When it comes to spices that are used for baked goods and sweet treats, cinnamon is definitely on top. From sticky cinnamon rolls to cinnamon-topped hot chocolate, it’s always a treat to have. But what if you run out? What cinnamon substitute can you use?
Luckily, nature provides a long list of spices that can take the place of cinnamon in a recipe when you’re in a pinch. Many of these spices are warm and intensely aromatic, but are equally capable of rounding out flavors — sweet or savory — as well as cinnamon can.
Even though it’s widely accessible, you may find yourself running short of this well-loved spice. Don’t miss out on delicious recipes by discovering below the best substitute for cinnamon that you can use.
What Is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon, which comes from the inner bark of trees that belong to the genus Cinnamomum, is one of the most popular spices in cooking and baking. Most of the time, cinnamon is added to a recipe to add a woody spice to both savory and sweet dishes and confections.
In addition, cinnamon is an excellent ingredient for food because of its health benefits, like helping lower blood sugar levels, its anti-inflammatory properties, and even being packed with antioxidants!
When you go to your local store, you may find different kinds of cinnamon: Ceylon, Saigon, Korintje, and Cassia. If you’re looking for that “true” cinnamon flavor, that’s Ceylon.
Meanwhile, Saigon cinnamon provides a more intense and sweet flavor profile. On the other hand, Korintje is considered by a lot of pastry chefs and bakers as the best for its bittersweet profile.
Thanks to its affordability, cassia cinnamon is one of the most widely produced. It’s also way more intense compared to Ceylon cinnamon.
Why Find a Cinnamon Substitute?
Cinnamon is a common spice that you can buy practically anywhere. However, there are times when you won’t have time to go to the store and grab more when you run out.
When this happens, instead of skipping out on the depth this spice may provide, you can use an alternative to add the same complexity to your recipe.
I love cinnamon, but I know not everyone has the same sentiment. Many desserts and savory meals call for cinnamon, but people who prefer other flavor profiles don’t have to miss out just because they don’t like cinnamon.
When it comes to flavor, many recipes are lenient when using alternatives, and the same can be said for those that need cinnamon as an ingredient.
While uncommon, some people suffer food sensitivities or allergies from ingesting cinnamon. If this is the case, it’s better to use a cinnamon alternative instead of risking suffering the adverse effects of cinnamon on your body.
7 Best Cinnamon Alternatives
Most of us are familiar with the taste of nutmeg from eggnog. Because of this flavor, ground nutmeg is a go-to cinnamon substitute. It provides a warm and spicy flavor like cinnamon, and some sweetness.
On top of this, nutmeg also has a deep aroma like cinnamon, making it a good contender for a substitute in both sweet and savory dishes. From baked goods and desserts to sauces and stews, nutmeg adds a dimension to cinnamon’s flavor.
If you’re thinking of using this as a substitute, though, remember that a little goes a long way. Nutmeg has a stronger taste, so you must use less than the amount of cinnamon a recipe calls for. Use 1/4 the amount of nutmeg as you would cinnamon for best results.
Another popular cinnamon alternative is allspice. While it also can work well with savory dishes, as a cinnamon substitute, it works best in sweet treats like pastries and baked goods.
Allspice has a similar flavor profile to cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves mixed together. It also has a stronger flavor compared to cinnamon, so use it sparingly when using it as a substitute.
If you want to do so, use only half the amount of allspice as you would use cinnamon in a recipe.
In a pinch, I also love using cloves as a substitute for cinnamon. Cloves provide a sweet, spicy, and earthy flavor profile. They also bring an intense aroma to any dish.
Like many spices on this list, cloves are more potent tastewise than cinnamon. Nevertheless, they are arguably the best substitute for cinnamon you can easily get, especially for baked goods. Of course, you can also use them in savory dishes, especially curry.
The ratio of replacing cinnamon with cloves varies depending on the form of clove you’re using. If you have ground cloves, you can substitute at a 1:1 ratio. However, if you are using whole cloves, use four small pieces in a dish for every tablespoon or stick of cinnamon.
Another go-to cinnamon substitute you should consider is cardamom. Overall, it provides an entirely different taste compared to cinnamon, but the flavor profile comes with a similar warmth and aroma.
While you can use cardamom as an alternative to cinnamon in sweet pastries and baked goods, cardamom excels better in savory meals, like stews, and as an additive to sauces. It’s easy to use cardamom in place of cinnamon: you simply need to substitute it in a 1:1 ratio.
Ginger is a widely used spice in savory dishes, especially Asian dishes like teriyaki chicken. But did you know you can also use it as an alternative to cinnamon?
Yes, cinnamon and ginger don’t have the same flavor, but if you’re looking for something spicy to use, this one is your best bet. This spice brings in a unique sharp flavor and aroma that can provide complexity to any dish, sweet or savory.
As a great substitute for cinnamon, you are better off using ground ginger. You can use it in a 1:1 ratio, but for best results, start with a smaller amount of ginger and add more as needed.
6. Pumpkin Pie Spice
You read that right: pumpkin pie spice is a good alternative to cinnamon in recipes. Why? The answer is simple: This spice mix uses ground cinnamon as a key ingredient. It also contains ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice.
This spice mix works great as a replacement for cinnamon, mainly for baked goods and drinks, but some savory meals can also benefit from it. This spice mix has a stronger and more intense aroma and flavor than just cinnamon. For best results, start with less and add more to taste.
7. Star Anise
When it comes to fragrant spices, star anise is a well-loved choice. While it has a different flavor profile, it’s still warm and sweet, like cinnamon. Many describe star anise’s flavor profile as a mix of cinnamon and licorice. Because of this, you can substitute cinnamon with star anise in most recipes — from baked goods to savory stews.
Star anise can be intense, but it’s not too overwhelming. However, since it’s more potent than cinnamon, use only 1/4 teaspoon of ground star anise for every teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
What to Look For in a Cinnamon Substitute
If you want to create recipes that call for cinnamon, but you don’t have any, looking for an alternative is a good option. But what makes a good substitute for this hearty spice?
The cinnamon substitutes mentioned above don’t produce a perfect dupe of cinnamon’s flavor profile. After all, the taste of cinnamon is definitely unique.
However, some spices have similar flavor profiles despite having a different taste. Consider getting warm and aromatic spices when you want to use a cinnamon substitute. Choose ones that provide sweetness, or earthy or woody flavor notes similar to cinnamon.
While cinnamon does have a certain sweetness, it’s not strong enough to be a sugar substitute. Luckily, you can easily find many natural sweeteners nowadays, like agave syrup, stevia, and monkfruit.
Yes. Cinnamon is not only tasty, it also has a long list of benefits. Some of these include anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, antioxidant properties, benefits for digestive health, and more.
Ceylon cinnamon is considered the healthiest type of cinnamon you can get. It has the lowest level of coumarin, which may be harmful if ingested in large quantities.
Hearty Cinnamon Substitutes
Given how accessible cinnamon is, it’s hard to imagine needing a substitute for it. However, for one reason or another, you may opt to look for similar spices that are equally warm and bold as cinnamon.
Apart from its unique flavor, cinnamon also rounds out the flavor of any dish, adding a level of depth and sophistication to its taste. The cinnamon substitutes listed above provide a similar effect to a dish, but don’t expect the same exact flavor as you would get with cinnamon.
Nevertheless, thanks to these alternatives, more and more people don’t have to miss out on sumptuous dishes that call for cinnamon. Try one of these substitutes out and see how well they perform.