how to distinguish them, how they differ and why we almost always buy the first

how to distinguish them, how they differ and why we almost always buy the first

Understanding most of our pastries and sweets without cinnamon is practically impossible. Without going any further, suggesting a custard, a rice pudding or some French toast without making her a participant would be strange, but …do you really know what cinnamon is and how many varieties are there?

No, we are referring to the fact that we can find it raw or ground, but rather to a parallel reality of which we are not always aware: cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. How? Is there more than one?

Indeed, there are more than one and they sneak into our sweet and savory dishes, but we are not always aware of who is becoming the seasoning protagonist of these classic recipes.


If this dualism sounds like Chinese to you, don’t worry because surely not you are the only person to whom it happens, but we are going to try to bring some light to this universe. On the one hand we find the cassia cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) and on the other, Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum).

The dilemma: Cassia or from Ceylon?

One is spicier and coarser, generally more suitable for savory dishes. The other is more subtle, more aromatic and is often used in sweet dishes, but one has been the undisputed queen of our kitchens for years for one simple reason: the price.

Ceylon cinnamon is recognized as a branch for having a lighter color, being more subtle and for the way it rolls up, telescopically.

What we call today cinnamon and we usually find in our stores, whether it be sticks or ground, is the dried cassia tree bark (Cinnamomum cassia), which is a tree native to southern China and some areas of Southeast Asia such as Burma or Indonesia, and which is the first cinnamon that is bolder, darker and less aromatic than the real cinnamon, that of Ceylon.

It is not a confusion because both are called the same, but their properties are not exactly the same And neither are its prices, which is why cassia is much more established and also the reason why it is easier to find, especially in powder form.

The way to distinguish cassia from ceylon cinnamon is to look at its branches. The first has parchment shape, rolled at the ends, and it’s harder and darker than ceylon cinnamon, which rolls up telescopically, it is more brittle and also has a lighter color.

When we grind them, it is more difficult to know which one we are talking about because also the smells are more ephemeral (which is why it is better to have the spices whole and in grain, never crushed), but they are still recognizable if one seems to us more aggressive and the other more friendly.


Cinnamon from Ceylan Terre Exotique

Cinnamon from Ceylan Terre Exotique

Is it an insurmountable problem? No while they are not selling us cassia cinnamon at the price or with the Ceylon cinnamon label (the second is usually five times more expensive), which is notably more expensive. Should they tell us which cinnamon they are not selling? Well yes, or at least it would be desirable, since most of the labels are summarized in the word ‘cinnamon’, ignoring the variety.

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The opinion of the professionals

Photo 02 Cassia

Cassia is rolled into a parchment shape, only at the ends, and has a harder rind than Ceylon cinnamon. In addition, it is more spicy and aromatically powerful.

They do not give us a pig for a hare because they are both cinnamon, what happens is that they are two different varieties, “he explains Luis Alcazar, owner of the spice store Black Pepper & Co.

“One is Chinese cinnamon and the other is Ceylon cinnamon. If you don’t add Ceylon cinnamon, you are not being fooled, what happens is that cassia has some bad press because it has a little coumarin and in large quantities it is harmful [teniendo en cuenta el matiz de las grandes cantidades o un uso muy frecuente]”, he clarifies.


Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks (125g), Gently Dried Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks, 100% Natural Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks, No Additives, Vegan

Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks (125g), Gently Dried Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks, 100% Natural Ceylon Cinnamon Sticks, No Additives, Vegan

Curcamine can only cause problems in excessive consumption or when used in large quantities, as in Danish cinnamon snails, which the European Union tried to ban. Different thing are different gastronomic uses that can have each type of cinnamon.

“Indeed the cinnamon zeilanycum is more robust, stronger in shape, more subtle and more delicate and the cassia cinnamon, the one we have at home, shells more easily, “he explains. Xavi Donnay, pastry chef of the Barcelona restaurant Lasarte (three Michelin stars and three Repsol suns)

“We use [en el restaurante] Ceylon cinnamon from time to time, like ingredient of a chocolate for coffee or to make something more specific. This is lighter and the cassia is more noticeable “, he indicates about gastronomic uses.

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“My opinion is that I think the consumer is not deceived because it is practically the cinnamon that we have here, the one that we know and also because it is cheaper, cheaper. On the other hand, Ceilán is more expensive and the public does not use it for this “, he synthesizes.

A reality to which he also does his bit Bego San Pedro, from the Madrid bakery Mother Friend: “We use the zeilanycum. I don’t think it is worse than the other one, but it is true that it is more salty and has a more aggressive color and flavor that does not fit in our products, “he considers.

Images | iStock

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