Cinnamon is one of the most versatile spices on earth, with both sweet and savory uses. You can buy cinnamon in ground format and as dried sticks. If you’re looking to substitute cinnamon sticks for ground cinnamon, one 3-inch stick is the equivalent of ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
What’s the Difference Between Cinnamon Sticks and Ground Cinnamon?
The main difference between cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon comes down to format. Cinnamon sticks are cinnamon bark that has been rolled up into the sticks, while ground cinnamon is the powdered form of the same cinnamon bark.
Both cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon last a long time in your pantry, but cinnamon sticks will last longer. Both forms of cinnamon are generally interchangeable, but there are times when you may want to use one form or another.
When to Use Cinnamon Sticks
Cinnamon sticks work well when you want to infuse cinnamon flavor into a liquid or other food. You can use cinnamon sticks to steep flavor into teas, broths and other liquids. Cinnamon sticks are great in curries and other rustic recipes, and you can even give hot chocolate a spicier, richer flavor with cinnamon sticks.
You can use cinnamon sticks to make cinnamon extract to add to recipes and cocktails or cinnamon syrup to add to coffee or pour on top of ice cream. Cinnamon sticks can even become a remedy for athlete's foot when you break them up into warm water for a soothing foot soak.
When to Use Ground Cinnamon
Because of its form, ground cinnamon is often more convenient and practical. It’s easy to mix in recipes for dishes like cinnamon toast or cinnamon rolls, and it’s great for sauce making. It’s better for dry applications than cinnamon sticks as well.
If you’re using ground cinnamon in a recipe that calls for cinnamon sticks, it’s important to add the ground cinnamon later on in the cooking process. Because ground cinnamon doesn’t have to dissolve over time like cinnamon sticks do, you don’t need to put the powdered version into the recipe as early.
Two Versions of the Same Spice
There are two versions of cinnamon that you can find here in the United States, and they’re variations of the same plant. Cassia cinnamon is the most common version of cinnamon in the U.S., and it works well in recipes in ground form. Some health experts say too much use of cassia cinnamon can lead to liver and kidney issues, but you have to consume large amounts for it to become a problem.
The other type of cinnamon is Ceylon cinnamon, which some people refer to as “true cinnamon.” Ceylon cinnamon is a little more challenging to find, but you can find it at Mexican markets or larger grocery stores, often under the name "Canela." Ceylon cinnamon is a bit more pungent, with a stronger flavor.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has a surprising array of health benefits. A compound in cinnamon called cinnamaldehyde is responsible for most of the healthy advantages to this spice. Cinnamon boosts your metabolism and is loaded with antioxidants, which basically defend your body from the effects of aging.
Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties that can help your body fight diseases. Cinnamon also helps promote healthy heart function, lowers blood sugar and may even protect against cancer.
The History of Cinnamon
Cinnamon has been around for centuries as both a spice and a health supplement. The first record of cinnamon shows up in Chinese writings from around 2800 B.C. In the Roman Empire, cinnamon was a valuable commodity, even more valuable than silver. The Emperor Nero burned cinnamon as an act of remorse for killing his wife.
In the Middle Ages, physicians used cinnamon to treat coughs and sore throats, and families used it as a preservative. The Dutch tried to create a monopoly on cinnamon by seizing the island of Ceylon, but other growers realized they could cultivate cinnamon in most any tropical climate.
The Versatile Spice
It’s easy to think of cinnamon as a sweet spice, especially when it comes to desserts like cinnamon rolls and sopapillas, but it’s such a versatile spice you can find it just about anywhere. Cinnamon makes its way into spice blends, and savory recipes like curries and enchilada sauce contain cinnamon. It’s easy to get creative with such an adaptable spice.