Vegetarians and carnivores alike, it’s time you knew that cinnamon should be your next best spice friend.
Cinnamon rub can be the key ingredient to creating a memorable dish or dessert.
It can provide a bridge between sweet and savory spices, or quickly spice up the bowl of nuts that everyone can’t stop munching.
How Cinnamon & Cinnamon Rub Work Their Magic in Food & History
A Little Bit of ‘What’s That Taste?’
If you’ve ever been drawn to a warm satisfying pot of chili or a killer chicken breast and you’re wondering, ‘what’s that bit of sweet and bite that keeps you coming back for more.’
The cook’s secret is probably cinnamon rub. [Don’t tell her that we told you.] Cinnamon is the rare spice that plays well with others, but still manages to stand out.
A Little Bit Sweet
Cinnamon acts as a sweetener in barbecue sauces and rubs.
It helps to balance out the savory ingredients without adding additional sugar or sweetener.
As a bonus, it also works well with sweeter rubs.
That’s often why you find it in rubs and sauces created for chicken or pork. It can even be the balance to the bitter component in a coffee rub for steaks.
A Little Bit Complimentary
Cinnamon’s versatility means that chefs and, even bartenders, tap it to add that little bit of something special to a given dish or cocktail.
Cinnamon is one of the main ingredients in Chinese Five Spice (the others are often star anise or anise seeds, cloves, ginger and fennel seeds).
It’s also a critical spice in Moroccan and Indian cuisine. Garam masala – a spice blend common in Indian cooking – contains cinnamon (along with cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper).
When it comes to dessert, cloves and cinnamon can form the base of a pie spice and cinnamon figures into a number of bourbon cocktails like a Hot Toddy.
A Little Bit of Geography
Chinese cinnamon is often referred to as cassia cinnamon.
It often has an intense, almost spicy, flavor. Korintje cinnamon, from Indonesia, is a popular choice at bakeries.
It’s slightly smoother than Chinese cinnamon and is often the reason you’re craving cinnamon rolls.
Cinnamon comes from the bark of cassia trees.
The inner bark of the trees is harvested in countries like China or Indonesia, but also Sri Lanka, Korea, and Vietnam. It’s then dried (which is when it becomes curly and assumes the (quill) form that we all know as ‘sticks.’). Within the bark are volatile oils – the percentage of oil determines the strength of the cinnamon.
The oils contain an organic compound known as (cinnamic aldehyde is the term we use) cinnamaldehyde – this is how cinnamon gets it punch. The potent cinnemaldehyde is what makes cinnamon candy spicy and provides the flavor to cinnamon toothpicks.
A Little Bit Goes a Long Way
Cinnamon is a potent spice.
In most rubs, it won’t even account for 1% of the spice blend. You should apply the same restraint when it comes to working in cinnamon to your own recipes.
Cinnamon will always be strongest when it is freshly ground – the aroma and potency of the volatile oils dissipates over time. (Note: Always store cinnamon in an airtight container in a cool spot away from sunlight and heat)
Looking for a little more cinnamon in your life? Start with a pinch in your morning coffee, or on roasted nuts, yogurt or popcorn.
Cinnamon and cinnamon rub are your new secret flavor weapons.