What is the difference between cinnamon sticks and ground cinnamon and can you substitute one for the other?
Cinnamon Sticks are made from the inner bark of several trees in the Cinnamomum genus. One species in that genus - Cinnamomum Verum - is often called "true" cinnamon and is the most expensive and sort after variety.
The inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree is dried into rolls. The rolls are then cut into the short sticks that we see in the shops. You can spot "true" cinnamon sticks as the rolls are tighter than the other varieties.
"True" cinnamon sticks rolls are tighter and easier to grind - Image by by Antti Vähä-Sipilä CC BY-SA 1.0 FI
Ground cinnamon should be just that - ground cinnamon sticks. But it is worth looking at the ingredients list of your cinnamon to make sure no unnecessary ingredients have been added.
Ground cinnamon should be just that - ground cinnamon sticks
Ground cinnamon is considerably cheaper than cinnamon sticks, but before you substitute one for the other, you might want to think about the role each type plays. Cinnamon sticks are ideal for when you want to infuse something with the flavour of cinnamon, whereas ground cinnamon can be used when you are happy for the cinnamon to be consumed. For instance, if making cinnamon tea, cinnamon sticks would be ideal, however you can still make do with ground cinnamon by letting the grounds fall to the bottom of your cup and only drinking the clear liquid. In a bowl of porridge, there is no issue with using ground cinnamon.
If a recipe calls for cinnamon sticks and you would like to substitute it with ground cinnamon, start by replacing each 2 inch cinnamon stick with 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and then add a bit more if needed.
If you have cinnamon sticks but need ground cinnamon, just put some in a spice/coffee grinder. Note that this is easiest with "true" cinnamon. If attempted with other tougher varieties, you may not be able to get a fine ground if you don't have the right equipment. If you find yourself wanting to add cinnamon to just about everything, you might want to purchase a special purpose cinnamon grater to make the job easy.