When last did you eat an oregano spiced meal?
The iconic flavor of this Mediterranean herb is almost irreplaceable in most dishes, especially tomato-centric recipes like pizza and pasta sauce.
But what if you’re allergic or you are out of oregano right when you need it for dinner and have neither the time nor patience to buy it?
At this juncture, I’m pretty sure you’d be considering an alternative. And that’s the purpose of this article, offering you the best substitutes for oregano when the time of need arises.
Table of Contents
What Is Oregano?
Oregano is a herb from the mint or Lamiaceae family.
It has a zesty, earthy taste with a peppery edge used over millennia to add flavor in various Mexican, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisines.
Wherefore it is packed with medicinal properties; oregano is also known for treating health conditions.
The herb is a great antibacterial agent rich in phytonutrients (thymol and carvacrol, to be specific) that help battle against infections like staph.
Furthermore, it’s abundant in antioxidants and aids prevents cell damage. It is also an excellent source of manganese, fiber, vitamin K and E, iron, tryptophan, and calcium.
Aside from that, this herb is unique in that you can use it either fresh and dry. And unlike most spices, oregano can be added at the beginning of your dish, yet it won’t lose its flavor.
However, some of the substitutes for oregano like basil, thyme, parsley, and whatnot we’ve listed here behave just like oregano — in terms of flavor, usages, and basic benefits.
So let’s not waste any much of your time and get to the nitty-gritty.
But I MUST warn you herb substitutes never make a perfect replacement for another.
It is more or less suitable depending on the particular dish. However, the closest for fresh oregano is to use the dried version of it.
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Substitutes For Oregano
Either fresh or dried Basil would make up for oregano. Moreover, they are among the culinary herb of the family Lamiaceae.
Careful! There are numerous basil out there, and they are used for different recipes. We have sweet basil, Thai basil, cinnamon basil, Lettuce basil, and Bush or Greek basil.
For our purpose, we recommend the Bush or Greek basil, and they work best in Mediterranean cuisine.
The sweet and savory flavor, with slight hints of mint, anise, and pepper, is suitable for topping whole or thinly sliced leaves onto Mediterranean pizza and pasta.
Among other things, you can blend it into sauces and soups, garnish avocado toast, or chop into a salad — either way, basil brings that oregano vibe.
Fresh or dried, just use equal parts for fresh or dried oregano.
2. Fresh Thyme
Whenever it is time to season soups, sauces, and braise, thyme is one staple herb that you’d easily recognize or single out from your spice set.
This herb is also from the mint family, like oregano. But to get closer to the oregano flavor, we recommend opting for FRESH thyme leaves instead.
Like lavender and rosemary, the fresh thyme has a pronounced, concentrated herbal flavor with sharp earth floral notes, also used in potatoes, rice dishes, vegetables, and even fresh bread.
More than just an after-thought ingredient for adding distinctive taste without overwhelming your recipes, thyme has dozen of medicinal properties.
However, it is more suitable for a garnish substituting for oregano. And we don’t recommend using dried thyme for dried oregano since they are a stronger flavor.
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3. Italian Seasoning
You remember Italian seasoning, right?
If you don’t, it is a blend of ground herbs oregano, rosemary, thyme been its major ingredient with other subordinate spices like garlic powder, sage, and coriander.
Hence, it will do the swap trick for oregano as it tastes like a blend of all the aforementioned herbs and spices.
Italian seasoning is savory, earthy, and subtly sweet but only ideal in Italian-style dishes — and use dried one instead.
4. Dried Marjoram
Marjoram or sweet marjoram is another aromatic herb that hails from the mint family, grown in the Mediterranean, Western Asia, and North Africa for centuries.
Marjoram is similar to oregano. However, in flavor, they have more complicated notes. It is sweeter and more delicate while lacking the oregano’s spicy undertones.
You can sprinkle chopped marjoram on pizza, fresh salad and use it in minced meat mixtures such as meatballs, sausages, or bolognese.
