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Cinnamon sticks reserve a spotlight for their unique spice level that no other spice can provide. It is used in various dishes, including bakes, mulled wine, curries, and casseroles. What if you have used up all the cinnamon in the last batch of cookies, and now you need to make more? How can you substitute it?
The best substitutes for cinnamon sticks are ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves, pumpkin spice mixes, star anise, cinnamon extract, cassia, or cardamom. The best substitute for cinnamon by purpose depends on the type of dish (savory or sweet) and how it must be used (whole or ground).
You may find it hard to replace, but by the end of this post, you will find the best substitutes and how to choose, and where to use which. Let’s read to find out!
Commonly Used Substitutes For Cinnamon Stick
Some of the most commonly used substitutes are:
The first cinnamon substitute that I am going to introduce to you is ground cinnamon. Among all the substitutes discussed in this post, this one must be the most similar to the cinnamon sticks. It is also the easiest that you can simply obtain by grinding cinnamon.
The ground cinnamon has a similar flavor to fresh cinnamon: the citrusy aroma and moderately woody-spicy taste. In short, you can use both ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks alternatively without any consideration.
For the question about the quantity, I can confirm that you can use both these products in a ratio of 1:1, so 100g of powder can substitute 100g of cinnamon bars.
Nutmeg is rarely used alone, but it is most commonly used along with cinnamon. As the name suggests, it has quite a nutty flavor. But it also has the warm and aromatic flavor of cinnamon.
Nutmeg is an excellent substitute for sweet and savory dishes due to its nutty and almost peppery flavors. Nutmeg is used in several dishes, such as curries, in the same way as cinnamon. You can substitute the same amount of nutmeg in place of cinnamon powder.
Although nutmeg is very similar to cinnamon, it is still quite different from cinnamon. It has a more profound and sharper flavor than cinnamon. So, you may have to add some extra sugar or a sweetener to your recipe while using it in a sweet dish. This will help to balance the sharpness of the nutmeg that is usually not a quality of cinnamon.
You cannot use nutmeg as a whole, unlike clove or star anise. Nutmeg is a seed that is used in ground form. One may think that it’s walnut from its appearance, but when you open it, It is solid from inside. I haven’t seen nutmeg sold whole and in its natural state because it is next to impossible to use it like this. So, it is always sold in ground form.
I would suggest combining nutmeg with fennel seeds in your recipes to complement the spiciness. The peppery flavor of fennel seeds with the sweet earthy nutmeg makes a fantastic combination that raises the smell and taste of the recipe.
Allspice, unlike its name, is a specific type of spice. It is not a combination of herbs like “5 Spice” or some other spice seasonings.
Allspice is known as “myrtle pepper,” “Jamaica pepper,” “pimento,” or “pimenta.” Allspice is neither seed nor a root but a berry. It is prepared by drying and grinding the unripe berries of the Pimenta pimento tree” from Jamaica. It is also available dried in its original berry shape.
Having all the spiciness in the fruit, the spice level of allspice is a bit higher than cinnamon, honestly. Add one-fourth the amount of allspice compared to the number of cinnamon sticks desired in a particular recipe. However, this quantity can vary depending on the recipe.
Allspice is used in curry and meat recipes as its tender texture is effortless to blend and mix into dishes during cooking.
Ginger is often used in combination with cinnamon, but it is also used alone very often. It is sold fresh in its natural root form as well as dried and ground up. To use ginger as a substitute for cinnamon, buy it in dried and ground form. You can add the same amount of ginger powder to substitute cinnamon.
Although you can use ginger, both sweet and savory dishes, it has quite a different flavor. Cinnamon is characterized by a rich and smoky flavor, while ginger has a sharp and sweet taste. So, to replace cinnamon with ginger accurately, it is a good idea to add some nutmeg or another spice.
Cloves offer a robust flavor. You must have known about it if you’ve ever tried clove-spiced ham and eaten a piece accidentally. If you are using cloves as a whole, you should remove them from the foods before serving.
Cloves are an option you can use in sweet dishes, but they are more suitable for savory dishes. They are much suited if you want something aromatic and spicy but not too sweet. You can use cloves in many dishes like curries, meats, sauces, and chutneys.
Star anise is most commonly used in combination with cinnamon. As the name shows, they are shaped like a star. Their flavor is almost a cross between cinnamon and licorice. They have a flavor similar to cinnamon in terms of aroma and warmth but different at the same time because they have a much sharper taste.
Star anise is the best option for a savory dish as it doesn’t give a particularly sweet flavor. They are sold in their solid star shape and are rarely found ground. It means that, just like cloves, star anise needs to be removed from food before serving to avoid the strong unpleasant flavor when chewed.
Pumpkin Spice Seasoning
Pumpkin spice seasoning has nothing to do with pumpkin. It is best suited for sweet dishes because pumpkin spice seasoning will likely have sugar or sweeteners added to the recipe.
Pumpkin spice seasoning includes nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and other similarly warm and aromatic spices. You may find it to be an even better alternative for cinnamon. It can add something different to your recipes. The different spices added will give an even more intense, sweeter, and aromatic flavor.
A fantastic way to add the flavor of cinnamon without using the physical ground cinnamon or sticks is Cinnamon Extract.
