You may be surprised to know that there are two main types of spice labeled as cinnamon.
One type is labeled as Cinnamon and the other is labeled Cassia. The one most commonly used in the U.S. is called cassia.
BUT – Cassia Is Not Real Cinnamon.
Later in the article we will discuss cooking with cinnamon, but first let’s see what’s the difference between what is cinnamon and what is passed off as cinnamon.
How to Tell the Difference Between Cinnamon & Cassia
Real cinnamon sticks or quills curl in a telescopic form, in a perfect circle.
It has a pale color and is comprised of many thin layers of bark rather than a single coiled strip of bark like cassia.
Whole True Cinnamon bark can easily be ground in a coffee grinder.
Cinnamon is also known as Ceylon cinnamon – named after the country of origin, Ceylon (formerly Sir Lanka).
Cassia is not necessarily another name for cinnamon as it is a completely different spice, though they both are related.
It is is cheaper to produce and has a bolder, less subtle flavor than true cinnamon, so it is sometimes referred to as “bastard cinnamon,” or “false cinnamon.”
Cassis or False Cinnamon Sticks
Cassia sticks curl inward from both sides, appearing like a scroll. The sticks are very hard to break and will not grind easily in a coffee grinder.
According to Burlap & Barrel the sole importers of Cinnamon Verum from Zanzibar says it’s perfect for savory dishes like tomato sauces, stews, chili and barbecue rubs, as well as for baked goods and breakfasts like oatmeal or pancakes.
The Spruce Eats says that Cassia is usually a better choice for savory dishes, rather than sweets, while true cinnamon (Cinnamon Verum) is best for sweet baked goods.
What Do They Taste Like?
True Cinnamon has a warm, sweet flavor and pungent aroma.
The taste and scent come from cinnamaldehyde, which makes up most of the essential oil of cinnamon, but also 80 additional aromatic compounds.
Cassia has a stronger flavor than the more subtle true cinnamon, which can have floral notes.
Cooking With Cinnamon
When reading a recipe that calls for cinnamon, you can safely assume it refers to the common cassia cinnamon from the supermarket.
You will find recipes that call for cinnamon sticks or quills while others call for ground or powdered cinnamon.
Ground cinnamon can be added before cooking or baking as it will maintain its flavor and aroma.
When flavoring drinks, such as egg nog, a cinnamon stick can add flavor without overpowering the other ingredients.
A sprinkle of ground cinnamon can be used to top again, egg nog or other hot drinks such as hot chocolate, a mocha, or latte.
Cinnamon and Cassia are both commonly used in the culinary to flavor foods and beverages.
Although cassia it is often used to flavor sweet foods, it can also lend warmth and flavor to savory meat and some Indian dishes.
So in conclusion, if you’re eating cinnamon every day, great – just make sure it’s the right kind.
In the U.K., if it says cinnamon, then it’s Ceylon cinnamon. Chinese cinnamon is labeled cassia.
In the U.S., though, they can both just be labeled cinnamon, and since Chinese is cheaper, that’s what most cinnamon is on our shelves. So make sure it specifies Ceylon.