Cinnamon is one of the most recognized and beloved spices on the planet. It has a distinctive aroma and flavor that triggers mouth watering. Because honestly, what gets the juices flowing more than the smell of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven? If you are avoiding gluten, we’ve got the best recipe for gluten-free cinnamon rolls, as well as some savory cinnamon recipes so you can add more of this healthy spice to your diet.
What Is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is an aromatic spice used in the U.S. in sweets like cinnamon rolls, pumpkin pie, cookies, and cakes. Around the globe, cinnamon’s spicy warmth is embraced in savory recipes too. Cinnamon’s distinctive flavor complements earthy stews, meatballs, legumes, and tropical poultry recipes.
If you have ever seen cinnamon sticks, you have no doubt noticed that they resemble tree bark. The truth is, cinnamon is produced by peeling, drying, and rolling the bark of a Southeast Asian tree from the botanical family Cinnamomum. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, several species of trees are used to make cinnamon, but ”true” cinnamon only comes from Cinnamomum verum trees in Sri Lanka. This tree is the only one that produces the highly prized Ceylon cinnamon.
Ceylon cinnamon is cultivated from the tender thin inner bark of the tree. It has a more subtle and aromatic flavor than other cinnamon species, and it can lose its distinctive flavor during prolonged cooking.
In addition to Ceylon cinnamon, five other species are used to produce ground cinnamon or the cinnamon sticks available in the United States and each has different characteristics.
- Cassia or Chinese cinnamon: This type has a spicy and robust flavor that is often used in cinnamon roll recipes, as the flavor profile can withstand exposure to high temperatures in baking.
- Padang cassia or Indonesian cinnamon: Indonesian cinnamon is the most reasonably priced variety and is the one most commonly used in the United States. If you are looking for cinnamon with health benefits, it is important to note that this species, Cinnamomum burmannii contains no eugenol.
- Saigon cinnamon or Vietnamese cinnamon: Cinnamomum loureiroi is closely related to Chinese cinnamon but has a more pronounced flavor and aroma.
- Malabar cinnamon: This species is used traditionally on the Indian Coast and in Sri Lanka in both savory and sweet cinnamon recipes.
- Indian cinnamon: Cinnamomum tamala produces leaves with the flavor of cinnamon. This spice is also known as Indian bay leaf. It has been used for centuries in both medicinal and culinary applications.
Cinnamon Benefits for Health
Don’t let cinnamon toast crunch be the only cinnamon in your pantry! Research shows that cinnamon contains powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acid. Here are just some of the recognized health benefits of cinnamon:
- Fights free radical damage
- Relieves inflammation
- Decreases menstrual pain
- Increases blood circulation in the uterus
- Protects against cancer
- Relieves toothaches
- Freshens breath
- Supports healthy blood glucose levels
- Fights bacteria
- Shields against cardiovascular disease
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Decreases muscle soreness
- Defends against neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls
Now that we have addressed the types of cinnamon and cinnamon health benefits, let’s dive straight into a cinnamon roll recipe. Gluten-free cinnamon rolls are a challenge to bake, as their wheat counterparts have that delectable chewiness we all adore.
The Internet is full of “the best gluten-free cinnamon rolls,” but so many of them just fall short. The best one we’ve tried (and loved) comes from Gluten Free on a Shoestring. These gluten-free cinnamon rolls use an all purpose gluten free flour, a touch of xanthan gum, yeast, and buttermilk to create their beautiful texture.
This recipe is easy to follow—but it is not an instant cinnamon roll recipe. These rolls have to be kneaded, risen, baked, and rested before enjoying.
4 Savory Cinnamon Recipes
With cinnamon’s extraordinary health benefits and awe-inspiring flavor, we thought we’d add four savory cinnamon recipes to try. Don’t be afraid—cinnamon has been used for thousands of years in delectable savory dishes—give one or two of these cinnamon recipes a chance!
From Set the Table comes this beautiful chicken recipe with a tropical flair. Chicken thighs are coated in salt and cinnamon and then fried in ghee until crispy. The real genius of this recipe is the peach basil salsa that gets spooned over the top just before serving. If you want to keep the crispy skin crispy, feel free to spoon the salsa on the plate first and top with the chicken thigh.
Are you craving the flavors of fall? From Brain Food Studio comes this divine dish that pairs cinnamon, butternut squash, and lentils together into a delicious side dish or main course. This recipe is one of the easiest recipes we have included. The lentils are simmered on the stove and then tossed with roasted butternut squash that was baked with cinnamon.
If you love meatballs, you must try this traditional Greek version from Supergolden Bakes. Greek cuisine often uses cinnamon in savory ways, as it partners beautifully with oregano, thyme, cumin, and garlic. Serve this delicious soul-warming meal with a side of rice, roasted potatoes, or fresh pita bread.
And now for a quick trip to the Caribbean for Taste of Home’s braised short ribs. Toss all of the ingredients into your slow cooker and cook on low for six to eight hours. Enjoy the aroma of the traditional jerk spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Enjoy with mashed potatoes or even mashed sweet potatoes which complements the warming spices perfectly.