Ground cinnamon is not dissolved, and sediments after some time while the sticks need to be removed. So, they are not good options for some dishes like mousses, coffee, and the ones that don’t require baking or need cinnamon but cannot be removed later. This is the scenario where cinnamon extract comes in.
Extracts are an easy way of adding flavor to a dish. Cinnamon extract is best suited to sweet dishes and bakes as it has a concentrated flavor. This means that it would not have the same heavy and aromatic flavor that fresh cinnamon will provide you. But, it still contains some aspects of fresh cinnamon.
The cinnamon extract also includes other ingredients like preservatives that are not necessarily bad for you, but they can impact the flavor.
No doubt, cinnamon is considered one of the most versatile and popular flavors and spices; still, it is not found in the form of extract very often. So, you may have to visit a cooking or baking store to find it. You likely won’t find it in your local grocery store.
Cassia, also called “Chinese cinnamon,” is said to be a close relative of the traditional and well-known cinnamon. It is obtained by cutting down the seeds of Cinnamomum cassia trees. It is then dried, fermented, and curled in the form of rolls.
It is sold in the form of bark, just like cinnamon. It sometimes looks similar to the rolls of cinnamon bark. Cassia is also sold in the form of small strips of bark that are similar to the bark you see on most other trees, such as oak. You can also find it ground.
The process is the same as the cassia tree, and the cinnamon tree comes from the laurel tree family. Therefore, cassia and cinnamon are factually the same and can be substituted without any problem.
This can serve to be a great option if you don’t have cinnamon but need a very close substitute. However, if you taste it carefully, you may realize that the cassia provides a more robust spiciness than cinnamon, making it an excellent match to savory dishes.
Finally, let me take you to another excellent cinnamon substitute – cranberry sauce. The cranberry sauce is a perfect combination of sweet and tangy taste with an aromatic fragrance prepared using cranberry, cinnamon, and honey.
If you judge from the manufacturing process, you can see that the cranberry sauce is prepared from cinnamon, so the sweet-but-spicy flavor of cinnamon remains in the cranberry sauce.
With that said, the cinnamon sticks and cranberry sauce are suitable substitutes for each other in cooking. However, you cannot use cranberry sauce for the recipes that use cinnamon sticks as a topping because the cranberry sauce will mix into the food.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cinnamon Sticks
What To Use As A Substitute For Cinnamon In Banana Bread?
Banana bread recipes most commonly include cinnamon as an ingredient; however, if you’re in a bind and the recipe calls for it, you can use nutmeg as a substitute for cinnamon. Although nutmeg is not often used as a spice alone, it is used in combination with other herbs, especially cinnamon, because of its similar earthy tone.
Nutmeg is incredibly versatile and a great aromatic spice that can be used for both sweet and savory dishes. With that said, it will surely bring a nutty warmth to your banana bread that will make it more delicious and will leave everyone longing for more.
However, keep in mind that nutmeg can have a bit sharper and deeper flavor than cinnamon, so you may have to compensate with a dash of sugar.
Does Allspice Contain Cinnamon?
Although allspice possesses all the flavors of cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon combined, opposite to popular belief, allspice is not actually a blend of different spices. Its taste, instead, comes from the dried unripe berry of the Pimenta tree.
Allspice belongs to the Caribbean, Central America, and Mexico. It has a diverse flavor profile. Allspice is spicy and aromatic, providing a flavor reminiscent of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, with a slight peppery overtone.
However, beware as some spice companies sell a mixture of spices labeled as ‘allspice,’ so you will need to look at the ingredients to make sure that you’re getting the proper allspice.
Is Nutmeg The Same As Cinnamon?
Not at all; nutmeg is not the same as cinnamon. Instead, they are commonly used in a combination in a variety of sweet and savory recipes. However, you can use nutmeg as a substitute for cinnamon if you find yourself out of it.
No doubt, they’re both delicious, versatile, and can work very well together; there are some noteworthy differences when talking about nutmeg and cinnamon.
In terms of volume, nutmeg is used in significantly less quantity than cinnamon. Nutmeg is said to be ‘a dash of’ kind of spice; conversely, cinnamon can be used in more significant amounts mixed with butter or sugar without overpowering the dish.
Cinnamon is taken from the tree’s bark, while nutmeg is the seed of the nutmeg fruit. Cinnamon bark is obtained from the tree and then dried, while the seed of the nutmeg fruit is dried within its shell and then ground or sold as a whole.
Difference Between Allspice And Cinnamon?
Both cinnamon and allspice are amazingly versatile spices that can be used in various sweet and savory dishes.
Whereas allspice is obtained from the dried unripe berry of the Pimenta dioica tree, cinnamon is obtained from dried aromatic bark derived from varieties of evergreen trees that belong to the genus Cinnamomum.
The main difference lies in the flavors. Allspice has a significantly deeper flavor than cinnamon. Despite the differences, these spices work well to add complexity to your dish.
Overall, cinnamon is considered one of the most accessible flavors and spices to substitute with many other spices. Many different spices offer a similar flavor and aromatic essence to cinnamon. All these can be used as a direct substitution, but they are best when used in combination.
For instance, ginger and nutmeg can balance each other out, providing a better substitution than using one individually. For me, the best substitute for cinnamon is allspice or nutmeg. These spices are closest in both flavor and overall versatility. Ginger can also provide you with health benefits.