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What is Saigon Cinnamon?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 16, 2024
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Saigon cinnamon is a common marketing term for Vietnamese cinnamon. It is not grown anywhere near Saigon—it comes from the bark of a tree native to the mountains of Central and Northern Vietnam. The improper moniker is commonly attributed to Saigon, as it's the largest and most widely-known city in Vietnam.

For aficionados of cinnamon, based on either its taste or its aroma, Saigon cinnamon is frequently their top choice. It is generally considered to be the best cinnamon in the world based on its high concentration of oil, which provides its pungent fragrance and intense sweet taste. The oil concentration is reportedly so high in Saigon cinnamon that a stick of it will spark when exposed to a flame.

Cinnamon is commonly regarded as having a subtle sweetness that is normally overpowered by a bitter spiciness. Vietnamese cinnamon is generally so sweet it can be eaten like candy, and its spiciness is often judged to be full-bodied without a hint of bitterness. It is frequently preferred by cooks to enhance savory dishes such as meats, soups and stews.

Fresh bark off the Vietnamese cinnamon trees is customarily prized by local children who wait for the farmers to descend from the mountains with the harvest. They reportedly chew on the soft bark, which actually resembles candy with its maroon colored interior and lightly speckled exterior. The taste of the bark is regularly compared to that of commercially produced red hot candies.

Purchasers of Saigon cinnamon are normally cautioned to be aware of imposters. Some merchants reportedly mix in inferior strains of cinnamon to increase their profits. Buying the cinnamon in the traditional long strips of curled bark rather than chips is recommended as a deterrent to buying substandard varieties.

For those with sophisticated palates, tasting the cinnamon easily distinguishes the Vietnamese variety from the others. If it does not have the sweetness of red hot candies, it is likely not authentic Vietnamese cinnamon. Experienced buyers of the spice often recommend that purchasers in the Vietnamese marketplace pretend to know the difference between cinnamon to encourage the vendors to bring the good stuff out from the backroom.

If Saigon cinnamon is purchased outside of Vietnam, consumers are urged to look for a seal or other proof of authenticity before buying it. Dealing with a reputable spice merchant is generally recommended. Online bulletin boards and chat rooms devoted to culinary topics can often provide reliable Internet sources from which to purchase authentic Vietnamese cinnamon.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By fify — On Mar 07, 2011

@simrin-- You can find McCormick and Spice Island brand Saigon cinnamon in grocery stores. Watkins also carries it and that's a very good brand that's available for purchase online.

The quality is different for different brands. You might want to check the amount of cinnamon oil in the Saigon cinnamon you buy. The higher the amount of cinnamon oil, the better quality it is. I use Saigon cinnamon with 5% cinnamon oil.

By SteamLouis — On Mar 06, 2011

Cinnamon bark that tastes like red hot candies? That sounds fantastic! Where can I get some of this?

By discographer — On Mar 04, 2011

I caught a cold several weeks ago and I've had this persistent cough that refused to go away. I had learned about cinnamon tea during a weight loss regimen and decided to have some. I made a tea with ground saigon cinnamon and a little bit of ground ginger. I had this tea for two days and my cough was completely gone. I did it without knowing that it's a great remedy for colds. It worked wonders.

Before I discovered saigon cinnamon, I had to put honey in my cinnamon tea because of that bitter taste that it has. When I make it with saigon cinnamon, I don't need any sweetener because it really is that sweet.

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