Yes, canela does mean cinnamon in Spanish. Canela refers specifically to the spice obtained from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum trees. It is used as a spice and flavoring agent in many cuisines around the world.
What is Canela?
Canela, sometimes spelled canella, is the Spanish word for cinnamon. It comes from the Latin word cannella, meaning ‘little tube’, referring to the rolled strips of cinnamon bark.
Canela can refer to:
- Canela en rama – Cinnamon sticks or quills. These are rolls of dried cinnamon bark that maintain the tubular shape of the cinnamon branches.
- Canela en polvo – Ground cinnamon. This is cinnamon that has been finely ground into powder.
- Canela molida – Also ground cinnamon. Molida means ground or milled in Spanish.
So in essence, canela is cinnamon in its various commercial forms – sticks, quills, or powder.
What is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a highly-prized spice that comes from the inner bark of trees from the genus Cinnamomum. The most common varieties used for commercial purposes include:
- Cinnamomum verum – Also called Ceylon cinnamon. Native to Sri Lanka.
- Cinnamomum cassia – Also known as Chinese cinnamon. Native to China and Southeast Asia.
- Cinnamomum burmannii – Known as Indonesian cinnamon. Native to Indonesia.
Cinnamon bark contains the compound cinnamaldehyde which gives cinnamon its flavor and aroma. When harvested, the bark naturally rolls up into quills or sticks when dried.
The inner cinnamon bark is scraped from younger shoots and then left to dry completely into quills before being cut to size. Ground cinnamon is simply cinnamon quills that have been powdered.
History and Origins
Cinnamon has been used as a spice for millennia by many cultures around the world. Some key points in cinnamon’s history include:
- Indigenous to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, with some of the first exports dating back to 2000 BC from Sri Lanka.
- Mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible as a component of Moses’ anointing oil.
- One of the most prized spices in ancient Egypt, it was even used as an embalming agent.
- In Medieval times, cinnamon became very popular throughout the Arab world and Europe, with bustling spice-trade routes sprouting up.
- As Europeans discovered new sea routes to Asia in the 15th-16th centuries, cinnamon became more widely available throughout the world.
Through trade and conquest, cinnamon became popular with a wide range of cultures over thousands of years. But originally, it came from tropical areas in South and Southeast Asia.
The Spanish word canela comes directly from the Latin cannella, meaning ‘little tube’, in reference to the tubular shape of a cinnamon quill.
This Latin word probably originated from the Hebrew word qinamon which in turn came from an even earlier Semitic root.
The English word cinnamon has parallel etymology, with cinnamon deriving from the Latin word cinnamomum and in turn, the Greek kinnamomon.
How is Cinnamon Used?
Some of the most common uses of cinnamon include:
- Baking – Cinnamon is commonly used to flavor pastries, breads, pies, cookies and other desserts.
- Breakfast dishes – Cinnamon spices up breakfast foods like oatmeal, pancakes, french toast and more.
- Savory dishes – Adding cinnamon can give depth to savory dishes like stews, curries, and chicken dishes.
- Drinks – Cinnamon works well in coffee, tea, mulled wines, and other warm beverages.
- Candies – Cinnamon is often paired with sugar to make candies or as a topping on sweet treats.
- Fruits – Fruits like apples and pears work well with cinnamon as a complement.
- Aromatherapy – Cinnamon essential oils and incense are used for their warming, soothing aroma.
Popular cuisine from Mexico, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia rely heavily on cinnamon as an integral spice.
Types of Cinnamon
While all cinnamon comes from the bark of Cinnamomum trees, there are different varieties sold:
Grown in Sri Lanka, Ceylon cinnamon is considered to be “true cinnamon” and is prized for its mild, citrusy flavor. It has a light tan color and many thin layers when whole.
Cassia cinnamon is grown in China and Southeast Asia. It’s darker in color with a stronger, spicier flavor due to more cinnamaldehyde content. Within cassia, there are several specific varieties:
- Indonesian cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii)
- Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia)
- Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi)
- Korintje cinnamon (Cinnamomum burmannii)
Considered the finest and most flavorful cassia cinnamon variety. Grown in Vietnam, Saigon cinnamon has strong aroma and flavor perfect for baking.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
Cinnamon is very healthy and linked to these benefits:
- May regulate blood sugar – Helps improve insulin sensitivity and may lower blood sugar levels.
- Contains antioxidants – Has polyphenols that act as antioxidants to reduce cellular damage.
- Fights inflammation – The antioxidants can also help lower inflammation in the body.
