You'll find cinnamon in all sorts of desserts (such as apple pie and snickerdoodle cookies) and in some savory dishes (think chili), too. And that can make it pretty difficult to avoid the spice if you have a cinnamon allergy.
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Whether you're allergic to the spice or simply ran out of it, there are many cinnamon substitutes you can turn to while baking and cooking to replicate the flavor.
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6 Cinnamon Substitute Spices
You'll likely find a few alternatives to cinnamon in your own spice rack. But take note: "Any replacement will somehow alter the flavor profile of the original," says chef Karl Guggenmos, the senior culinary advisor at Healthy Meals Supreme.
He recommends trying different options to see what suits your palate most.
- Nutmeg: Nutmeg offers a comparable amount of sweetness to cinnamon, says Rachel Fine, RD, CSSD of To The Pointe Nutrition. You can use a one-to-one substitution of nutmeg for cinnamon, says Fine. Bonus: Nutmeg is packed with antioxidants, which is linked to slowed progression of cellular damage, per a December 2016 study in Phytochemistry Reviews.
- Allspice: Like nutmeg, allspice will give you some of the same sweetness as cinnamon, says Fine. "You'll likely need less (about a quarter of the amount) allspice than what the recipe calls for with cinnamon," Fine says.
- Cloves: This spice has similar earthy and sweet flavors as cinnamon.
- Mace: Mace is the covering, or the aril, of nutmeg seeds and it offers a more tart and less sweet flavor than nutmeg itself.
- Cloves and ginger: Guggenmos recommends this mixture as a replacement for cinnamon. Substitute equal parts ginger and cloves for one-third of the amount of cinnamon called for in the recipe, he suggests. "The acidity and citric flavor of both spices creates a similar flavor profile as cinnamon," says Guggenmos.
- Spice mixtures: Since cinnamon is a frequent ingredient in sweet spice mixtures, such as a pumpkin pie or apple pie spice, you can swap these blends in for the spice. This works as a one-to-one substitution, but read the ingredient list to see what's included in the mixture — you may want to adjust the use of other spices used in the recipe if they are part of the apple or pumpkin spice blend. (Avoid these spice mixtures if you do not want to include cinnamon in your dish at all.)
Best Options to Mimic Cinnamon's Sweetness
Cinnamon can sometimes lend sweetness to baked goods and even replace some of the sugar in a recipe. If you're looking to replicate that sweetness, try nutmeg, allspice or a spice mixture instead. If you're opting for the ginger and clove mixture, "try adding a little honey or monk fruit sugar and vanilla to the mixture," Guggenmos suggests.
Best Options to Mimic Cinnamon's Spiciness
Cinnamon also provides a warming, almost spicy, flavor to baking and cooking. To mimic that effect, replace cinnamon in the recipe with powdered or fresh ginger root. Also, combining a spice with heat such as chili powder with a sweeter flavor such as nutmeg or vanilla can provide that combination of flavors you're seeking.
Best Options for Replacing Cinnamon in Indian Food
In Indian and other ethnic cooking, try cardamom instead of cinnamon. Curry powder also provides an abundance of flavor to a recipe, although it usually includes cinnamon among its ingredients. You can find some brands that do not include cinnamon or make your own version without cinnamon.
To do this, use a combination of your choice of the following spices: turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, salt, ginger, cayenne pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, celery seed, onion, cloves and nutmeg.
What You Should Know About Spice Allergies
As with any food, it is possible for a person to have an allergy to a spice. Anaphylaxis, or an acute allergic reaction, has the potential to be life-threatening, per the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).
However, a far more likely scenario is having an intolerance — this would lead to a rash, itchiness or a cough. These types of responses to spices will generally resolve on their own, according to the AAAAI.
If you suspect that you have a cinnamon allergy or intolerance, avoid eating it and can reach out to an allergy specialist who can confirm through either skin prick testing or supervised ingestion of cinnamon to see if you have a reaction.
Read more: 9 Herbs and Spices to Help You Lose Weight