The Uncommon Cinnamon Variety That Will Elevate Your Baked Goods

We've all made a recipe using cinnamon at some point in our lives, but what many might not realize is that the spice comes in a number of variations — and playing around with them can totally transform our dishes.

Speaking to Food & Wine, chef Sam Fore of Tuk Tuk Sri Lankan Bites lamented that most people were sleeping on cinnamon, in general. "People haven't been challenged enough to use it," she explained, adding that by not paying attention to the particular types of cinnamon available, people were losing out on unbelievable flavor combinations. 

It does bear mentioning that not all variations of cinnamon are widely available in the average supermarket, which only adds to how often it's overlooked. As Burlap & Barrel co-founder Ethan Frisch told Allrecipes, Korintjie Cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii) is most prevalent, though others can also be found in mainstream stores from time to time. However, the confusion continues, as, per Burlap & Barrel, two variations — Cassia or Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) and Royal cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi) — were once both known as Saigon cinnamon, despite being entirely different variations. 

Unfortunately for cinnamon aficionados and adventurous cooks alike, the latter (that is, royal cinnamon) can still be a little tricky to find. However, something tells us those with a sweet tooth will be willing to stick it out to secure a jar.

What is Royal cinnamon?

If there are so many variations of cinnamon out there, what exactly is Royal cinnamon, and where does the regal moniker come from? 

Given that Burlap & Barrel has explained that Royal cinnamon was once conflated with Saigon or Cassia cinnamon, perhaps the first thing to come to mind would be, well, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City today). That wasn't true for either variant, though. Speaking to Allrecipes, co-founder of Burlap & Barrel Ethan Frisch pointed out that the name had come about as a result of a mix-up. "Saigon cinnamon is a misnomer because it was actually the trading point — there is no cinnamon grown near Saigon," he said. That a different name was in order is hardly surprising, then — but when it comes to Cinnamomun loureiroi's new nickname, things are a little more authentic. 

According to Allrecipes, the Vietnamese royal family once got their cinnamon stash from the fields producing Cinnamomun loureiroi. Burlap & Barrel also notes that the particular variety has been grown in the same place, the city of Huế, for centuries. In other words, incorporating this variant into your culinary repertoire would place you in some grand, and rather well-established company.

What Royal cinnamon tastes like

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its origins, the variation nicknamed "Royal cinnamon" is a baker's first port of call when putting together a spread fit for a queen. 

According to Sam Fore, Cinnamomun loureiroi is the sweetest among the variations, making it an ideal choice for dessert lovers (via Food & Wine). Speaking to Allrecipes, Ethan Frisch concurred. In fact, he described it as, "Cinnamon amped up to 10." That sweetness doesn't mean the variation is any less spicy, though. Frisch explained that Royal cinnamon offers the best of both worlds: "super sweet, super spicy." The Burlap & Barrel website took that a step further, describing it as everything cinnamon should be. "It exemplifies the intense sweetness and spiciness for which Vietnamese cinnamon is prized," the retailer says. 

Weighing in on the flavor profile, Bon Appétit was in total agreement. In fact, the outlet pointed out that it wouldn't be far-fetched to assume that the spice had a ton of sugar mixed in with it. However, that intense sweetness is down to the cinnamon, itself — making this one majestic addition to your homemade cinnamon rolls!

How to cook with Royal cinnamon

Given the intense sweetness of Royal cinnamon, it's no shock that those in the know suggest using it for confections like cookies and cakes. It's worth noting, however, that cooks can take advantage of the sweetness in non-baked applications, too. In fact, writing for Bon Appétit, Sarah Jampel pointed out that she's used Cinnamomun loureiroi to add a dash of decadence to everyday fare, like cinnamon-topped smoothies. 

Having said all that, though, Royal cinnamon can also be used in savory dishes. Remember how Sam Fore told Food & Wine that experimenting with cinnamon could bring about unexpectedly delicious flavor combinations? The same goes for the Royal variety. According to Burlap & Barrel, this variant works a treat with a fellow sweet ingredient, tomato — and that makes it an obvious choice for dishes containing it. The company also suggests using it alongside less sweet companions, like meat, for an explosion of flavors. Let's just say, your stews will never be the same again. 

So, summed up, whether you're cooking with it, baking with it, or merely sprinkling a little on top as a sweet addition, this cinnamon variation is about as versatile as they come.

Where to buy Royal cinnamon

Now that we've whetted your appetite for Royal cinnamon, let's get down to business. Where does one even begin to look for Cinnamomun loureiroi? 

As Burlap & Barrel points out in its description of Royal cinnamon, this particular variant is often hard to come by. That's mostly due to the spice being harvested on a small scale — and given that the brand describes Royal cinnamon as, "an heirloom variety," we're not shocked by that. 

According to Martha Stewart, anything with heirloom status has been cultivated in its original form for several generations. In fact, the outlet explains that heirloom produce is often only found in the area of its production and immediate surroundings. In light of that, those looking to add Royal cinnamon to their spice rack should avoid grocery stores altogether and head straight to specialists, like Burlap & Barrel. 

Burlap & Barrel sells Royal cinnamon in two sizes from its online store: a 1.8-ounce jar for those wanting to dip their toe into the flavor and a 16-ounce jar for those on their second round. With Royal cinnamon listed as one of the spice company's top sellers, we'd suggest erring on the side of caution and grabbing the bigger size from the get-go. Your taste buds will thank you for it!

Royal cinnamon vs. other varieties

For those with a sweet tooth, Royal cinnamon is an obvious choice. It can add sweetness to both savory meals and desserts, so it is a great addition to any spice rack. 

However, as Sam Fore told Food & Wine, when it comes to the spice in all its iterations, "Different types of cinnamon have different qualities." Plus, we already know that sleeping on cinnamon is a one-way ticket to losing out. So, outside of the royal variety, what should we know about this vastly untapped spice? According to Burlap & Barrel, Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamon Verum) is more herbal, and a great choice for those looking for a less sweet addition to their meals. As Ethan Frisch told Allrecipes, there's also Cassia or Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum Cassia), which is more on the sweet side — though not as intense as Royal cinnamon. And, for those whose heads are spinning at the mere thought of all the options, there's always Korintjie Cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii), which Frisch names as a good go-to. 

However, if it's elevated baked goods you're after, we still stand by the variant guaranteed to do just that: Royal cinnamon.