Flavor Investigator: Cinnamon

During the winter months there is nothing better than consuming the warm and sweet spice, cinnamon. Cinnamon has had a long and interesting history with humans as it can be dated back to 2000BC.  The Egyptians utilized “true” cinnamon along with its closely related cousin cassia during embalming processes. It has even been mentioned in the Old Testament as an ingredient in anointing oil. Furthermore, this spice was also one of the driving factors which led Christopher Columbus to seek out the New World.

There are two varieties of cinnamon which are found in the supermarket, ceylon and cassia.  The more common of the two is cassia (cinnamomum aromaticum or C.loureirdi) which is primarily produced in Indonesia. However, it is not considered to be “true” cinnamon. Instead, the dried inner stem-bark of Cinnamomum verum (ceylon) is considered to be “true” cinnamon and is mostly cultivated in Sri Lanka, Malagasy Republic and Seychelles.  In Chinese cuisine cinnamon recipes usually call for cassia as China is the spices place or origin. In contrast, Southeast Asian and Mexican cuisines will use ceylon as it is used in traditional Mexican moles.

Ceylon Cinnamon versus Cassia

Although they are both referred to as cinnamon, these two varieties have subtle differences in flavour profiles. Recipes which contain bold flavours such as pies, cookies and chocolate need a stronger cinnamon to stand up to them. Cassia is able to hold its ground against heavy flours. Furthermore, because the spice contains a spicy note it melds well with sweets. Other traditional spices such a clove, nutmeg and allspice when added will add a further level of dimension.

In contrast, when you are looking to add cinnamon to a recipe with more mellow flavours than your best bet is ceylon. Because ceylon cinnamon has a less pronounced spice note and subtler flavour it pairs well with chocolate, vanilla and citrus. Furthermore, it performs well in savoury applications because of its subtleness it acts as a good background note to rich sauces and beef broths.


The main compound which is responsible for the scent and identifiable flavour of cinnamon is cinnamaldehyde also known as cinnamic aldehyde. Cinnamaldehyde was originally isolated in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Dumas and Eugène-Melchior Péligot. When isolated the compound is yellow and has the odour of cinnamon. There are multiple methods which can be used to obtain cinnamaldehyde but the most economical method is through steam distillation.

Possible Unique Flavour Combinations

  • Cinnamon and Watermelon– Despite being sweet and having cucumber and vegetable undertones, watermelon has the ability to pair with cinnamon. Cinnamon adds warm, woody notes which mimic carrots creating a warm, refreshing pairing.
  • Cinnamon and Mint- Mint is refreshing and has a cooling effect on your pallet. It is sometimes seen as a jelly for beef dishes. Combining mint with the warm elements of cinnamon can offset each other when paired with beef or in a tea.
  • Cinnamon and Peanuts- This combination is frequently seen in Indonesian cooking. Peanuts when roasted have toasted, nutty and fatty notes which pair well with the warm flavour notes cinnamon contains.


Cinnamaldehyde | C9H8O | ChemSpider. (2017). Chemspider.com. Retrieved 19 May 2017, from http://www.chemspider.com/Chemical-Structure.553117.html?rid=6d9ad307-1722-4963-8325-dba6382b42c5

Sign Up For Our Weekly 5 Course Meal

I pick out 5 pieces of content from the latest food industry news to the greatest new products and leave my snarky comments every week.

History, C. (2017). Cinnamon’s Spicy History – Hungry History. HISTORY.com. Retrieved 19 May 2017, from http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/cinnamons-spicy-history

Phung, A. (2017). Cinnamon. scienceandfooducla. Retrieved 19 May 2017, from https://scienceandfooducla.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/cinnamon/



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *