Skip to Content

What Is Cinnamon? From Bark To Bake, Get To Know This Popular Spice

Are you here to see if you can get some spicy answers about what is cinnamon? Thanks for coming by. Not only will you know what it is, but you’ll also learn what it tastes like and other significant facts surrounding cinnamon. 

Cinnamon is a popular spice that’s often used for both sweet and savory dishes. 

Your apple or pumpkin pie spice is incomplete without it, too!

It can be found in most grocery stores or online—either ground or stick form—and the spice is a staple in Sri-Lankan and Indian cuisine. 

To cut to the chase, let’s discuss what you need to know, from what cinnamon is, where it comes from, and its culinary uses.

What is cinnamon

Contents

Cinnamon is a popular spice made from the inner bark of different tree species that belongs to the genus Cinnamomum. 

The strips of the inner bark are dried until they curl into rolls, which are also called cinnamon sticks or quills. 

The product can be ground into powder or made into an extract. 

Native to India and Sri Lanka, the underrated spice adds a distinctive sweet-spicy flavor in various recipes such as chili, tacos, bread, cookies, apple desserts, French toast, pudding, and so much more. 

There are four major cinnamon varieties sold in culinary use: cassia or Chinese cinnamon, Vietnamese or Saigon cinnamon, Indonesian cinnamon, and Ceylon cinnamon or also dubbed as true cinnamon. 

Each type has its flavor profile and cinnamaldehyde content, an aromatic compound responsible for contributing to the fragrance and taste of the spice.

What does cinnamon taste like

The taste of cinnamon depends on its variety. However, cinnamon is generally sweet and woody with a slightly citrusy flavor and spicy undertone due to the presence of cinnamaldehyde.

Cinnamon varieties have their cinnamaldehyde content, meaning their flavor profile is somehow different from one another. 

For instance, Saigon and cassia cinnamon have the highest cinnamaldehyde content than other types of cinnamon, giving that noticeable stronger flavor. 

Meanwhile, baking enthusiasts are fond of Indonesian cinnamon as it tends to be less spicy with a balanced warm, and woodsy taste.

Types of cinnamon

As mentioned, there are different species of cinnamon available in the market, here are a few of them.

1. Chinese Cinnamon

Chinese cinnamon or cassia is popular for its dark brown-red color, thicker sticks, and rough texture. 

It comes from the Cinnamomum cassia tree which originates from Southern China. 

The spice is described as spicier and more pungent. 

2. Vietnamese Cinnamon

Vietnamese cinnamon or Saigon comes from the Cinnamomum Loureiro tree and features a strong, sweet, and spicy taste. 

And because it contains more cinnamaldehyde than other types, meaning this variety is bolder when it comes to flavor and aroma.

3. Indonesian Cinnamon

Indonesian cinnamon or Cinnamomum burmannii is another type of cinnamon famed for its thick quills, red-brown color exterior, and gray-brown interior. 

It’s less spicy than Chinese and Vietnamese cinnamon and commonly used in beef rendang, a delicious dry curry made from beef and aromatic sauce.

4. Ceylon Cinnamon

Widely known as true cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon comes from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree. 

It has a tan-brown hue with a thin and papery texture. 

This spice variety is native to Sri Lanka but it can also be found in some parts of South Asia and Mexico. 

Ceylon has less cinnamaldehyde with more flavor and clove-like taste.

Short history of cinnamon

Cinnamon is considered one of the first traded spices in the ancient world. 

During the Middle Ages, Arab traders sold cinnamon to Venetian traders from Italy who held a spice trade monopoly throughout Europe.

The rising demand for cinnamon in Europe started the quest for finding the origin of cinnamon with Spaniards setting sail towards newfound America and Portuguese searching towards Africa. 

At the end of the 15th century, Portuguese traders discovered Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) an island where the cinnamon spice was abundant. 

The Portuguese have then established a monopoly for a century. However, during the 17th century, the Dutch took control of the island of Ceylon. 

The monopoly of cinnamon came to an end after the cultivation of the true cinnamon spread throughout the world.

Tips on cooking with cinnamon

Both cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon can be bought in the grocery store and can incorporate nice flavors into various recipes. 

However, in case you want to add cinnamon into liquids, it’s recommended to use cracked full sticks as they offer a subtle flavor without overpowering the mixture. 

Choose ground cinnamon for dishes that require the spice’s potency such as Indian mulligatawny soup and pecan pie

If you’re new to cinnamon, one of the easiest recipes is cinnamon tea

You just need a cinnamon stick, teabag, and boiling water. 

Sugar, honey, lemon juice, and milk can be added to the mixture but you can enjoy the drink as is. 

And remember, once ground, cinnamon gradually loses its oils which provide its flavor and aroma. 

So it’s best to buy cinnamon sticks and grind them with a spice grinder at home to fully benefit the fresh oils of the spice.

How to store cinnamon

Whether it’s ground or sticks, it’s advisable to store your cinnamon properly so they remain fresh for a long period. 

If you’re wondering how to store cinnamon the right way, here’s how you do it:

Ground

Ground cinnamon tends to last for up to two years but is best to consume within 6 to 12 months for best quality. 

Similar to other ground spices, storing ground spice is quite straightforward. 

Here’s how to store ground cinnamon: 

Tools needed:

    • Ground cinnamon
    • Airtight container with lid, mason jar

Instruction for storing ground cinnamon:

    1. Place ground cinnamon in an airtight container or a mason jar. 
    2. Seal it tightly. Store the spice in a place away from light, heat, and moisture. 
    3. Enjoy the spice for up to two years.

Sticks

The same as ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks have a shelf life of up to two years. 

However, keep in mind that the taste and smell of the spice deteriorate over time. 

Here’s how to store cinnamon sticks: 

Tools needed:

    • Cinnamon sticks
    • Airtight container, mason jar

Instruction for storing cinnamon sticks:

    1. Put cinnamon sticks in an airtight container or mason jar. 
    2. Store the sticks in a cool, dry, dark area of your kitchen, like in the pantry.

Ways to use cinnamon

Cinnamon is often used to flavor sweet dishes, but it’s a common ingredient for savory recipes as well. 

Here are other ways to use your cinnamon:

  1. Use cinnamon to make these decadent yet easy cupcakes.
  2. Create buttercream frosting by mixing sugar, milk, vanilla, butter, and cinnamon. 
  3. Incorporate an aromatic cinnamon flavor into your baked apple slices. 
  4. Make use of ground spice to make this cinnamon French toast
  5. Combine cinnamon with vanilla extract, butter, and powdered sugar and make this homemade cinnamon butter.
  6. Make our version of cinnamon sugar.

The bottom line

The sweet-spicy flavor and pleasant aroma of cinnamon make it a go-to ingredient for cinnamon rolls and cinnamon buns. 

And if you haven’t tried using the spice for savory dishes, you’re missing out big time—you will love having this warming pumpkin chili or this seasoned chicken. Yum!

Whether you’re new to this entire cinnamon game or you simply want to experiment with the spice, I genuinely hope that you learn something from this guide and I answer all your questions involving cinnamon. 

Check out my compilation of the best cinnamon substitutes here. (I think it’s not posted yet; Will add link once posted)

⏲️⏲️ It’s Cinnamon Toast Time! ⏲️⏲️

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Tea

Quick and Easy Cinnamon Tea

Yield: 2

Enjoy a warm cup of this Cinnamon tea any time of the day!

Ingredients

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 c of water
  • Honey (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, place your Cinnamon sticks and add in two cups of water.
  2. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes
  3. Take out the sticks with tongs. Add to a composting bin.
  4. Serve with drops of honey as desired.

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Skip to Recipe