Whenever we visit our local grocery store, there always seems to be a random dent on the spice shelf.
Every now and then, there is a massive supply shortage of this or that spice. Finding something as common as cinnamon can become a frustrating struggle.
Sometimes, you’re just out and need a quick substitute! Or maybe, you’re just a little tired of cinnamon or somebody else in the house isn’t a big fan.
If only there was someone to help you find the best substitutes! Oh wait, there is! Of course, we’ve got you covered! Cinnamon has a surprising amount of substitutions that you are bound to find somewhere.
So, what are the best substitutes for cinnamon? The best substitutes for cinnamon are cassia, allspice, pumpkin/apple pie spice mixes, cloves, nutmeg, or cardamom, if you can’t use cinnamon extract. The best substitute for cinnamon by purpose will depend on the dish (savory or sweet) and how it must be used (whole or ground).
In this article, we will not only discuss the best substitutes but also how to choose where to use which. We have also included some reviews of our favorite substitutes at the end.
Cinnamon is as ancient as ancient spices go. The first recorded trade of cinnamon was 2000 BC to Egypt, so who knows how long it has been around before then.
It was an extremely sought after spice and often considered one of the best gifts that could be given to monarchs and even deities (sacred supernatural beings).
Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a cinnamon tree. There are a few different types of these trees, but all yield the same product – both in texture, flavor, and color.
Over the years, as trade between continents increased as well as the rise in international travel and fusion cuisine, so did the popularity of cinnamon.
Today, China and Indonesia produce the majority of the world’s cinnamon supply.
Cinnamon in Food
You would be shocked if you realized how often cinnamon is used in food!
Cinnamon comes in two main forms: cinnamon sticks/quills or ground cinnamon. They taste exactly the same but are just used in different ways.
Ground cinnamon can easily be incorporated into most dishes as it is already in its finest form.
Cinnamon sticks can also be ground but are more often used to infuse liquids such as milk or cream. This makes it easier to remove the stick and not have any cinnamon granules in the product.
The reason many people use cinnamon sticks instead of powder is because it flavors the product without changing the color or texture in any way.
Cinnamon powder doesn’t dissolve, so this is an easier way to get the flavor without the specks of spice altering the drink.
Many people claim that the taste is more intense, but from personal experience, it is only more intense if you infuse it for longer. The same result can be achieved by adding more cinnamon powder.
Cinnamon is a very popular ingredient when it comes to making desserts, or other sweet dishes. It is often used in combination with other spices such as vanilla, cardamom, or cloves.
That is one of the greatest things about cinnamon. It can be easily incorporated into a dish along with other spices and blends in beautifully – unlike spices that easily overpower other ingredients, like cloves or nutmeg or chilis.
You can make cinnamon ice cream, cinnamon rolls, cinnamon-flavored cupcakes, and French toast – not to mention the thousands of cinnamon-flavored traditional puddings from across the world.
There is apple pie, carrot cake, churros, pancakes with cinnamon sugar, gingerbread cookies, oat bars, baked custards, and many, many more.
Most of us only know cinnamon as an ingredient for sweeter things, however, cinnamon is actually just as often used on the savory side of the spectrum.
Most commonly, it is used in spice blends that are used to flavor various meats and vegetables. These spice blends can either be used as-is or incorporated into a marinade, a dry rub, or a stewing liquid.
The sticks are very often used as a flavoring ingredient and garnish when the dish is served. They are best used in soups and stews.
Cinnamon pairs amazing with rich red meat dishes like oxtail stew, slow-roasted leg of lamb, medium rare cinnamon-rubbed steaks, spicy beef stews, lamb casseroles, and much more.
Cinnamon can also be used with white meats like chicken, especially in cuisines that are all about flavor. If you are looking for some inspiration, look to Moroccan, Indian, and Spanish cuisine for guidance.
Cinnamon in Drinks
Believe it or not, cinnamon is used in more than your favorite pumpkin spice latte. Cinnamon is actually very often used to infuse liquids during the production of wines, beers, and various other alcoholic beverages.
It can also be used after the fact to create various cocktails and mixes like your beloved holiday gluhwein or a cinnamon white Russian.
For non-alcoholic beverages, cinnamon is very often used to flavor soft drinks. You will also find a wide range of milk-based beverages that contains cinnamon.
And yes, cinnamon is very popular during winter and fall for coffee franchises to create all sorts of wintery drinks, virtually all of them containing cinnamon. But it’s also a traditional topping for many classic cappuccino, espressos, and breves.
