Cinnamon

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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a pile of cinnamon sticks before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies have cinnamon?

Cinnamon may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Note that sometimes cinnamon can cause a harmless rash on skin that it touches, such as near baby’s mouth. Also, inhaling cinnamon powder can also trigger a significant cough reflex and even cause inflammation inside the lungs.1 2 Lastly, read on to learn about the difference between cassia and Ceylon cinnamon. The majority of cinnamon in the American market is cassia cinnamon, which contains more coumarin, a plant compound in cinnamon that can be toxic and cause liver and kidney damage when consumed in large quantities.3

Cinnamon comes from a tropical evergreen tree whose bark and leaves are used to make essential oil and spice. Like all plants, there are different varieties with distinctive aroma, flavor, and texture. Ceylon cinnamon—named after the term that colonizers used for the island of Sri Lanka, the plant’s native home—has a delicate, sweeter flavor than cassia cinnamon, a group of pungent varieties (also called Korintje cinnamon and Saigon cinnamon) from trees that still grow wild in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and other countries. 

That said, humans have been eating Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon and using both varieties in folk medicine for thousands of years. In fact, you may have tried cassia and not known it. In the United States, companies are not required to identify the variety of cinnamon on the label, and many of the major spice brands market cassia varieties as simply “cinnamon” on the container, including Fresh Direct, Kirkland, McCormick’s, Penzey’s, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value. Brands are increasingly getting specific with varieties to meet consumer demand, so look for “Ceylon cinnamon” on labels, such as Cinnamon Tree Organics, Frontier Co-Op, and Simply Organics.

★Tip: Not sure if a cinnamon is Cassia or Ceylon? Look at the fine print on the label to see if there is a country of origin. Cinnamon from China, Indonesia, and Vietnam is most likely cassia while cinnamon from Sri Lanka is most likely the Ceylon variety. Mexican cinnamon is often also the prized Ceylon. If the country is not identified, look at the color. Ceylon cinnamon is bronze and noticeably lighter than cassia, which is rustier. The structure of the sticks can also be a clue: Ceylon sticks contain laminated rolls of thin bark, while cassia sticks are thicker with typically just one curled layer.  

Amelia, 7 months, is given a boiled apple with cinnamon and she’s not so sure about eating it.
Callie, 13 months, eats cinnamon on poached apples.
Ceylon cinnamon (true cinnamon) has multiple layers (as shown on left.

Is cinnamon healthy for babies?

Yes—in moderation. Just a pinch is enough to add a layer of flavor! It also offers trace amounts of fiber, iron, calcium, manganese, and vitamin K. It may even have antimicrobial, antiparasitic, and antioxidant effects on the body.4

It would be wise to opt for Ceylon cinnamon when possible, and take care with cassia cinnamon varieties to offer just a sprinkle rather than the heaping spoonful. Cassia cinnamon (also called Chinese cinnamon, Indonesian cinnamon, Korintje cinnamon, Padang cinnamon, Saigon cinnamon, and Vietnamese cinnamon) contains more coumarin, a toxic plant compound that may pose health risks when consumed in excess amounts.5 Even one teaspoon of cassia cinnamon exceeds the tolerable daily intake of coumarin for adults, according to the European Food Safety Authority—that means just a pinch is plenty for the average-sized baby.6 That said, it is unlikely that your baby will consume a ton of cinnamon because it is primarily used to flavor foods in cooking across cultures. 

★Tip: Ceylon cinnamon can be more expensive than cassia. If you’re a cinnamon lover, buy both types and reserve Ceylon for recipes that call for lots of this delicious spice! For an occasional sprinkle on your baby’s food, cassia cinnamon varieties are just fine.  

Is cinnamon a choking hazard for babies?

No. However, cinnamon is often used to flavor hard fruits, which are choking hazards when served raw. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and always stay near your baby during mealtime. Keep scrolling for age-appropriate serving suggestions!

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is cinnamon a common allergen?

No. Cinnamon allergy is uncommon, although individuals with asthma may be sensitive to cinnamon if it is inhaled.7 A more common occurrence is when cinnamon causes a harmless rash when it comes in contact with skin.8 This contact rash is typically an irritant, rather than an allergic, reaction.

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity—just a pinch—with a food that has already been introduced, such as mashed root vegetables, warm cereal, or yogurt. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

How do you introduce cinnamon for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Sprinkle a small pinch of cinnamon on well-cooked fruit or vegetables, mix into warm cereals or coconut rice, or mix into lentil dishes, such as mejadra. Remember that cinnamon can cause an irritant rash on skin that it touches, so if your baby has sensitive skin, try using a barrier cream before meals with cinnamon.

