14 Creative Ways To Use Cinnamon Sticks

While you might best know cinnamon as the finely ground powder you can sprinkle into almost anything, you should consider stocking up on its curled form: cinnamon sticks. This version of the Cinnamomum tree bark (yes, you read that correctly) is equally appetizing and adaptable, and it's been used in drinks, desserts, main meals, and more in many cultures and cuisines. You can employ cinnamon sticks in several ways, whether you steep, boil, or blend them into your desired food or beverage. They provide a lot of flavor — in order to enhance your culinary confections with its warm, spicy notes, you'll often only need one stick (or less) to do the trick.  

Consider these creative ways to use cinnamon sticks when you have a few nearing the end of their shelf life, gathering dust in the back of your pantry. If you're new to these, you'll usually find them in the spice section of your local grocery or international store. For the most part, you'll need to remove them from the dish or drink before serving, but we'll let you know if they should stick around.

1. Upgrade cheap bourbon with cinnamon sticks

Not everyone has a top-tier bar cart at home. If you have an affordable bourbon that doesn't taste to your liking, give it an upgrade with a cinnamon stick infusion. Place a few cinnamon sticks directly into the bourbon and let it infuse for around seven days. You don't need as many sticks if you don't have a full bottle of the stuff. However, the more sticks you add, the less time it needs to infuse. Either way, leave the bottle in a cool, dry place and shake it every couple of days.

Luckily, this tip doesn't require a lot of work, but you'll have to call on your patience. For a fun taste test, leave a couple of shots in a separate airtight container, like a Mason jar, and taste the cinnamon one versus the initial one. The individual tasting notes from the bourbon may vary, but the cinnamon pairs well with vanilla, wood, honey, and smoke flavors. This can alter a libation you dreaded sipping on into a delectable base for cocktails.

2. Add it to a pot of refried beans

The hearty, deliciousness of refried beans is incomparable. It's like comfort in a bowl. Perhaps you've eaten it growing up at home or even going out to restaurants — but when you want to replicate this dish, you should consider adding a cinnamon stick. It's the unexpected spice for a new take on refried beans. Place the cinnamon stick into the water or cooking liquid while you're boiling your beans. This gives it plenty of time to simmer and add flavor to the beans while they soften. 

The spice is noticeable but subtle, warm, and woodsy, and it doesn't overpower the earthiness of the pinto beans. One stick works exceptionally well when making a large pot of beans to serve the family instead of a small portion with the same amount, where it'll be overly cinnamon-y. Once the beans are soft, remove the cinnamon stick and proceed to make them as usual. Eat this uniquely enhanced dish in a quesadilla, on the side with rice, or as the star ingredient in enfrijoladas. It's not a matter of what to eat these refried beans with since there are numerous ways; it's more about how long they'll last before being devoured.

3. Infuse milk with cinnamon sticks

Infusing your milk with cinnamon sticks gives it a burst of flavor. You can use your milk of choice for this, whether it's goat milk or oat. All milk types will pick up the cinnamon flavor, but the variety of milk itself might taste different or have a distinct consistency — skim milk might be watery compared to whole milk, for example. Put the milk in a pot on the stove, allow the milk to begin warming up, and then add one or two sticks of cinnamon. 

Let it reach a simmer before turning it off. Take it off the heat and enjoy this tasty and fragrant infused milk in coffee, a hot milk steamer, lattes, oatmeal, or any drink or dish you'd use warmed milk. Unlike using ground cinnamon, where you can sprinkle in a lot of it, the potency of the infused beverage depends on how many sticks you use. Plus, you don't need to heat it for long — otherwise, you'd risk reducing the liquid too much. This makes a warm, soothing way to end the night before heading to bed rather than sipping on a plain cup of milk.

4. Make Jamaican sorrel

Jamaican sorrel is a blissful drink made from a blend of spices, not to be confused with the bitter, lemony, leafy green sorrel. This iteration includes hibiscus leaves, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, ginger, and sugar, but you might find that every family recipe has its own ingredients and ratios. Variations might include cloves, allspice, honey, or other sweeteners, among other ingredients. The key element in Jamaican sorrel is dried hibiscus, which gives it an alluring red hue and floral, sweet taste. 

For this concoction, simmer the spices in water, then remove the heat and steep for an additional 2 hours. Then, it's time to strain the solids and mix the sugar in. Thanks to the festive spices, it's associated with being a Christmas beverage and can be served warm. But you could drink it iced whenever you want a delectable beverage to sip on; we've certainly enjoyed it on a random March afternoon. This aromatic drink has citrus notes and an underlying heat from the ginger. Turn it into an adult beverage by adding rum. It looks stunning and tastes incredible, so it makes a fantastic beverage when you want something other than soda.