- Protects heart health – By reducing common risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- May have anticancer properties – Research shows promise for cinnamon extracts to slow cancer cell growth.
- Fights bacterial and fungal infections – The essential oils in cinnamon have antimicrobial effects.
Most research showing benefits uses doses of 1-2 grams of cinnamon extract daily or 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the powdered spice.
Is Cassia Cinnamon Safe?
Cassia cinnamon contains more of the compound coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon. At very high doses over an extended period, coumarin may harm the liver.
However, occasional use of cassia cinnamon for cooking and baking is considered safe. The European Union set a tolerable daily intake for coumarin at 0.1 mg per 1 lb (0.5 mg per kg) of body weight.
Ceylon cinnamon has ultra-low levels of coumarin and is considered safer for regular consumption. But for most people, cassia cinnamon found in stores for baking and dishes should not pose issues as long as not over-consumed. Those with liver conditions should opt for Ceylon cinnamon.
Substitutes for Cinnamon
If you don’t have cinnamon, possible substitutes include:
- Allspice – Similar flavor, works well in baked goods.
- Cardamom – Different but complementary flavor.
- Nutmeg – Again different, but works in some baked goods.
- Ginger – Provides spice and warmth.
- Cloves – Stronger flavor, use smaller amounts.
You can also try cinnamon-flavored extracts like vanilla or almond. Or spices like pumpkin pie spice, gingerbread seasoning, or chai spice blends.
Experiment to get the right flavor profile you need. The substitute spice doesn’t have to mimic cinnamon exactly.
Types of Cinnamon Products
There are many cinnamon products available:
- Ground cinnamon – Finely powdered, used for baking or sprinkling.
- Cinnamon sticks – Rolled quills of bark, used for infusing flavor.
- Cinnamon essential oil – Very concentrated oil distilled from bark.
- Cinnamon tea – Usually black tea with cinnamon flavoring.
- Cinnamon extract – Alcohol-based flavorings used in baking.
- Cinnamon rolls – Sweet yeast rolls with cinnamon swirls.
- Cinnamon sugar – Granular sugar infused with ground cinnamon.
- Cinnamon toast crunch – A popular cinnamon-flavored cereal.
- Cinnamon dolce syrup – Sweet flavored syrup used for coffees.
- Cinnamon whiskey – Liquor infused with cinnamon flavor.
Many other products like air fresheners, scented candles, lip products, and candy feature cinnamon as well. It is a universally loved spice!
Popular Cinnamon Dishes and Recipes
Here are some popular ways to use cinnamon:
- Cinnamon rolls
- Cinnamon oatmeal
- Cinnamon french toast
- Cinnamon raisin bread
- Cinnamon muffins
- Cinnamon sugar cookies
- Cinnamon apple pie
- Cinnamon cake
- Cinnamon ice cream
- Cinnamon churros
- Cinnamon tea
- Cinnamon coffee
- Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon
- Mulled apple cider with cinnamon
- Moroccan tagine with cinnamon
- Cincinnati chili with cinnamon
- Indian biryani with cinnamon
- Arabic kofta with cinnamon
Simple Ways to Use Cinnamon
- Sprinkle on oatmeal
- Season fruit salads
- Add to coffee grounds
- Flavor whipped cream
- Top hot chocolate
Where to Buy Cinnamon
Ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks can be found at any grocery store, usually in the baking aisle. For the best price and selection, shop at:
- Bulk food stores like Costco – Sells large containers of cinnamon for a lower cost per ounce.
- Mexican supermarkets – Offer good prices on canela.
- Online spice stores – Specialty stores provide every cinnamon variety.
- Ethnic grocery stores – Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian markets carry cinnamon frequently used in cuisines.
High quality, true Ceylon cinnamon may be easier to source online or at specialty spice shops. Always look for organic, non-irradiated if possible.
- Canela is cinnamon in Spanish, originating from the Latin cannella meaning ‘little tube’.
- Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of tropical trees of the Cinnamomum genus.
- Cassia cinnamon varieties like Chinese and Indonesian tend to be spicier and stronger tasting.
- Ceylon cinnamon is milder in flavor and considered true cinnamon.
- Cinnamon has many health benefits and antioxidants.
- Cinnamon is widely used around the world in both sweet and savory dishes.
- Canela and cinnamon can be used interchangeably for cooking.
So in conclusion, yes canela does mean cinnamon, specifically referring to the rolled bark spice from Cinnamomum trees. It has a long history of use that continues today thanks to its great taste and health effects.