Cinnamon is a fragrant spice that delivers a sweet, spicy, and woodsy flavor and is a versatile ingredient that can also be used in savory recipes. The most common cinnamon type in the US is the earthy and subtly sweet Korintje. If you run out of supply or are allergic to cinnamon, your best cinnamon substitutes include allspice, cloves, and nutmeg.
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What is the flavor profile of cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a popular spice that comes from the inner bark of the evergreen tree belonging to the genus Cinnamomum. This dried bark is sweet and woodsy and packs some spiciness because of the aromatic compound called cinnamaldehyde. Its warm aroma further adds depth to its taste.
Because of its flavor profile, it’s commonly incorporated into sweet dishes. Think cinnamon rolls, cinnamon ice cream, pancakes with cinnamon sugar, puddings, and French toast. However, they’re versatile and can add flavor to savory dishes — from butternut squash soups to veggie hashes and pork roasts.
When you visit your local grocery store, you can see cinnamon in various forms:
- Ground cinnamon (the bark, ground into a fine powder)
- Whole cinnamon sticks (rolls of cinnamon bark)
- Cinnamon extract (made by soaking the bark in alcohol)
Comparison of 4 cinnamon types
The Cinnamomum genus comprises different types of cinnamon trees. The four major species include:
- Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi)
- Korintje cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii)
- Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)
- Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia)
|Saigon cinnamon||Sharp, sweet, and spicy and offers a strong flavor|
|Korintje cinnamon||Spicy, earthy, subtly sweet, and milder than Saigon|
|Ceylon cinnamon||Doesn’t have that sweet flavor; it’s herbal and savory, with floral and citrusy notes|
|Chinese cinnamon||Sweet, spicy, and slightly bitter|
Saigon, or Vietnamese cinnamon, is sharp, sweet, and spicy and offers a strong flavor- the strongest of all four. It’s more affordable and works well with desserts and pastries like cinnamon rolls and coffee cakes. You can also add it to marinades and curries.
This one originates from Indonesia. It’s inexpensive and takes up about 70% of cinnamon exports in the US. It tastes spicy, earthy, subtly sweet, and milder than Saigon. It’s a well-rounded spice that works well in sweet and savory recipes and beverages.
This type is native to Sri Lanka and India. Compared to other types, it doesn’t have that sweet flavor; it’s herbal and savory, with floral and citrusy notes. It’s popular in Mexico and Asia, accounting for 10% of the US spice market.
Because it’s resource-extensive to produce, it tends to be the most expensive among the four. But if you have it, you can use it to amp up the flavor of bread and pastries.
Sweet, spicy, and slightly bitter, the China-originating cinnamon is popularly known as part of the Chinese 5 spice alongside ground cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns.
Use it in rich, bold recipes like stews or sweets like ice cream, chocolates, and cream pies.
Can you use cinnamon sticks to replace ground cinnamon?
Since ground cinnamon is essentially a ground form of cinnamon sticks, you can substitute the two in various recipes.
However, even if they share a similar flavor profile, they can affect the look and texture of the original recipe. For a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, use one stick. You can grind it with the help of a coffee grinder or a Microplane.
Is allspice a good substitute for cinnamon?
Cinnamon is an in-demand spice; you may not have it available in your grocery store. If you don’t have time to order from Amazon, consider allspice.
Allspice has a complex, warming, and spicy flavor with a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, clover, and black pepper notes. It also delivers sweetness to a recipe.
Ground allspice can be used in most recipes, but as it’s more potent, follow a 1:¼ ratio.
What other spices can I use instead of cinnamon?
Besides cinnamon sticks and allspice, here are our other cinnamon substitute recommendations.
- Pumpkin pie seasoning
|Nutmeg||Nutty, warm, and has the same sweetness, good for most recipes that call for cinnamon|
|Ginger||Has a subtly sweet and peppery flavor with floral hints, good replacement when making milkshakes|
|Pumpkin pie seasoning||A blend featuring cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger, ideal for coffee, latte, pies, and other sweet treats|
|Cardamom||Has sweet and spicy undertones, common in Indian and Indian-inspired recipes|
|Cloves||Subtly sweet and mildly spicy, great to elevate meat and rice-based dishes|
|Mace||Milder and sweeter with citrusy notes, great for chutneys and sauces|
If you have ground nutmeg in your spice rack, you’re lucky because it’s one of the most common cinnamon alternatives. It’s nutty, warm, and has the same sweetness as ground cinnamon.
However, it’s sharper and offers a deeper flavor. If you use it as a swap (use it in most recipes that call for cinnamon), follow a 1:¼ ratio. You may also need to add some sugar (or another sweetener) to balance the sharpness.
Ground ginger — made by grinding the dried peels of fresh ginger root — has a subtly sweet and peppery flavor with floral hints. If you’re baking and you don’t have cinnamon, this will work as a good substitute. You can also rely on it as a replacement when making milkshakes.
For every teaspoon of ground cinnamon, use a teaspoon of ground ginger.
3. Pumpkin pie seasoning
Pumpkin pie spice is a blend featuring cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger.
Using a 1:1 substitution ratio, replace cinnamon with pumpkin pie seasoning if you’re prepping up coffee, latte, pies, and other sweet treats.
You can use cardamom instead of cinnamon as it has sweet and spicy undertones and is dominantly piney and citrusy. Though it’s common in Indian and Indian-inspired recipes such as curries, it can also be ideal for sweet dishes and baked goodies.
Use it in the same amount of cinnamon that the recipe instructs.
Ground cloves come from the flower buds of the clove tree. Subtly sweet and mildly spicy, you can use it as a great substitute (1:1 ratio) if you’re originally trying to elevate meat and rice-based dishes with cinnamon.
You can also use it in chutneys and sauces. Though it’s better in savory dishes, some cooks use it as a cinnamon swap in sweet recipes.
Mace, the protective nutmeg layer, has a more delicate flavor: it’s milder and sweeter with citrusy notes. It has a similar taste to cinnamon in terms of being warm, sweet, and peppery. You can use mace in equal quantities in most recipes that call for cinnamon sticks.
What you need to know about cinnamon allergy
Besides its flavor and aroma, cinnamon is known for its health benefits. It’s rich in antioxidants and has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
However, not everyone can safely consume this spice. The proteins in cinnamon can trigger allergic reactions. Symptoms include nausea and stomach pain. In rare situations, it can cause anaphylaxis, characterized by breathing difficulties and a sudden drop in blood pressure.
People with cinnamon allergies suffer from a restrictive diet, which can eventually lead to a low quality of life.
As a wide range of food and beverages use this spice, you should know a safe alternative that can deliver the comforting flavor of cinnamon. You can use allspice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and mace. Note that as with apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice contains cinnamon.