Cinnamon Is the Seasonal Spice That’s Good for Your Brain—Here Are 7 Unexpected Ways To Cook With It

Photo: Flora and Vino
Like a lot of people, I first fell in love with cinnamon as a kid—specifically in the form of Cinnamon Toast Crunch breakfast cereal. (It made the best cereal milk.) As a teen, cinnamon came in the form of dolce cinnamon frappes from Starbucks—a caffeine/sugar combo that kept me wired enough to power through mountains of homework. It wasn't until I grew up and started writing about food that I discovered the many other ways that cinnamon could be used.

As with other spices in the pantry, cinnamon boasts its own impressive list of health benefits. It's linked to boosting metabolism and keeping blood sugar levels steady (you know, when it's not coupled with heaps of sugar). It's also incredibly beneficial for brain health, helping to protect against cognitive diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Watch the video below to learn more about the health benefits of cinnamon:

Here's what else is surprising about cinnamon: There's a lot more you can do with it than use it to sweeten up pastries or coffee drinks. Rounded up here are seven unexpected recipes with cinnamon that give you new ways to try the spice at home. Think of this as the better version of the cinnamon challenge.

7 recipes with cinnamon to try at home

recipes with cinnamon
Photo: Cookie+Kate

1. Cinnamon toast breakfast quinoa

This is the grown-up take on the classic childhood breakfast. It's low in sugar without being low in flavor thanks to the cinnamon. The "cereal" is made of quinoa, which is full of fiber and, like the cinnamon, helps keep blood sugar levels steady.

Get the recipe: Cinnamon toast breakfast quinoa

cinnamon-roasted veggies
Photo: Flora and Vino

2. Savory yogurt bowl with cinnamon roasted veggies

Sick of berries and fruit with yogurt? Try sprinkling cinnamon on—hear me out—roasted vegetables and pairing them with your yogurt instead. This particular recipe uses delicata squash, carrots, and zucchini. Add a tablespoon of nut butter to the yogurt and veggies to up the protein.

Get the recipe: Savory yogurt bowl with cinnamon roasted veggies

sweet potato cinnamon rolls
Photo: Sweet Potato Soul

3. Sweet potato cinnamon rolls

You truly can't go wrong with a cinnamon and sweet potato pairing. Here, the duo is used to make a nutrient-rich take on classic cinnamon rolls. The sweet potatoes are used to make the frosting, mixed with vanilla, vegan butter, and powdered sugar. The cinnamon is used in the filling, which also includes pecans, vegan butter, and coconut sugar. Share a batch of these with anyone and you're sure to stay on their good side for, like, ever.

Get the recipe: Sweet potato cinnamon rolls 

tofu makhani curry
Photo: Holy Cow Vegan

4. Tofu makhani curry

If you're enjoying a bowl of curry, licking your spoon trying to figure out what exactly it is that makes it so darn good, chances are it's the cinnamon. Follow this recipe to see how to use it in a tofu makhani curry. It's rich, hearty, and 100 percent plant-based. Pair it with rice for a well-rounded meal.

Get the recipe: Tofu makhani curry 

cinnamon chili
Photo: Nutrition Stripped

5. Chocolate cinnamon walnut chili

There are a few surprising things about this chili that really make it a standout. One is that it's plant-based. The "meat" is made from walnuts and when mixed into the sauce really does take on a meat-like texture. The other is the inclusion of dark chocolate and cinnamon, which give it a Cincinnati-style take. The end result is spoonfuls of next-level comfort.

Get the recipe: Chocolate cinnamon walnut chili

roasted chickpeas
Photo: Lemon and Basil

6. Savory spiced roasted chickpeas

Cinnamon can help elevate your snack time, too. Here, it's combined with turmeric, garlic, and smoked paprika to add flavor to roasted chickpeas. Crunchy and satisfying.

Get the recipe: savory spiced roasted chickpeas

Watch the video below to see why chickpeas are a registered dietitian-approved snack:

cinnamon horchata rice pudding
Photo: Muy Bueno Cookbook

7. Cinnamon horchata rice pudding

You can't talk about recipes with cinnamon without including dessert, right? This cinnamon horchata rice pudding is the perfect way to end your night on a sweet note. Besides cinnamon, it's made with cloves and Mexican vanilla extract, which makes the flavor profile more robust and complex. This rice pudding is also dairy-free, so your loved ones who are dairy-free or vegan can dig in too.

Get the recipe: Cinnamon horchata rice pudding

Get more recipe ideas in Well+Good's Cook With Us Facebook group.

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