Could This Fall Favorite Be America's Most Overused Spice?

What is it with cinnamon popping up practically everywhere these days? It's a well-known staple in sweet dishes — not only apple pies, but also coffee cake, ice cream, scones, and rice pudding (via The Spruce Eats). On the savory side, cinnamon is not just for French toast anymore. It's added to pork chops, pot roast, chili, and hot dogs (via Taste of Home). Cinnamon is like the garlic of baked goods, in that every recipe developer seems to think it's absolutely de rigueur. Sure, this spice is amazing when it stays in its own lane. But recently it's been veering all over the place, and a dominant flavor such as cinnamon can be quite the road hog. 

Yes, we're going to dare to say it: Not every breakfast or dessert item needs cinnamon! In fact, there are quite a few cases where cinnamon detracts from a dish, rather than adding to it. Cinnamon rolls, yes, the more cinnamon the better — as long as it's balanced with sugar. Cinnamon on its own can be bitter, particularly the more common cassia variety (via Canadian Society of Intestinal Research). With a bear claw, however, it's best to allow the subtler flavor of the almond paste filling to shine on its own without being overwhelmed by cinnamon. 

Cinnamon obsession seems to be an American thing

Food blogger Jay Rayner asked a provocative question in the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, in 2009: "What the hell is it with Americans and...BLOODY SODDING CINNAMON? They cannot get enough of the stuff. It is everywhere and on everything." He complained that American shopping centers reek of Cinnabons, and that cinnamon was taking over Starbucks' menu and spreading through recipe websites like a social disease in a hippie commune. While the writer qualified his rant by saying he didn't hate cinnamon, he feared that if he remained in the U.S. much longer he would reach that point.

British-born restaurateur Robert Irvine told The Daily Meal that he's also not fond of America's favorite spice. "I never grew up with it and never had it until I came to this country," Irvine said. "Now everything has cinnamon in it, and I'm like, 'What is this disgusting stuff?'" 

Quora thread posed the question, "Why do Americans love cinnamon so much?" Many of the answers came from angry commenters, presumably from the U.S., who seemed to feel it was a constitutionally guaranteed right to sprinkle the stuff over everything that came out of their kitchens.

Not every American is a cinnamon superfan

When author Ayelet Waldman tweeted, "Unpopular opinion: Cinnamon is disgusting," some of her followers agreed. "Not as unpopular as you think," one Twitter user said of Waldman's opinion. "I have my doubts about nutmeg, too." Another opined, "The only acceptable use of cinnamon is for cinnamon toast." One tweeter pointed out the obvious: "You must hate going to American airports" — another notorious hotbed of Cinnabon activity.

Even some American chefs agree that cinnamon is overused. Srijith Gopinathan, executive chef at San Francisco's Campton Place Restaurant, thinks people add too much of the spice when cooking, telling PureWow, "You can't let one spice overpower the other flavors of your dishes." Duff Goldman, on the other hand, finds cinnamon a bit boring. As the frequent judge of TV holiday cooking competitions shared with Insider, "I like when people use other spices and flavors in place of where cinnamon is traditionally used, like ginger, Chinese five spice, or aniseed."

If you just luuvv cinnamon, you're going to keep using the stuff no matter what we say. If you, too, are part of the silent minority who are pretty much over it, though, feel free to skip it. All cinnamon is really doing for your recipes, after all, is making them taste like cinnamon. Without it, you'll be able to appreciate the other flavors even more.