Kitchen Skills

Cinnamon | Print |


The cinnamon used to give Mexican dishes, both sweet and savory, their distinctive character in Mexico isn’t what we call cinnamon in the States. We use cassia here, a cousin to real cinnamon, and if you think of red hots or those cinnamon toothpicks we loved as kids, you’re on to the heart of cassia’s flavor.


True cinnamon (what’s called canela in Mexico, sometimes Ceylon cinnamon here) is a lighter, more floral, more complex and less aggressive flavor than cassia. You’ll know it instantly when you see it, because true cinnamon (it’s the bark of an Asian evergreen) is very thin and flaky (it is easy to pulverize in a mortar or electric spice grinder), while cassia is much thicker and darker.


Whichever cinnamon you choose, buy it in small quantities, store it in a cool dark place and use it up quickly so its flavor is fresh, bright and rich.