Best Cinnamon Substitutes (And How to Use Them)
Sad as it may be, cinnamon isn’t always in stock in certain regions across the world.
This can be due to Mother Nature affecting the production or distribution of cinnamon, or simply its incredible popularity that causes it to constantly be sold out.
But fear not, as cinnamon has many fantastic substitutes that can be used. The best way to determine which substitute to use is to look at how you would’ve used the cinnamon.
If you wanted to use the cinnamon only without any other spices, your best substitute would be cassia. If you were to use the cinnamon as part of a spice mix, you can substitute it with many similar ingredients like allspice or cloves.
With regards to substitution quantities, that is also entirely up to you and what you are making. It is very difficult to predict exactly the amount of cardamom that is needed to replace cinnamon.
Spices are a very personal thing and you will have to use your own judgment on how much you need. You can of course research the substitution for a specific dish.
What we can say, however, is that you will rarely have to use more of a substitute than the required amount of cinnamon.
So if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of cinnamon, it is very unlikely that you will use more than a teaspoon of cloves as a substitution.
In fact, you will probably want to use less. Think about the potency of the spice you are substituting with. Cloves and allspice are much more pungent than cinnamon, thus would require much less.
The best way you will know which substitute works for which purpose, is by trying them yourself and keeping notes to remember and compare.
Cinnamon Sticks Vs. Powder (Swapping)
These are the same ingredient just in different forms, however, many people don’t know how to substitute these.
The simplest way is to grind the cinnamon sticks and use the same amount you would have the already ground cinnamon. If you aren’t able to grind the stick, look if there are any liquids that you can infuse with the quill.
You can heat milk, cream, or water over low heat with the cinnamon quill and allow it to steep for about 10-20 minutes. Remove the quill and use the liquid as the recipe requires.
Remember, if the recipe calls for milk, it is probably cold milk and your cinnamon-flavored milk would need to be cooled down. Also, by adding extra liquid you may need to adjust the amounts of any other wet ingredients.
If the recipe calls for cinnamon sticks and you only have powder, use about ½ – 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon per each stick needed.
Cinnamon and cassia are actually not the same spice, although they both look very similar and have similar flavors.
Cassia is also called Chinese cinnamon, just much more pungent and so has less of that delicate, soft flavor. Cassia bark is much thicker than cinnamon and is rarely if ever, found in quills or powdered form.
Cassia is your best and closest substitute to cinnamon in most instances and can also be found in your local grocery store, albeit in much smaller quantities.
If you need to use cinnamon powder, you can grind the cassia into a powder using a pestle and mortar or a spice or coffee grinder. Remember, the flavor is much stronger so you wouldn’t need as much as you would have with cinnamon.
Before looking at more spice substitutions, let’s have a look at a more obvious one – cinnamon extract. This is a very common and widely available product that has strong aromas and flavors.
Keep in mind that cinnamon extract is not an allergy-free choice. It is still made from real cinnamon bark that has been soaked in alcohol. It’s a good substitute in a pinch, but not when you’re trying to avoid allergies.
You can make your own extract by soaking a bunch of cinnamon bark in light rum for about 2 weeks. This will enable you to have it on hand at all times.
Allspice is as good of a choice as cassia is! This is because allspice has many of the same flavors as cinnamon and other key substitutes, nutmeg and cloves. It has earthy notes and that slight sweetness that cinnamon also has.
This basically means you have a well-rounded spice that can act like many others.
You only need to use about a third of the cinnamon amount when substituting allspice. It is a very strong spice, like cloves, and will knock your socks off if substituted one-to-one.
Pumpkin/Apple Pie Spices
If you are fortunate enough to have pumpkin spice at your local grocery store, it is also a great substitute, especially if the recipe called for a bunch of spices.
To make pumpkin spice, cinnamon is often used along with vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, mace, allspice and cardamom. This makes your prep time much less and gives you the same kind of flavors you are looking for.
Apple pie spice also works fantastic! Think about the main ingredients in apple pie; it’s basically the same as the pumpkin pie spice mix, just in different ratios.
You can also have a look at some dry rubs or other spice mixes to see if it has cinnamon in it.
This is an especially great option if you are making savory dishes as it adds the cinnamon flavor you need along with other ingredients that will elevate your dish.
You may get different notes, but it might be the change you didn’t know you the dish needed!
You should be able to substitute these pie spice mixes using a one-to-one ratio (every teaspoon of one substitutes for a teaspoon of the other). Again, experiment and make notes to reference back to in the future.
