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I've heard that even though cinnamon is widely used in several types of sweet food-products, it's actually not a sweet spice.

Is is true? If yes, why is it used in sweet food-products? Either way, which non-sweet foods use it?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Cinnamon itself is the bark of a particular tree, and is not terribly sweet in any objective sense. I cannot think of a single spice that is in itself sweet. Spices are generally aromatic, pungent, or hot, but not sweet. Even vanilla is in fact fairly bitter on its own, as is chocolate before sugar is added.

Cinnamon is a warm spice that many cultures feel compliment many sweet dishes, and many people find it a pleasant taste so it is widely used.

There is no reasonable way to give an enumeration of non-sweet foods that use it. While in Western European derived cultures, its use in savory dishes is fairly unusual, there is a large tradition of using it in savory dishes in South America, India and Pakistan, the Middle East, North Africa and so on.

One example in North America would be Cincinnati style chili, which is characterize by its sweet spices, often including cinchona and chocolate.

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I asked about different uses, because the only example I know about that is historical: Mayas (or Aztecs) consumed chocolate with chili and cinnamon - if I know well, it was the first recorded way of consuming chocolate. I was interested in other examples, because I can't imagine it in non-sweet foods. –  Zoltán Schmidt Sep 6 '13 at 0:21
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As consumed in the cultures you mentioned, it was not sweetened. –  SAJ14SAJ Sep 6 '13 at 0:25
    
It is a fundamental seasoning in many of the cultures I listed--I cannot believe that I left out India and Pakistan, where it is part of many savory curries. You will want to look to non-European traditions to see it shine in a savory role. –  SAJ14SAJ Sep 6 '13 at 0:27
    
I see. Thanks!! –  Zoltán Schmidt Sep 6 '13 at 0:30
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@Zoltan, I doubt cinnamon was used by the Aztec's or Mayan's since it is native Sri Lanka, south east asia and China for Cassia. Although early Spanish recipes for chocolate often included cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. –  draksia Sep 6 '13 at 12:55

From personal experience i can tell you that Cinammon is widely used in persian cooking in stews and curry bases. It pairs up great with other savoury&sweet spices, like saffron and tumric. It also works great with tomato sauce dishes. Most popular example in persian cooking is greenbean polow. Which uses a tomato based sauce with minced meat and is flavoured with tumric, saffron and cinnamon as th main spices. You should look up 'loobia polow' it you want a recipe and have a crack at it.

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