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There Are 2 Main Types Of Cinnamon — When & How To Use Each

Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager
By Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Image by ola_p / istockphoto
April 12, 2021

What do coffee beans, peanut butter toast, and roasted sweet potatoes have in common? All three taste even better with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. But before you get heavy-handed with the spice, make sure you pay attention to the variety you're using. Yes—there's more than one type of cinnamon.  

According to functional food and spice expert Kanchan Koya, Ph.D., the variety of cinnamon you're used to purchasing at the grocery store is called Cassia cinnamon, and the lesser-known version is called Ceylon, or "true," cinnamon. 

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What's the difference between the two? 

Cassia cinnamon tends to have a more concentrated and intense cinnamon-like flavor, reminiscent of the holiday season or even cinnamon rolls, whereas Ceylon cinnamon is "lighter, brighter, and more citrus-like compared to Cassia," Koya tells mbg. 

If a bottle is not specifically labeled as "Ceylon cinnamon," it's safe to assume Cassia is what you're buying. 

While both kinds of cinnamon contain powerful antioxidants and have been shown to manage healthy blood sugar levels, Cassia cinnamon contains a natural compound called coumarin, which may be harmful to the liver in high doses. True cinnamon, on the other hand, has only trace amounts of coumarin and is, therefore, a better choice for everyday use, says Koya.

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When and how to use each one. 

Because Ceylon cinnamon is safer in bigger doses, Koya recommends "using it in larger quantities more regularly." That includes everyday uses, like adding it to your smoothie, oatmeal, or coffee beans. It's also a better choice for baking projects that require a higher amount of the spice, like these vegan pancakes with warm, cinnamon apples or these breakfast cookies

If you're missing the aromatic, spicy flavor of cinnamon, it's OK to mix the two every now and then—just try to make sure the Ceylon portion outweighs the Cassia portion.

If you don't regularly consume cinnamon and a recipe calls for it, you should be safe to use whatever you have on hand. According to Koya, it's not the cinnamon itself that's harmful; it's the dosage. So try to be aware of how much you're consuming and how often, then you'll be golden.

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Abby Moore
Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager

Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.