Nutmeg and Cloves
Nutmeg and cloves are also very good choices to use as a substitution. Both have very earthy tones like cinnamon and a nutty undertone that complements many dishes.
Nutmeg and cloves can be used individually or with each other to substitute cinnamon. They are very popular in spice mixes that use cinnamon, so using them together will help mask the fact that cinnamon isn’t there.
Cardamom is one of our favorite spices out there and what makes it even better, is that it works as a substitute for a whole range of spices, cinnamon included.
Cardamom is especially useful when substituting cinnamon in savory dishes as most of them require other spices as well. Using a one-to-one ratio when substituting will work best.
The Best Substitutes for Cinnamon
Think we would leave you hanging? Of course not! Here are our favorite cinnamon substitutes:
|Cook’s Pure Cinnamon Extract
|Happy Belly Ground Allspice
|Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice
|The Spice Hunter Organic Nutmeg Whole
|Simply Organic Ground Cloves
|Rani Green Cardamom Pods Spice
These are the best and most reliable substitutes we could find and trust us, you will love them just as much as we do.
1. Cook’s Pure Cinnamon Extract
Cook’s always has and always will be the best. And it’s one of the only suppliers we go to when it comes to food-grade extracts. This cinnamon extract is no different.
The flavor is absolutely spot-on compared to many other essences and flavorings. It is made from all-natural ingredients and doesn’t contain any colorants, preservatives or chemicals.
This means that it can be used in gluten-free, vegan and kosher dishes, meeting all the requirements you could possibly have.
We love the 4 fluid ounce bottle, only because we tend to go through it pretty quickly, however, Amazon does sell this specific product in various sizes to meet your specific need.
2. Happy Belly Ground Allspice
When it comes to ground allspice, it is often very difficult to get a product that retains the potency of the spice in its whole form. Fortunately, we came across Happy Belly, which is shockingly underrated.
This product is made from pure and fresh allspice (weird to say but you would be surprised how many packaged spices contain chemicals and preservatives).
It is the size of your average spice bottle and as we have determined previously, you don’t need a lot of this spice to make an impact. This bottle will last you quite a while and can be used in thousands of dishes.
3. Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice
Not only can you find this convenient product at your local Trader Joe’s, but online at other marketplaces, too!
This, in our humble opinion, is the best pumpkin pie spice ever and once you’ve tried it, you will feel the same way.
This pumpkin pie spice mainly consists of cinnamon which is the exact reason it will work as a fantastic substitution. The added lemon peel really makes the flavors pop.
The best part about this spice is, even when you don’t need it as a substitute for cinnamon anymore, you’ll still be happy to have it around for all kinds of baking projects.
Who knows, with a little cream and sugar, it might make a good pumpkin-flavored latte at home, too!
4. The Spice Hunter Organic Nutmeg Whole
Okay, so while we are a huge fan of pre-prepped ingredients, and often we like to have our spices pre-ground, some spices, however, simply lose their intense flavor during this process.
That is why using freshly grated nutmeg will give you the best flavor when you need to substitute cinnamon.
It is very difficult to find whole nutmeg, so coming across this brand was a relief! The best part – they are 100% organic and the product doesn’t contain any GMOs – amazing!
Sure, it is a bit on the pricey side, but these will last you a good year before needing replacing and the pros far outweigh this con.
5. Simply Organic Ground Cloves
Although cloves should be used along with other ingredients when substituting for sugar, we still had to include this product on our ingredients list.
There has been a massive rise in using organic products, but often simpler products, like spices, are overlooked. Simply Organic makes it very hard to do so.
First of all, they are organic, meaning they have a very pure and unaltered clove flavor.
Secondly, their glass bottle with metal lids are very cute and make for pretty spice jars, way better than those ugly colored plastic ones and also better for the environment.
And lastly, their ground cloves are surprisingly affordable for an organic product. This makes it all the more worth it considering you only need a pinch or two per substitution.
6. Rani Green Cardamom Pods Spice
Cardamom is exactly like nutmeg – best used fresh and whole. These pods can be easily incorporated into many dishes by either infusing the liquids used or being blended.
When blending whole cardamom pods, it is best to put it through a fine-mesh tea strainer after being blended to remove any fibers.
Rani is an amazing and reliable supplier of whole spices and these cardamom pods are no exception. They are vegan, GMO-free and gluten-free.
It is sold in a plastic package, meaning you need to either constantly re-seal or decant into a different container. However it still is a great product to have, despite the minor inconvenience.
Up Next: Pumpkin Pie With Almond Milk