Cinnamon is one of the most recognized and beloved spices on the planet. Its warm and spicy aroma reminds us of home, holidays, and good things baking in the oven. And whether we’re enjoying a warm place next to the fire on a cold winter’s night or ripping into packages on Christmas morning, there’s nothing better than the smell of muffins or cinnamon buns wafting from the kitchen. However, if you have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten, you may think these fond memories are relics of the past—but it doesn’t have to be that way. So if you’re on the hunt for satisfying gluten-free recipes, we’d like to share with you our picks for the best gluten-free cinnamon rolls. Plus, we’re also going to throw in four savory cinnamon recipes at no extra charge. So what are you waiting for? Let’s go!
What Is Cinnamon?
Cinnamon is a member of the genus Cinnamomum, a family of evergreen trees and shrubs that contains a whopping 350 different species, though only a few types are used for making cinnamon.
The spice we know as cinnamon is harvested by cutting off the outer bark of cinnamon trees and then shaving the inner bark. As the inner bark dries, it naturally curls up into the cinnamon sticks, or quills, we’re familiar with. These quills are then cut into smaller sticks or crushed to produce ground cinnamon and sent to market.
There are actually two main types of cinnamon: the so-called true cinnamon, or Ceylon cinnamon, and cassia. Ceylon cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka, while cassia originated in China. Cassia cinnamon, which is known for its bold, spicy flavor, is the variety most widely used in North America. By contrast, Ceylon cinnamon offers a subtler but more complex flavor that hints of citrus and cloves.
Apart from taste, you can also tell the difference between cassia and Ceylon cinnamon by simply looking at their quills. While cassia quills can be identified by their thick, woody appearance, Ceylon cinnamon quills have many layers and look more like cigars. Ceylon quills are also softer and easily crushed.
Although cinnamon is favored in the United States for sweets like cinnamon rolls, pumpkin pie, cookies, and cakes, around the globe, cinnamon’s spicy warmth is enjoyed in savory recipes like stews, meatballs, and legumes.
Health Benefits of Cinnamon
One of the great things about cinnamon is that it not only tastes good, but it’s also good for you. In fact, research shows that cinnamon contains powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antifungal, antiprotozoal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties.
Studies have also found that cinnamon’s antioxidant prowess is greater than that of garlic, and it may even be effective for a number of health conditions, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Gastric ulcers
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Viral infections
- Heart disease
- Dental caries
Now that you have a better idea of the potential health benefits of cinnamon, let’s get down to what really brought you here—the best in gluten-free baking, cinnamon roll style!
Baking the Best Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls
We have to be honest with you. Gluten-free cinnamon rolls are a challenge to create, as gluten is what makes their wheat flour counterparts so delectably gooey and chewy. Although many have tried to come up with a satisfying gluten-free version, most have, sadly, failed.
Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: Approximately 2 hours
- 3-1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk blend powder or nonfat dry milk
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large egg, room temperature, beaten
- 1-1/2 cups warm water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Prepare a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish by greasing with nonstick spray or butter. Make the gluten-free dough by placing flour, buttermilk powder, xanthan gum, cream of tartar, baking soda, yeast, salt, and sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Combine dry ingredients well using a whisk.
- Add egg, butter, and apple cider vinegar, combining well. Then mix on low speed, slowly adding water. Once all water has been added, turn mixer to high for approximately 3 minutes, or until the dough begins to pull away from the sides.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface, sprinkling extra GF flour as needed to keep dough from sticking, and knead gently until smooth. Divide dough in half and use a rolling pin to roll one half into a rectangle that's approximately 9 x 12 inches and half an inch thick.
- Spread rectangle with softened butter, leaving a border that's about 1 inch all around. Sprinkle with brown sugar, pat lightly, and top with cinnamon. Beginning at one of the shorter sides, tightly roll dough. Then, using dental floss or a knife, cut dough in 2-inch sections.
- Place rolls in prepared baking dish or cake pan about 1 inch apart. Then apply even pressure to compress each roll by approximately one-third.
- Repeat the same process with the half of the dough that was set aside earlier. Then cover the pan with a damp tea towel or piece of oiled plastic wrap and place in a warm location until dough has risen to approximately 1-1/2 times its original size (about 1 hour).
- Preheat oven to 350 °F after dough is almost completely risen, remove plastic wrap, and place pan in preheated oven. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Then remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.
