How we tested
The bark of most of the cinnamon sold in supermarkets is harvested from trees grown in Indonesia and Vietnam. However, in many other parts of the world—like South America and parts of Europe—another species called Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) is more common. Also known as “true cinnamon,” Ceylon is primarily grown in Sri Lanka and is known for its milder flavor and paler color as compared with other species of cinnamon. Though Ceylon cinnamon was once commonly available in America, it all but disappeared from store shelves in the early 20th century, when other cinnamons became cheaper to import.
But Ceylon cinnamon has seen a comeback in the last decade. Online shopping makes it easier to order, and some supermarkets have begun stocking Ceylon products again. Wondering how Ceylon cinnamon compared to other cinnamons and curious if we could distinguish it from Indonesian cinnamon in particular (since it’s the mildest supermarket cinnamon), we pitted three Ceylon cinnamon products against our favorite Indonesian cinnamon in rice pudding and cinnamon rolls.
In both applications tasters easily singled out the Ceylon products, finding them milder and more subtle, with very little heat compared with the Indonesian product. Overall, tasters preferred the spicier, more complex Indonesian cinnamon. Lab tests backed up our tasters’ comments: All of the Ceylon cinnamons had lower percentages of the key volatile oils that give cinnamon heat, complexity, and flavor—1.6 to 1.8 percent volatile oils by weight compared with 1.9 percent in our favorite Indonesian product (a small difference but one that our tasters picked up on). In general, our tasters preferred the bolder flavor of Indonesian cinnamon, but if you prefer a subtler, more delicate cinnamon flavor, Ceylon could be a good choice.
We tasted three nationally available Ceylon cinnamon products against our favorite Indonesian cinnamon, swirling them into rice pudding and baking them into cinnamon rolls. Origin and additives were obtained from manufacturers, and volatile oils were analyzed by an independent lab. Prices shown were paid online and in supermarkets. Products appear in order of preference.