7 Best Cinnamon Substitutes

You find a bottle marked as “cinnamon” in many North American markets, but it may be cassia, a similar spice. True cinnamon (also known as Ceylon cinnamon, Seychelles Islands cinnamon, and Mexican Canela) has a lighter brown color than the darker, more reddish cassia.

If you have seen cinnamon sticks, you notice that they look like little pieces of rolled-up wood. That is because cinnamon is tree bark, and it is harvested from evergreen-like trees of the genus Cinnamonum which are grown and produced in China and Indonesia.

True cinnamon also has a more delicate yet more complex aroma. In a sensory study conducted by Alan R. Hirsch, MD of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, the scent of cinnamon buns ranked number one as a sexual turn-on for male subjects.

Substitutions for Cinnamon

What do you use if you’ve run out of cinnamon? Here are some ideas to substitute and still add the flavor you crave.

Substitute 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches) with:

1. Ground Cinnamon

= 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (for mulling, wrap ground cinnamon in cheesecloth or coffee filter and tie with kitchen string or clean twist-tie)

2. Cinnamon Extract

= 1/8 tsp cinnamon extract

To vary the flavor, substitute ½ tsp ground cinnamon with:

3. Ground Cardamom

= 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (which has a musky aroma)

This relative of ginger is the third most expensive flavoring globally after saffron and vanilla. Cardamom is a spice made from several plants in the genera Elettaria and Amomum in Zingiberaceae. Both genera are native to the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia.

The tiny, spicy-sweet seeds grow enclosed in green or more aromatic brown/black fibrous pods.

Cardamom’s flavor is a combination of warm, herbal, citrusy, spicy, and a bit minty all at the same time.

Cardamom’s use is to spice both sweet and savory dishes. Widely consumed in Indian, Middle Eastern, Arabic, and Swedish cuisine, it also grows in the Central American regions around Guatemala.

4. Ground Allspice

= 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground allspice

Allspice, also known as Jamaica pepper, is a spice that’s made from the dried berries of the pimenta tree. It has a sweet, spicy flavor and has been used in many cuisines around the world — especially those of India and Jamaica.

Allspice is often used to season meats, such as stews and roasts, though it can also be added to sauces or sprinkled on top of sweet desserts. It goes well with many different types of foods and can be beneficial for digestion.

Allspice has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. It was a common ingredient in medieval European cooking and has been used throughout history by people from all over the world. Today, it’s widely available in supermarkets all around the world.

5. Ground Nutmeg

= 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

When stored in a cool, dry, dark cupboard, oval brown nutmeg seeds keep their flavor for months or even years. Grate the seed on a specially designed nutmeg grater or a fine rasp-style grater for the finest aroma and flavor. The fruit is similar in appearance to an apricot. 

Nutmeg is the seed or ground spice of several species of the genus Myristica. The Myristica fragrans is a dark-leaved evergreen tree that produces two spices from its fruit: nutmeg from its seed, and mace, from the seed covering. It is also a commercial source of essential oil and nutmeg butter.

6. Apple Pie Spice

= 1/2 tsp apple pie spice (adds nutmeg and allspice)

Apple Pie Spice is a blend of spices that are used to make apple pies. It contains cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and ginger.

The name Apple Pie Spice was coined by the spice company McCormick, but it has become widely known as such. The spices are often used in baking recipes for cakes and cookies. They can also be added to coffee, tea or milk for flavoring.

Apple Pie Spice is most commonly used in apple desserts such as pie and cake. It can also be used in sweet potatoes or other savory dishes.

Apple Pie Spice is made from equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice along with cloves and ginger mixed together into one blend. The exact amounts of each spice may vary based on personal preference and recipe needs.

7. Pumpkin Pie Spice

= 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (adds nutmeg and ginger)

Our final substitute for nutmeg is pumpkin pie spice is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. It’s used to make pumpkin pies and other pumpkin desserts.

Pumpkin pie spice tastes warm and spicy — it has hints of allspice and cloves, with a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon thrown in. It’s not too sweet or too intense; it’s just right.

You can use pumpkin pie spice to make any recipe that calls for it, including pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin muffins. You can also add it to pancakes or even sprinkle some into your morning coffee for a nice kick of flavor.

best cinnamon substitute

Cinnamon History

The earliest accounts of cinnamon show its import to Egypt in about 2000 BC. As it came from the region of China and Indonesia, we can assume that it was used there for hundreds of years prior.

As with other spices, cinnamon was highly prized and often given as a gift to monarchs as a rare and expensive substance.

Health Benefits of Cinnamon

There have been many uses for cinnamon in medical conditions throughout history, including:

  • respiratory illness
  • gynecological issues
  • digestive problems

Recent studies have shown that cinnamon does affect blood glucose levels in those with type 2 diabetes.

More recently, it has shown promise as an anti-inflammatory and improves cognitive function.

Recipe Uses for Cinnamon

When you think of cinnamon, what comes to mind? A walk through the airport and the aroma of cinnamon rolls wafting through the concourse? Perhaps the smells of Christmas with the cinnamon aroma of cider drinks or baked treats come to mind.

Add cinnamon to recipes in many dishes, drinks, and desserts and as a popular aroma in potpourris, sprays, and candles. Recipes calling for cinnamon may include apple pie, carrot cake, churros, pancakes with cinnamon sugar, gingerbread cookies, oat bars, baked custards, and many, many more.

Although adding a cinnamon stick to drinks is widespread, most uses come from the ground spice. Cinnamon does not dissolve well and may become sediment in your cup.


Are there spices that have similar tastes to cinnamon?

Spices with similar tastes to cinnamon are: allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, apple pie spice, and pumpkin pie spice. If you don’t have ground cinnamon, try cinnamon extract.

Is nutmeg a good substitute for cinnamon?

In the ground form, nutmeg is a good substitute for sweet dishes. 

About Rachelle

Hi, I'm Rachel! I love cooking and finding new recipes but was always missing one of the ingredients in my kitchen. I created Can I Substitute? for people like me who are one substitute away from a great meal. If you're looking for great ingredient substitutes you've come to the right place. Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.