6 Incredible Oregano Substitutes

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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There are many effective oregano substitutes that are probably already sitting in your spice rack. Oregano is an herb that is native to the Mediterranean and is an important component in both Italian and Greek cuisine. Oregano is a member of the mint family but has a pungent straw and camphor smell. It is used particularly often in tomato dishes and sauces, where the zest of oregano balances out the sweetness of the tomato. This herb can have many different flavors, depending on the variety, ranging from spicy and aromatic to subtle and sweet.

Oregano is very similar to marjoram, and the two are often used interchangeably by chefs. In fact, oregano is often referred to as “wild marjoram”. Fortunately, whether you have simply run out of oregano or have to cook around an herbal allergy, there are plenty of viable substitutes for oregano.

Oregano Substitutes

Oregano substitutes may be necessary because it is one of those spices that is used so often that running out is always right around the corner. Oregano is quite popular around the world and is easy to find in the spice section of most grocery stores. However, if you find yourself without it in the middle of meal prep, you can use any of the other spices such as Italian seasoning, marjoram, thyme, sage, and basil to keep your dish on track.

Italian Seasoning

This common seasoning blend actually relies heavily on oregano. Many of the other spices in it, such as basil, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, and garlic, also compliment any dish that calls for oregano. Having a jar of this in the cupboard can simplify most of your recipe seasonings since these spices are so often seen together.

Marjoram

The best replacement for oregano is marjoram, as the two are very closely related and have very similar flavors. In fact, oregano’s other name is “wild marjoram.” Marjoram as an herb is milder than oregano and more floral than oregano’s pepperiness.

When substituting marjoram for oregano, use about one-third more than you would oregano. Marjoram doesn’t retain its flavor when cooked for long periods, therefore, add it at the end of your recipe for best results.

Thyme

Thyme, while not related, also has a very similar taste to oregano, though without as much zing. It also complements tomatoes particularly well, and the two are often seen together in tomato-based recipes. There are different strains of thyme, such as lemon thyme or caraway thyme, but the best substitute for oregano will be one of the French or English strains.

Although the leaves look different, the effect that thyme can have on your meals is quite similar to oregano, and this spice can be used as a replacement in an equal quantity ratio – 1:1.

Sage

Sage is a Mediterranean herb that is known for working very well in spice blends, as it complements many different flavors. Whether you are making chicken, vegetables or soup, sage will always be an excellent replacement for oregano.

Fresh sage is sweeter than dried sage, with a stronger floral note. When substituting for oregano, try to use fresh sage whenever possible as the dried form doesn’t as closely resemble the taste of oregano.

Basil

Basil is an aromatic herb that is often found in Italian cooking and tomato dishes. It is sweet, with notes of pepper and mint. Fresh basil is sweeter than dried basil, so depending on the dish you are making, dried basil might be closer to oregano in terms of taste.

Rosemary

Although rosemary is slightly sweeter and more potent than oregano, if you are in a pinch in the kitchen, a few stalks of rosemary can give your meal a tangy, flavorful bite.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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