When you think of cinnamon, your mind probably drifts towards sweet treats like warm cinnamon rolls, spicy snickerdoodles, or a frothy chai latte. Indeed, cinnamon’s sweet and spicy aroma has become synonymous with decadent desserts and comforting holiday beverages. But this fragrant spice has a surprisingly savory side that is begging to be explored. This blog post takes you on a journey beyond the traditional use of cinnamon to discover its prowess in the world of savory cuisine.
Understanding the Charm of Cinnamon
Cinnamon, derived from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree, is a spice cherished across the globe for its distinctive aroma and warming flavor. The two main varieties of cinnamon are Ceylon, known as “true cinnamon,” and Cassia or Chinese cinnamon, which is more widely available and packs a stronger punch.
This beloved spice, besides being a staple in dessert recipes, has long been used in a myriad of savory dishes around the world, showcasing its impressive versatility.
Cinnamon in Global Savory Cuisine
Before diving into how you can incorporate cinnamon into your savory dishes, let’s take a culinary tour around the world to see how different cultures utilize cinnamon.
In Mexican cuisine, cinnamon (or canela) plays a crucial role in creating the complex flavor profile of mole sauces. These sauces, which can contain over 20 different ingredients, often combine cinnamon with chilies, nuts, and chocolate.
In Middle Eastern and North African cooking, cinnamon frequently makes its way into savory recipes. In Morocco, for example, it is used in savory-sweet tagines, a traditional slow-cooked stew. It also finds its way into rice dishes and is often paired with other warm spices like turmeric and cumin.
Indian cuisine regularly uses cinnamon to add depth to curries, biryanis, and other savory dishes. It is a key component in garam masala, a blend of ground spices that play a central role in Indian cooking.
Similarly, in Chinese cuisine, cinnamon is an important part of the famous five-spice powder, contributing its sweet-spicy notes to the blend’s overall warm flavor.
Incorporating Cinnamon into Your Savory Dishes
Now that we’ve seen how cinnamon makes an appearance in savory dishes worldwide let’s explore ways you can bring this versatile spice into your savory cooking repertoire.
- Spice Rubs and Marinades: Cinnamon’s warmth and slight sweetness make it a delightful addition to spice rubs and marinades for meat. It pairs exceptionally well with poultry, pork, and lamb, working alongside other spices to create an inviting depth of flavor.
- Soups and Stews: A cinnamon stick simmered in a pot of soup or stew can add an unexpected yet welcoming note of warmth. It works exceptionally well in tomato-based soups or stews, in butternut squash soup, and even chili.
- Roasted Vegetables: Sprinkle a bit of ground cinnamon on vegetables before roasting them in the oven. Cinnamon and the caramelized sweetness of roasted vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash are a match made in heaven.
- Rice and Grain Dishes: Add a cinnamon stick to the pot next time you’re boiling rice or other grains. It subtly perfumes the dish, adding an enticing aroma and hint of warm flavor.
- Sauces and Condiments: A touch of cinnamon can transform a simple tomato sauce or barbecue sauce, adding a layer of complexity that makes the flavors sing.
The Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Beyond its culinary applications, cinnamon has a long history of use in traditional medicine. It’s known for its high antioxidant content, which can help combat oxidative stress in the body. Studies also suggest that cinnamon may have anti-inflammatory properties, can aid in regulating blood sugar levels, and may even contribute to heart health.
Please note, while cinnamon can contribute to a healthy diet, it is not a cure-all and should not replace professional medical advice.
Cinnamon: The Star Ingredient in Your Spice Cabinet
While cinnamon will always have a special place in the realm of sweet treats, its potential goes far beyond dessert. As we’ve explored in this blog post, this spice can bring warmth, complexity, and a delightful hint of sweetness to a wide array of savory dishes.
Experimenting with cinnamon in your savory recipes is a fun way to expand your culinary horizons and discover new flavor combinations. So, next time you reach for the cinnamon, think beyond dessert and consider how it might enhance your savory dishes. Remember, as with any new ingredient, start small and adjust according to your preference. Here’s to exciting culinary adventures with cinnamon!
Alert: While spices can have many beneficial properties for health, using them for medical purposes should be done under the guidance and supervision of a healthcare professional or specialist. Some spices may interact with medications or cause adverse reactions in certain individuals, and it is important to use them safely and appropriately. If you are considering using spices for a medical condition, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before doing so.