- In a small bowl, combine milk and confectioners’ sugar to create a thick paste, adding more milk until drizzling consistency is reached. Then drizzle tops of room temperature rolls with glaze and serve.
Again, this recipe is provided by Gluten Free on a Shoestring. However, if you prefer to go dairy-free as well, we managed to locate this particularly tasty recipe from Mama Knows Gluten Free.
Dairy- and Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: Approximately 1-1/2 hours
- 1 cup warm cashew, coconut, or almond milk
- 1 packet instant yeast
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted vegan butter (such as organic Earth Balance)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 3-1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (results may differ depending on gluten-free flour blend used)
- 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For thick frosting
- 1/2 cup unsalted dairy-free butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For thin glaze
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 5 tablespoons almond, cashew, or coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Add granulated sugar to a large mixing bowl. Crack two eggs into a small bowl, whisk, and allow to come to room temperature. Warm milk to 110-115 °F, pour over granulated sugar, and stir to combine. Add instant yeast to the milk mixture and allow it to sit for a few minutes.
- Melt butter in a glass measuring cup or a small glass bowl and allow to cool slightly before adding to milk and yeast mixture. Pour eggs and apple cider vinegar into the milk mixture and combine. Add gluten-free flour, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum and mix on medium speed for 5 minutes, scraping down sides, until the dough starts to pull away from the sides and becomes tacky and soft.
- Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a towel and put in a warm oven (preheated to 100 °F and turned off) for 1 hour. When the dough is almost risen, cream softened butter, brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract in a small bowl.
- Remove dough from the oven and preheat oven to 350 °F. Place dough on top of floured parchment paper and shape into a rectangle. Dust rolling pin with gluten-free flour and roll out to about 1-inch thick. Carefully spread the cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar filling over the top of the dough, leaving half an inch free of filling on one long edge.
- Using the edge of the parchment paper, fold the edge up and slowly pull the parchment paper back down to the counter. Slowly roll dough to form a log shape and cut log into 12 equal rolls. Place rolls in a greased 9- × 13-inch baking dish or cake pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
- While cinnamon rolls are cooling, mix together ingredients for frosting or glaze and apply once the rolls have reached room temperature.
- As you can see, both of these recipes are easy to follow, but they do take some time, as the dough has to be allowed to rise. But if you’re hankering for yummy homemade cinnamon rolls, warm and fresh from the oven, these are a great choice for a rainy day or cold winter morning.
- And any leftovers, if there are any, can be stored at room temperature, or you can refrigerate them and heat them up the next morning.
4 Savory Cinnamon Recipes
Few things go together better than cinnamon and sugar, but we can’t leave you without giving a shout out to cinnamon’s savory side. So, without further ado, here are four savory recipes that are perfect for lunch (or brunch), dinner, and anything in between.
1. Crispy Cinnamon Spiced Chicken Thighs with Peach Basil Salsa
From Set the Table comes this delectable chicken recipe with a decidedly tropical flair. Chicken thighs are sprinkled with salt and cinnamon and then browned in ghee or coconut oil before finishing in the oven. The real genius of this recipe is the peach basil salsa that’s spooned over the top prior to serving.
2. Cinnamon Roasted Squash with Lentils
Are you craving the flavors of fall? From Brain Food Studio comes this divine dish that combines cinnamon, butternut squash, and red lentils to create a delicious side dish or main course. This tasty recipe is also simple to make, requiring little more than simmering the lentils and baking the squash.
3. Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce (Soutzoukakia)
If you love meatballs, you must try this traditional Greek version from Supergolden Bakes. Greek cuisine often uses cinnamon in savory ways, as it partners beautifully with oregano, thyme, cumin, and garlic. Serve this delicious soul-warming meal with a side of rice, roasted potatoes, or fresh pita bread.
4. Slow Cooker Jerk Short Ribs
And now for a quick trip to the Caribbean for Taste of Home’s braised short ribs. And it couldn’t be easier. Simply toss all your ingredients into your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours—that’s it! Then sit back and enjoy the aroma of traditional jerk spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice with mashed potatoes or, if you really want to complement the warming spices, sweet potatoes.
When you combine cinnamon’s extraordinary health benefits with its one-of-a-kind flavor, you can be sure you’re going to get an out-of-this-world recipe. So don’t be afraid to mix it up. Whether sweet or savory, when it comes to cinnamon, you can’t go wrong!