The ground cinnamon most Americans are familiar with is actually the pulverized bark of the cassia tree. Stick cinnamon is simply bark that has not been pulverized. Even though the two forms of the spice are common and widely used, you may find yourself out of one or both.
Alternatively, other circumstances may be forcing you to seek a substitute. For example, one of the reasons that you may need a cinnamon substitute is a cinnamon allergy. While cinnamon allergies are not common, they do occur. Whether you have run out and need an emergency alternative to cinnamon or someone in your household is allergic to it, consider our recommended substitutes below.
Your best bet: Allspice
Despite the fact that allspice comes from the New World and cinnamon comes from Asia, the two spices do have a lot in common when it comes to flavor. Allspice berries have many of the cinnamon notes along with notes of nutmeg and cloves. This means that it should fit seamlessly into any recipe that contains those two spices.
Warning: allspice is considerably more pungent when compared to cinnamon and therefore the two spices should not be used in equal quantities. When using allspice as a cinnamon substitute, use a third of the amount of allspice that the recipe suggests for cinnamon.
A decent second choice: Cinnamon extract
Cinnamon extract may not be suitable if you are trying to avoid an allergic reaction, but it can still work as an alternative in other situations. It is made by soaking cinnamon bark in alcohol.
Note that cinnamon extract is different from cinnamon oil, which is far more concentrated and which is extracted directly from the cinnamon bark. You can make your own cinnamon extract to keep on hand by soaking four cinnamon sticks in a ½ cup of light rum for two weeks. Cinnamon extract has a long shelf life though it will gradually become less potent over time.
In a pinch: Cardamom
Cardamom is a fragrant spice that is used in many dishes alongside cinnamon. For example, both spices can be found in many curry powder blends. Cardamom can serve as an effective substitute for cinnamon in quite a few dishes, especially savory dishes. You can substitute cardamom for cinnamon in a 1:1 ratio. If your recipe calls one teaspoon of cinnamon, use a teaspoon of cardamom instead.
Your other options include pumpkin pie spice, which contains cinnamon. You can use this spice blend in place of cinnamon in sweet dishes. You will want to use ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice for every ½ teaspoon of cinnamon in your recipe. Pumpkin pie spice is not the only spice combination that you can use in place of cinnamon. Consider mixes of nutmeg and allspice or of cardamom and coriander. Experiment with different proportions of each spice until you arrive at something that you like.
These spice combinations are more potent than cinnamon so you will want to use half the amount of the spice mix that the recipe lists for cinnamon. Cinnamon oil can be used in place of ground cinnamon in a few applications, but it is highly concentrated and should be used carefully.