We don't often look to the spice rack to inspire a recipe roundup, but, given its ubiquity in fall baking in particular, cinnamon deserves a deep dive. Also known as cassia, the cinnamon you're most likely to find in the US is bold and spicy-sweet (in contrast with milder Ceylon cinnamon). Sure, we love it in a warm, gooey cinnamon roll fresh from the oven, but there are many more ways to take advantage of cinnamon, including plenty of more everyday uses that don't require a yeasted dough. Baked oatmeal with cinnamon and apples, cream cheese–stuffed wontons tossed with cinnamon sugar, horchata steeped with coffee and cinnamon sticks—keep reading for 12 of our favorite recipes starring this heady spice.
Cinnamon-Apple Baked Oatmeal
Your default method for making oatmeal is probably on the stovetop, or maybe you prefer the microwave. But don't forget that there's a third option: baking. Though you may be loath to turn on your oven just for breakfast, baked oatmeal is an incredibly easy, hands-off meal, and it scales up well if you're having friends or family over. We add tart Granny Smith apple and cinnamon to this version, along with half a cup of chopped walnuts for crunch and light brown sugar for warm sweetness.
Maybe there are a few lonely souls out there who don't like sweet, fluffy cinnamon rolls, but none of us have met them yet. This classic rendition uses a dough of flour and egg, with a little thick Greek yogurt for its tenderizing effect. We roll up the dough with a combination of powdered sugar and cinnamon, and the pastries are finished with a quick powdered-sugar glaze—you can make it with cream, milk, or water.
Easy Cinnamon Rolls With Browned-Butter Icing
This recipe, which calls for spreading the dough with a rich, buttery cinnamon-sugar paste before rolling, produces a gooier cinnamon confection than the one above. The real selling point, though, is how easy this recipe is: It turns out just fine made with store-bought pizza dough. Since you won't have to wait around for it to rise, you can use that extra time to cook a few strips of bacon and roll them up along with the cinnamon mixture, if you're so inclined.
Monkey bread is like the crowd-sized, pull-apart cousin of the cinnamon roll, and it's perfect for entertaining. To make it, simply roll individual balls of yeasted dough in butter and brown sugar, then pile them up into a Bundt pan to bake. Once they're deep golden brown, drizzle the monkey bread with a vanilla-scented powdered-sugar glaze. The eating gets a little messy, since it's generally done by tearing the bread apart with your hands—but you probably won't want to wait for utensils anyway.
Coffee Cake Muffins
These moist muffins combine the tender crumb and crumbly streusel of a coffee cake in a more portable format. The batter is essentially that of a basic sour cream cake, but there's plenty of room to get creative if you like—a few blueberries in the batter or a little aromatic orange zest in the topping would be lovely.
Chocolate-Cinnamon Swirl Meringues
Not only are these meringues beautiful to look at, they're impressively easy to make. The only real tricks involved are using slightly melted sugar and incorporating it into the beaten egg whites one spoonful at a time, in order to keep the meringues as airy as possible. After forming the meringues, dust them with cocoa powder and cinnamon, then bake them until they're light and crispy—depending on the humidity level, that can take anywhere from two to four hours.
Crispy Cinnamon Sugar-Coated Cream Cheese Wontons With Nutella-Dulce de Leche Dipping Sauce
This recipe is proof that wonton wrappers can and should be put to use beyond the savory realm. To make these sweet and simple dumplings, just stuff the wrappers with a blend of cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla; fry them until they're crispy and golden, but still a little chewy; and toss them with cinnamon sugar. A Nutella- and dulce de leche–infused dipping sauce on the side makes them even richer.
Cinnamon-Raisin Puff Pastry Waffle
For a treat that's reminiscent of cinnamon raisin toast, but much more special, try this delectable filled waffle, made by rolling cream cheese, raisins, cinnamon, and sugar inside a spiral of puff pastry dough. Press it in a waffle iron for 10 minutes, until the waffle is flaky and crisp outside, hot and buttery inside.
Ancho Chili-Cinnamon Brownies
It's hard to go wrong with rich, fudgy chocolate brownies, but we like them best when they incorporate a little kick to offset the chocolate's sweetness. Smoky ancho chili powder, hot cayenne, and earthy cinnamon do the job nicely in this recipe. A combination of unsweetened and bittersweet chocolate gives the brownies an intense chocolate flavor and won't leave them too sugary.
Apple Oatmeal Cookies
We use both unsweetened applesauce and chopped Granny Smiths to cram these cookies with lots of fruit flavor. Because the applesauce provides plenty of its own moisture, just a couple of tablespoons of butter are needed. Hearty, nutty oatmeal turns the cookies pleasantly chewy, while cinnamon rounds out the flavor.
Roasted Sweet Plantains With Cream and Cinnamon
You'll need just four ingredients to make this custardy Colombian dessert: plantains, crème fraîche, cinnamon, and sugar. Combine them all and roast for about 30 minutes, until the sugar has started to caramelize and the cream's soaked into the plantains, turning them soft and rich, almost pudding-like. If you don't have or can't find crème fraîche to substitute for thicker, lightly sour Colombian heavy cream, a mix of heavy cream and sour cream also works well.
Horchata, the nut- and rice-based Mexican beverage, has a creamy consistency (despite containing no dairy) and a mild flavor that plays nicely with all sorts of other ingredients. Infused with dark-roast coffee beans and cinnamon sticks, this refreshing caffeinated version will perk you right up.