5. Pair cinnamon sticks with chicken

Cinnamon and chicken are common household ingredients; together, they make an impressive and sophisticated combination for the senses. Chicken is one of those blank-slate proteins that can be paired with any number of options to enhance its taste. When you want to impress yourself with a creamy and aromatic meal, make a heavily and wonderfully seasoned chicken korma. For this recipe, toast the spices in ghee, including the cinnamon stick, and then follow the instructions to cook the onions, garlic, and ginger. Remove the whole spices, and then it's time to add the chicken and let everything simmer to perfection. You could also include veggies like carrots or green beans for more color and filling.

For this tip, cinnamon sticks can offer flavor and fragrance to meals such as creamy coronation chicken. The spice mix of the cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, and peppercorns simmers with the water to poach the poultry. This meal blends beautiful flavors together, like mango chutney and curry powder, to create a memorable, rich meal that you can turn into a sandwich, add to a salad, or serve on a baked potato.

6. Torch this whole spice for a drink garnish

Cinnamon stick garnishes are nothing new, but you can give it a flavorful spin by setting it on fire. Torch a cinnamon stick with a kitchen torch or on the stove to give it a new level of smoky flavor for your drinks. Carefully light it until you see a slow burn or change of color. You should also be able to smell the scent of slightly burnt cinnamon. The stick doesn't easily catch and hold a fire, so you might have to give it a couple of tries before you get the hang of how long it needs to be heated. 

It won't be a bitter, charred crisp but will have a scorched look where the torch hits — which you can use to your advantage if you want the burn to hit a specific part of the stick. Try this in mulled wine for a delicious spin on a classic, festive drink. You don't have to use this solely for cocktails or spiced drinks, although that is a popular way to go. A thick vanilla fig smoothie can get a fresh feel with the torched cinnamon swap. Create a dramatic way to garnish your favorite beverage with this cool-looking, equally fragrant trick.

7. Steep cinnamon sticks to make tea

You can easily turn the cinnamon stick into a delightful tea by simmering it in water for 15 minutes. But you don't have to leave it at that. This hot drink can be enhanced by heating it with other goodies, such as sugar or honey, to sweeten it. Heat it with a tea bag or loose-leaf tea for a potent black or herbal tea with cinnamon notes. You could also pour in a dash of milk for a slightly milky tea. 

Make perfumed from-scratch Russian tea with black tea, orange juice and zest, lemon, cinnamon stick, cloves, and sugar. If you want to make it at night but are sensitive to caffeine, opt for a caffeine-free black tea. There are plenty of delicious ways to customize this to your liking. Go a different route by making masala chai, or spiced tea, which is a huge part of Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine. Gather inspiration from this notable beverage and create maple chai by using a bunch of marvelous spices from your pantry. This creative way to use cinnamon sticks is comforting, hot, and takes under 10 minutes to complete, so you can make it and sip it on your way to class or work.

8. Make brandied cherries

Brandied cherries are a scrumptious little treat that you could technically eat by themselves, but they taste best in a cocktail or baked good. Opt for pitted cherries since you don't want to chip a tooth as you bite into a pit while enjoying a slice of buckwheat fruitcake or sipping on a festive beverage. You only need a handful of ingredients to make this treasure, including, of course, a cinnamon stick. Let the ingredients simmer in a pan until the liquid reduces, then place them inside a sterile container or jar. 

These adaptable round alcohol-infused delights take about 30 minutes to prepare and cook but require at least a couple of weeks to cure in the refrigerator. So, this isn't something to attempt when you want to put something together that same day. The aromatic spices and brandy transform the cherries into a sophisticated garnish or inclusion you can store in the fridge for up to a month after opening. Add them to make an upgraded Shirley Temple, spoon them onto crepes or pancakes, or place them on top of a vanilla sundae. For savory options, try them in a baked Brie en croûte, or paired with pork chops or chicken.

9. Add it to create a cinnamon-infused vinegar

You might have heard of vinegars like red wine vinegar or cider vinegar, but how about making your own infused version? Infused vinegar creates captivating flavor profiles and also allows you to give herbs and spices you might have thrown away a second life, such as scraps or ends of herbs. We recommend white wine vinegar or white distilled vinegar for this recipe since they're better at absorbing flavors. Gently warm the vinegar, don't boil it, and then add your desired ingredients. 

Try a torched cinnamon stick, orange peel, and a sprig of rosemary for a smoky, citrusy infused vinegar. But leftover scraps from ginger or the stem of lavender you want to use up would taste great with the cinnamon stick. Leave the vinegar in an airtight container at room temperature for about one week. After that, it's ready to use in several scrumptious ways. Mix it with oil to create a delicious salad or pasta dressing, drizzle it onto roasted vegetables, or incorporate it with honey to lightly pour over sweets. You could also use this as an amusing experiment to see what flavors taste good together.

