
  1. Soak rose buds in water for 20 to thirty minutes.
  2. Add roses, their soaking water, brazil nuts, maple syrup and stevia to your blender and blend until creamy and smooth.
  3. Let cool to room temperature.
  4. Place in freezer and give it a stir every hour or so to break up ice crystals, until frozen.
  5. This gets pretty hard, so before eating, take out off the freezer for half an hour or so first.
Vegan Sweet and Simple
I use brazil nuts as the base, because they are rich and very creamy. However, you could substitute them for cashews if you like too. 

A unique treat!

A unique treat!

I served them with a few chopped up pistachios, because for some reason I think roses and pistachios complement each other perfectly. Yum!

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  1. Oooo, I LOVE rose tea. Never thought about rose ice cream, I’ll have to give it a try! Awesome to see a vegan post about Azerbaijan, I never thought much about going there, but now I’ll have to give that a try as well! Greetings from a fellow vegan traveler! :-)

    • Hi Nicole! I’ve been loving your Vegan MoFo tour of the US! I’m glad I went to Azerbaijan, but not sure I’d prioritize going back. So many other great places to visit.

  2. I thoroughly loved this post – as depressing as it can be o find vegan options and as difficult as it is for the locals. Thank you for sharing.

    Zsu @ Zsu’s Vegan Pantry

    • Thanks Zsu!

  3. Great post! It sounds like we have more or less the same theme for vegan mofo!

    Your ice cream sounds absolutely amazing, by the way :-)

    • Oh wow! We do! Love meeting fellow vegan travelers!

      And thanks! :)

  4. oh the pictures of Baku are really interesting. I’ve never been to Central Asia, but somehow I find it quite compelling… but I guess I’ll remember to pack a serious load of power bars if I ever make it. I ate so much bread in Bosnia. Every night I’d say “I”m so sick of bread,” but then the next time I was hungry, I’d end up eating bread again. I”m sorta so-so on rosey desserts… THere’s a Persian rose ice cream I’ve made lots of times and I like that one a lot, so maybe I’d like this one too!

    • It is compelling! I’ve been to a few countries in the region now and they all have their endearing and confounding qualities. But definitely pack lots of snacks! It’s hard to eat there. Once in Dushanbe I was at a meeting and was served cabbage leaves that had the meat stuffing scraped out, because there was nothing else they could offer me. Craziness.

  5. I love tea & jam with rose petals. Thanks for the advice finding organic petals.
    I just found your blog through Mofo, now I need a weekend to appreciate all the beauty you’ve captured on your travel:)Great recipes too, really inspiring.

    • Thanks so much! :)

  6. I love this blog! But do you have any pictures of vegan food actually taken in Azerbaijan? If so, I’d love to share them on my website (, giving you full credit, of course! Hope to hear from you soon.

    • I wish I did, but no I don’t! There was a time I didn’t photograph everything I ate (unlike now!). :)

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