These cinnamon varieties have similarities, but also a lot of important differences.
Are They Any Different?
One huge difference to keep in mind is that Saigon ground cinnamon is a variety of cassia and Ceylon is considered as true Ceylon cinnamon powder. This means that they are closely related, but actually, come from different trees.
Saigon cinnamon is widely known because of the high concentration of essential oils that it contains. Its flavor is peppery and warm, with a hint of bitterness when used in excess -- on the other hand, Ceylon cinnamon has a slightly more subtle flavor, which makes it less valuable than the former.
Which Should I Use and When?
Saigon cinnamon is a good alternative to ceylon cinnamon powder, but only if you aren’t making traditional dishes that call for Ceylon. These include dishes from Mexico or Southeast Asia. Using Saigon cinnamon as an alternative to Ceylon will alter the flavor of the dish and will take away the authenticity.
Since Saigon cinnamon is a type of cassia, it will pair nicely with the pungency of other spices in mixes such as Chinese five spice. It’s also the best variant of cinnamon to use in Pho. Ceylon is great in simpler dishes with fewer spices that will overpower its flavor. Using it in chocolate or baked goods -- even in churros would be the best way to use it. And Ceylon cinnamon sticks or cassia cinnamon sticks are perfect in mulled wine and hot drinks.