10. Use a cinnamon stick for a spiced simple syrup

As the name says, simple syrup is indeed pretty uncomplicated to put together. While you can make a no-heat simple syrup, we recommend the classic way of heating it in a saucepan to infuse the spices best. Make a spiced simple syrup with allspice berries and a cinnamon stick, but you could also use your favorite spices. You'll need equal parts water and sugar and then your desired seasonings. Use whole spices like the cinnamon stick, clove, or star anise for this infusion. While the powdered versions are just as tasty, the whole ones will create a less cloudy syrup.

Make the syrup as usual, add the spices once the sugar dissolves, and let everything simmer for 10 minutes. After it's cooled, remove the spices and store the syrup in a closed container in the fridge for no more than a month. Add this flavorful, aromatic syrup when you want to sweeten your drinks and foods in a complex way. You can use it to elevate your lemonade or a cocktail with rum or whiskey. It tastes marvelous poured onto pancakes or waffles for a delicious brunch. However, it can also provide moisture to cakes or other baked goods if you pour it on after the item is fully baked. 

11. Mix it in when creating sauces

There are plenty of delectable ways to utilize sauces in your cooking, whether you pour them onto meat or load them onto a crostini. Savory cranberry sauce gets a kick from a simmered cinnamon stick and a boost from fresh herbs. Compared to a classic cranberry sauce with lots of sugar and vanilla, this red relish leans toward tart and savory with the addition of chicken stock, cranberry juice, and reduced sugar. It's ideal when you want a break from the super sweet interpretation and swap it for a more balanced sauce. Don't reserve this for Thanksgiving turkey only — you can enjoy it with grilled chicken or pork, too.

Make a different berry sauce with sour and sweet lingonberries, which have a flavor profile similar to cranberries. This one is simmered with a cinnamon stick, apple cider, and other ingredients to make a balanced sauce. The hardest part will be locating the lingonberries since they're less common than the other berry fruits. After simmering these little round fruits, remove the herbs and spices. Try this lingonberry sauce in a pie, make it into jam, use it to top pancakes, or stuff it inside of French toast.

12. Give soups and stews a cinnamon stick kick

Give your next soup or stew warmth and depth with a surprising cinnamon twist. For a sweeter dinner, apple cider and cinnamon can make all the difference. You might not inherently consider these as stew ingredients, but cinnamon apple cider beef stew meshes sweet and savory in a tasty, approachable way. Include the cinnamon stick along with the rest of the stew ingredients, and then cook it low and slow for 3 hours. You'll remove it and the whole herbs once the stew is fully cooked and fragrant.

Chili is a flavorsome dish that can taste different every time, depending on the ingredients you have on hand. Make smoky chicken chili for a meal that incorporates many flavors that come together for an incredible chili. It has the usual suspects, such as chili powder or cumin, but a cinnamon stick also makes a surprise appearance. It gets added toward the beginning of the cooking process as you put together the tomato-based broth where you'll cook the chicken. Once the chili is ready to serve following a 50-minute simmer, simply take the stick out or scoop around it, like you would with bay leaves.

13. Try this spice in rice drinks and desserts

Rice doesn't always have to be a savory dish served with vegetables. Make a blissful, sweet, and creamy Mexican horchata with cinnamon and rice as the star ingredients. The rice soaks overnight and is then blended with a cinnamon stick for a smooth drink. While it's milky in color, it doesn't require milk. However, you could include whole, condensed, evaporated, or plant-based milk for a richer beverage. You'll catch us sipping on this any time of year during family gatherings. It's refreshing in the summer when it's loaded with ice, but thanks to the cinnamon, it has warmth, so you could easily sip it in winter, too. 

For a more scoopable rice and cinnamon delight, make dairy-free coconut chai rice pudding. This rich dessert allows the cinnamon, other chai spices, and coconut milk to really soak into the rice. It has a thick consistency with the soft texture of cooked, sweetened rice. The only downside is you have to wait a bit while it refrigerates before you can dig in. These creative ways to use cinnamon sticks can transform your rice into a total treat.

14. Enjoy a cinnamon stick in a cup of coffee

Innovate how you consume your morning coffee by giving it a cinnamon boost. Try making a cup of spicy gourmandise coffee by brewing it over the cinnamon stick. To do this, use the pod coffee flavor of your choice or add a cinnamon stick or two to your pot so the coffee drips and infuses while brewing. This recipe doubles up on the cinnamon with the ground kind but also adds cayenne pepper for the sweet and spicy cream. This makes an unforgettable hot drink that would have a high cost if you ordered something similar at a coffee shop. 

Avoid using too many cinnamon sticks, however, as they can overpower the subtle notes in the coffee. Another way to add spices to coffee is putting a cinnamon stick directly into your bag of coffee beans to infuse over a more extended period of time. Experiment with these methods and cinnamon stick ratios to see how you like it best. While you might be more familiar with adding a pinch of cinnamon to your coffee grounds, this is another enjoyable, refreshing way to drink something you might have had plenty of times before.

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