Cassia Cinnamon from Penzey’s Spices

Penzey's Cassia Cinnamon Varieties

Penzey’s Spices, a spice outlet with stores and mail order, carries three varieties of cassia cinnamon, as well as a ceylon cinnamon. I bought the three cassia varieties because multiple cinnamon terroirs are really difficult to find. You can check out all Penzey’s cinnamon products here. I tried each type in a batch of oatmeal cookies, my favorite cinnamon vehicle.

Korintje (Indonesia) cassia cinnamon ($4.15/4oz)

This is a high-quality version of the cassia you buy in a supermarket. Its taste and smell are stronger and fresher than the typical, store-bought stuff. The color is vibrant orange, with tinges of cayenne red. Its flavor is clean, soft, classic, and sweet – especially in baked goods. It’s “simply cinnamon”, with very few unique characteristics of its own. In the oatmeal cookie test, this cinnamon was too sweet and one-dimensional to carry the cookie by itself. It would be perfect for spice blends where cinnamon isn’t a feature flavor, such as curries, gingerbread, or spice cakes.

Chinese cassia cinnamon ($4.45/4oz)

This is my least favorite of Penzey’s cassia varieties. The color is rustier and browner than the Korintje cassia, and it doesn’t have a very strong cinnamon aroma. There are dusty, musty overtones that remind me of a used bookstore. It gives me an “old forest” kind of feeling. Fortunately, the cookies didn’t taste musty. This cassia has slightly more personality than Korintje, but in my opinion, not enough to stand on its own as a feature flavor. The cinnamon taste is less pungent and spicy than the other types, and leaves the palate quickly. Another good candidate for blending, or perhaps delicately-flavored cinnamon treats.

Vietnamese (Saigon) cassia cinnamon ($7.65/4oz)

Which cinnamon is the “best” is a matter of taste. Vietnamese cassia has a bad reputation with some, but it’s my personal favorite. I find it to have the most exciting flavor and aroma of the three Penzey’s products, and it really motivated me to learn more about cinnamon.  The color is a golden brown with some orange hues. The smell is spicy hot, sharp, and overwhelming. This is a strong, pungent, smack-you-in-the-face cassia! It isn’t as sweet-tasting as the others, but rather has a dark, bold quality that makes it great as a feature flavor. If you don’t intend for cinnamon to be a stand-out flavor, use something else. The bottle from Penzey’s recommends using 1/3rd less than your recipes call for, but I usually use the full amount because I really enjoy it. It made fantastic oatmeal cookies with a rich, complex taste.


  1. Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, one of my favorite magazines, did a taste test on various ground cinnamons in November 1998, and the Penzey’s China Cassia Cinnamon was deemed to be the best with its stronger and sweeter taste. In November 2006, it was still listed as their “test kitchen winner.” Second in their taste test was Penzey’s Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon.

  2. Thank you for sharing that. I find all the different opinions on cinnamon fascinating. There is certainly a cultural component, some countries use mainly ceylon, some use cassia. There’s also a strong personal preference. Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages, linked above, say this about Vietnamese cinnamon:

    It is very difficult to judge the culinary value of Vietnamese cinnamon; the quality that was imported to Eastern Europe in the days of the Cold War was poor, similar to low-quality cassia. There are indications that Vietnam has better stuff to offer, but it’s not yet widely available in the West.

    Saigon cinnamon has now rather vanished from the European market. It has been much traded in East European countries before the fall of the Iron Curtain, but, for its low quality, is now hardly found outside Vietnam.

    I felt like my pallet was called into question. It’s good to know that a panel of experts at Cook’s Illustrated Magazine also liked Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon. Whew!

    Still, I think it’s most important that people cook in a way they enjoy, with ingredients they like, regardless of what someone else says. That goes double for my advice!

  3. Hi, I just found your site in a search for making homemade vanilla. I grew up on Penzey’s, and I exclusively use the Vietnamese cinnamon in all my baking, even adding it when I use the Apple Pie spice, just for the extra flavor.

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