From apple pies to Christmas cookies, cinnamon adds a memorable aroma and taste to many things. Both cinnamon oil and cinnamon extract are concentrated essences of cinnamon. Although the oil and extract can be substituted for one another in most cases, they are not the same. The most important differences are flavor strength and heat tolerance.
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Cinnamon oil is a highly concentrated oil taken directly from the cinnamon bark. The flavor of cinnamon oil is typically about four times as strong as cinnamon extract according to The Cook's Thesaurus, so when you are substituting oil for extract, divide the quantity called for in the recipe by four. If you are substituting extract for oil, multiply the quantity by four. Flavor can vary considerably from product to product, so it's best to add less than you think of either the oil or the extract at first and then add more to taste.
Cinnamon extract is made by dissolving cinnamon or cinnamon oil into an alcohol solution. According to food-labeling guidelines explained in Pure Products Volume 10, cinnamon extract cannot contain less than 2 percent cinnamon oil by volume. Because the guidelines only specify a minimum amount of cinnamon oil and not an upper limit, the flavor of various cinnamon extract brands has the potential to differ significantly.
Uses of Oil and Extract
Oils and extracts are both used as flavorings. Cinnamon extract can be used to flavor cookies, cakes, pies and ice creams but does not stand up to candy making very well because the excessively high heat required to make candy causes the alcohol-based extract to evaporate quickly. For candy making, cinnamon oil is the more stable choice.
Cinnamon extract has garnered attention in the last decade because of the implications of its use for diabetes and heart disease. According to the December 2006 issue of the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition,” subjects with prediabetes and metabolic syndrome who were given 500 milligrams of cinnamon extract a day showed significant health improvements. Overall, the group showed a decrease in fasting blood glucose and systolic blood pressure and an increase in lean body mass. Each of these improvements is associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes or heart disease.