It may look like the usual cinnamon spice to you, but are you picking the right cinnamon type? Knowing the subtle differences between different the cinnamon varieties will help you choose the type that is most to your taste.
Woody, aromatic and an emotional trigger that denotes festivities, cinnamon spice is used in many cuisines and in different ways not just limited to baking.
One of the worlds most widely used spice, cinnamon has found it’s way into many kitchens around the world!
If you have been to an Indian kitchen or attended an Indian cooking class you may have noticed the frequent use of cinnamon bark instead of ground cinnamon.
Cinnamon bark or quills as few call it is the whole natural form of cinnamon.
How Many Types Of Cinnamon Are There?
Apart from the popularly used ground cinnamon and cinnamon stick, there are different kinds of cinnamon barks used for cooking purposes. Having the knowledge of the different cinnamon types that you can choose from will change the flavour game for you.
Each cinnamon variety depends on the cinnamon tree it comes from.
The 4 most common types of cinnamon found in the market are
- Saigon, and
- Korintje Cinnamon.
However, for ease we will stick to the two varieties popularly sold and used for cooking.
That is Cassia and Ceylon
Difference Between Cassia and Ceylon Cinnamon
Cassia is the variety used in Indian cuisine while Ceylon is popular outside Asia.
They look different and taste slightly different as well.
What is Ceylon cinnamon?
Ceylon also known as ‘True Cinnamon’ is the type that in grown in Srilanka and parts of Southern India.
It is the commonly found cinnamon in most super markets.
Appearance – It is tan brown in colour with a smooth skin and tighter rolls or quills.
Taste – The taste and fragrance of Ceylon cinnamon is mild and sweeter compared to cassia. It is the type that you normally associate with cinnamon. Ceylon type of cinnamon also has a slightly bitter undertone than other varieties.
Uses – Ceylon cinnamon is also used in Ayurvedic treatments for the favourable medicinal properties. Being sweeter, it is the preferred type of cinnamon to use for baking, drinks and desserts.
Add it to chia pudding, smoothies, coffee, shakes, roasted veges, cooked fruits for a warming taste.
What is Cassia Cinnamon ?
Cassia is native to China and also known as Chinese cinnamon.
This is the type that is most commonly used in Indian or South Asian cooking.
Cassia is considered the inferior or the lower grade cinnamon and is cheaper to Ceylon cinnamon.
Cassia can be further divided into 2 different types of cinnamon primarily based on the native region of growth of the tree.
It could be the Saigon, Chinese , Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Indian variety to name a few.
Appearance – No matter where they originate from the cassia cinnamon essentially have the same appearance.They are dark brown, rough and have a more bark like texture. They come mostly in straight form instead of curls.
Taste – It is difficult to tell the difference between Cassia and Ceylon cinnamon as the undertone of both the types are very similar. The only slight difference is in the strength.
Cassia has a much stronger and woody taste compared to Ceylon. It is more woody in taste
Uses – Because of the more pronounced earthiness, cassia is used for making both sweet and savoury dishes curries and gravy based dishes.
You can also add it to sweet based dishes like pies and pancakes, porridge, oats, fruits, honey.
Can You Use Any Type Of Cinnamon?
When buying cinnamon from a superstore it is difficult to know the different cinnamon types unless it is written so on the pack or jar. For someone not too familiar with spices it is hard to tell the difference.
The two types of cinnamon are differentiated by their originality, climatic conditions to harvest, and the chemical compounds that all has an affect on their taste, smell and appearance.
So, in essence you can use any kind of cinnamon that is readily available. It will hardly have much of an impact on the flavour of the dish.
If you were to ask what is the best type of cinnamon, my reply and preference would be the Ceylon cinnamon due to the fragrance, and flexibility of use.
Other Uses of Cinnamon
The most common and widely used cinnamon variety is cinnamon powder.
Ground cinnamon spice in convenient to use as you use it in the similar way what you would any other powdered spices.
But did you know that the whole cinnamon stick has a much varied and versatile use compared to the ground version.
Tips on the uses of cinnamon in cooking has been explained in detail in the linked post.
Some refer Ceylon as the true cinnamon while Cassia is known as the fake cinnamon, this does not hold true. Both are good cinnamon as long as they are been sustainably grown, sourced and packaged.
You are unlikely to buy a ‘wrong’ type of cinnamon.
The uses of both kinds are similar as they have the same flavour undertones.
So go on and bring this festive flavour into your homes and in your dishes.