Additionally, it goes well with egg, cheese, or tomato dishes, soups, stews, and sauces. Consuming marjoram moderately could promote better blood circulation, serve as nerve and heart tonic, and more.
But for the oregano swap, any of these recipes should be Mexican-style dishes.
Tarragon gives a dynamic flavor kick to all of your oregano needs – be it tomato-based dishes or a plate of mixed greens dressing.
Intense in flavor with a signature of sweet aniseed and mild vanilla, Tarragon is a culinary herb superstar in both foods and beverages.
And eating this herb helps prevent digestion problems, treat poor appetite, promote sleep, delay toothache, and many more.
Dill is an annual herb in the celery family Apiaceae.
This fresh herb has an herbaceous, grassy, and slightly tangy flavor with notes of anise. It likewise has a bitterness to it, making it a great substitution for oregano.
While oregano is popular for its solid fragrance and taste, dill can be substantially more impactful than that.
The distinct taste of dill stands out in most recipes. Thus, the herb is used in small quantities so it won’t overpower the dish.
Parsley is a flowering plant – a native to the Mediterranean. Despite that, parsley tastes quite like oregano more especially if you relish oregano in tomato-based dishes.
The two most common types are French curly-leaf and Italian flat-leaf.
And over the years, they have been used to treat conditions like high blood pressure, allergies, and inflammatory diseases.
They both have a unique peppery taste with a touch of earthiness.
You can use parsley with basil for salads and pesto; to make fishcakes, salsas, burgers, soups, meatballs, stews, sauces, and marinades.
I love pairing it with watercress and walnuts in a fresh herb sauce.
8. Bay Leaf
Bay leaf is an evergreen of the family Lauraceae effectively used for adding distinctive flavor and fragrance in slow-cooked meals like soups, stews, braises, and pâtés in many countries.
You can use this herb to substitute for oregano either in whole, ground, or dried form.
Use a ¼ tablespoon crushed bay leaf to substitute ¼ tablespoon dried oregano.
But note the leaves are usually removed from the meal before eating.
Aside from lusting for them in place of oregano, bay leaf has many traditional medicinal uses.
For instance, bay leaf can treat rheumatism, skin rashes, and earache.
Nutritiously, they are sufficient in calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and C. Plus; they contain enzymes that help calm indigestion by breaking down and digesting food faster.
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Fenugreek is another substitutable herb for oregano in the same family as soy. And it is pretty versatile.
I have seen countless avid chefs use Fenugreek as a flavoring agent in a wide variety of Indian recipes.
You can use the leaves, seeds, twigs, and roots, whether fresh or dried.
The mild smell and sweet, nutty flavor make any sauces, soup, curries, and vegetable dishes mouth-watering.
When eaten raw, it feels buttery in your mouth.
However, if mixed or cooked with other ingredients, the collaboration would even satisfy your taste buds.
Interestingly, eating a considerable amount of fenugreek improves stamina, manages blood cholesterol as well as high blood pressure, healing wounds, calms allergies, and many more.
10. Ajwain Leaves (carom)
Carom or ajwain leaves is also a fantastic substitute for oregano in many recipes. It hails from the same family as oregano bearing almost the same mint flavor trademark.
They are widely used in Indian cuisines. Its aromatic and spicy flavor helps add a kick to almost any oregano recipe —whether in curries or chutney recipes.
For substitution, you may mix Carom with marjoram. It will help get you closer to oregano and achieve a better taste. Or you can just do a direct Carom vs oregano swap.
All of the substitutes for oregano we’ve discussed so far are mostly from the family Lauraceae and are similar in taste and aroma.
Although some might even have a strong punch than oregano.
But the goal is to try something out. See which one makes your dish more flavorful in the absence of oregano.
You can’t just fold your arms.
Oregano is unique but NOT irreplaceable. The main trains of this ingredient are the smell and flavors. And most of these substitutes possess that minty scent.
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