12 to 24 months old: Time to spice things up! Cinnamon is used in lots of savory dishes, from curried vegetables, to spicy jerk sauces, to hearty keema, and vegetarian pho. While cinnamon is often used to flavor sweet foods, it would be wise to hold off on serving desserts with added sugar until the second birthday to allow your child to develop a palate for savory foods and to help offset preferences for sweet and salty foods as your child grows.9

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Recipe: Kiribath (Sri Lankan Coconut Milk Rice)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk (about half of a 14-ounce BPA-free can)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Directions

  1. Place the rice in a colander and rinse in the sink until the water runs clear.
  2. Transfer the rice to a medium pot and add the water. Stir and partially cover the pot, then set on medium-high heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to create a gentle simmer. Cook until the rice is starting to become tender and most of the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coconut milk and cinnamon. Cover and continue to cook on low heat until the rice has absorbed the milk, about 10 minutes. If the rice is still firm, add a splash or two of hot water and continue to cook until tender.
  4. While the rice is cooking, grease a small baking dish or platter with the oil.
  5. When the rice is done, remove the pot from the heat, uncover, and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the rice to the prepared dish or platter.
  6. Use your hands or the back of a spoon to flatten the rice into the shape of the container. Let it cool to room temperature. The kiribath will congeal and firm up as it cools.

To serve: Cut the kiribath into rectangles, squares, or triangles. Place 1 of the shapes on your child’s plate. Serve the kiribath as finger food or encourage utensil practice by placing a fork on the side of your child’s bowl or plate. Eat your portion alongside your child to show how it’s done!

To store: Store leftover kiribath in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Flavor Pairings

Cinnamon is a flavor enhancer that complements the natural sweetness in foods. Try using it to flavor dishes with almond, apple, apricot, Asian pear, banana, beef, blueberry, acorn squash, carrot, cherry, coconut, dates, fig, grapefruit, lamb, lime, orange, peanut, pear, pineapple, strawberry, tomato, walnut, watermelon, or salmon. Pair it with other bold spices like cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, or saffron for an extra kick!

Reviewed by:

Jamie Truppi, MSN, CNS

Venus Kalami, MNSP, RD

Kimberly Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

Sakina Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

Rachel Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Can Spices Cause an Allergic Reaction? Retrieved October 19, 2020
  2. Grant-Alfieri, A., Schaechter, J., Lipshultz, S. E. (2013). Ingesting and aspirating dry cinnamon by children and adolescents: the “cinnamon challenge”. Pediatrics, 131(5), 833–835. DOI:10.1542/peds.2012-3418. Retrieved October 19, 2020
  3. Wang, Y. H., Avula, B., Nanayakkara, N. P., Zhao, J., & Khan, I. A. (2013). Cassia cinnamon as a source of coumarin in cinnamon-flavored food and food supplements in the United States. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 61(18), 4470–4476. DOI: 10.1021/jf4005862. Retrieved October 19, 2020
  4. Ranasinghe, P., Pigera, S., Premakumara, G.A., Galappaththy, P., Constantine, G.R., et al. (2013). Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 13, 275. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-275. Retrieved October 19, 2020
  5. Wang, Y. H., Avula, B., Nanayakkara, N. P., Zhao, J., & Khan, I. A. (2013). Cassia cinnamon as a source of coumarin in cinnamon-flavored food and food supplements in the United States. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 61(18), 4470–4476. DOI: 10.1021/jf4005862. Retrieved October 19, 2020
  6. Ranasinghe, P., Pigera, S., Premakumara, G.A., Galappaththy, P., Constantine, G.R., et al. (2013). Medicinal properties of ‘true’ cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): a systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 13, 275. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-275. Retrieved October 19, 2020
  7. Grant-Alfieri, A., Schaechter, J., Lipshultz, S. E. (2013). Ingesting and aspirating dry cinnamon by children and adolescents: the “cinnamon challenge”. Pediatrics, 131(5), 833–835. DOI:10.1542/peds.2012-3418. Retrieved October 19, 2020
  8. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Can Spices Cause an Allergic Reaction? Retrieved October 19, 2020
  9. Mennella JA. Ontogeny of taste preferences: basic biology and implications for health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Mar;99(3):704S-11S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.067694. Epub 2014 Jan 22. PMID: 24452237; PMCID: PMC3927698