Let’s talk oregano! One of my favourite herbs. This highly versatile herb is popular in various cuisines worldwide. If you are wondering, What can you substitute for oregano? stick around; I am about to answer that for you.
This humble herb found its way into Mediterranean, Italian, Mexican, and even Middle Eastern cuisine. Recipes like pizza, pasta or flatbread bet on oregano earthy, slightly bitter, and slightly peppery notes to create depth and complexity.
But what if you run out of or are allergic to it? What can you substitute for oregano? Let’s find a close substitute that adds a similar taste and aroma to your dish.
Before diving deeper into finding a substitute for oregano, let’s clear something out of the way. There is no direct substitute for oregano, just per se. I will provide you with similar options, but there is no other herb with the same aroma or taste profile as oregano.
Let’s get started!
Understanding the Flavor Profile of Oregano to find the best substitute
Oregano has a unique taste and aroma that sets it apart from other herbs. I would describe its flavour as earthy, slightly bitter, and slightly peppery. This profile contributes to its versatility and uses in various culinary applications.
The earthy quality of oregano comes from its origin in the Mediterranean region. It thrives in warm and arid climates. This earthiness adds depth and richness to dishes, providing a robust and grounding flavour.
The slight bitterness in oregano helps to balance out the overall taste profile. It adds a subtle tang and complexity, enhancing the overall savoury notes of a dish. This bitterness can complement the flavours of tomatoes, meats, and other ingredients, creating a harmonious balance in the final flavour.
Additionally, oregano carries a mild peppery undertone that provides a pleasant and gentle kick to dishes. This subtle spiciness can add a hint of warmth and interest, especially when combined with other herbs and spices.
The combination of oregano’s earthiness, bitterness, and peppery notes makes it an excellent herb for savoury dishes.
We need to have all of this into consideration to find the perfect substitute for oregano.
Exploring the different varieties of oregano that can serve as substitutes
If you happen to have one of the many oregano varieties at home, then you are covered. You can use them.
I was astonished when I learnt how many oregano varieties are out there.
Growing up, I only knew about Cuban oregano, also known as Mexican mint or Indian oregano. My grandma used to make arroz con pollo(chicken and rice), with Cuban oregano, and it was delicious!
Later I found out that this distinct variety of oregano is widely used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking as well.
Cuban oregano has a strong, pungent aroma with flavours resembling a combination of oregano, thyme, and mint. This makes a perfect replacement for the dry oregano you are used to.
Then there is Mediterranean or Greek oregano, which is the most commonly used type of oregano in the kitchen. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is widely used in Italian, Greek, and Mediterranean cuisines.
Additionally, there is Mexican oregano, a different species from Mediterranean oregano and has its own unique flavour profile. It is native to Mexico and Central America.
Mexican oregano has a stronger, slightly citrusy, and more pungent taste compared to Mediterranean oregano. It is commonly used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, adding depth and warmth to salsas, chilli, marinades, and spice rubs for grilled meats.
Any of those oregano varieties can be used indistinctly to substitute dry oregano.
Substitutes for Oregano
Fresh Herb Substitutes for oregano
Thyme is an herb with a herbaceous and slightly minty flavour. I can describe it as earthy, warm, and aromatic, with hints of mint and citrus.
As thyme has a slightly stronger flavour than oregano, you’ll want to use it in slightly smaller quantities.
Generally, you can use about 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of dried thyme for every 1 teaspoon of dried oregano in a recipe.
It is also good to consider that thyme is best for dishes like roasted meats, poultry, vegetables, soups, stews, and sauces.
You can use both fresh and dried thyme as substitutes for oregano, but they have slightly different flavour intensities.
If you are using fresh thyme, double the quantity compared to dried thyme.
Remember that fresh herbs tend to have a more delicate flavour, so adjust accordingly.
Marjoram is one of the best substitutes for oregano. They both have similar flavour profiles.
Marjoram has a milder and sweeter flavour compared to oregano. It has a delicate, floral, and slightly citrusy taste. While oregano is more robust and earthy, marjoram brings a gentler and slightly sweeter note to dishes.
You’ll need to use a bit more Marjoram compared to oregano. Start by using about 1.5 times the amount of marjoram as the recipe calls for oregano.
For example, if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of oregano, use approximately 1.5 teaspoons of marjoram. Adjust the quantity based on your taste preference.
Marjoram as an oregano replacement will pair nicely with poultry, pork, vegetables, soups, stews, and tomato-based dishes.
You can use it fresh or dry.
While parsley and oregano have different flavour profiles, you use parsley instead of oregano in certain situations.
Parsley has a fresh, herbaceous, and slightly peppery taste. It has a milder flavour compared to oregano, with a hint of grassiness. Keep in mind that parsley lacks the distinct earthy and bitter notes of oregano.
To substitute parsley for oregano, you need to use a larger quantity due to parsley’s milder flavour.
Start by using about 1.5 to 2 times the amount of parsley as the recipe calls for oregano. Adjust the amount based on your taste preference.
Dried Herb Substitutes for oregano
Basil can be a suitable alternative for dry oregano or fresh in certain recipes, but it has a completely different flavour profile. It has a distinct and aromatic flavour that is characterized by its sweet, slightly peppery, and herbal notes.
Compared to oregano, basil is generally sweeter and milder in taste.
You will need to use a larger quantity when substituting it for oregano. Start by using approximately 1.5 times the amount of basil as the recipe calls for oregano.
For instance, if the recipe requires 1 teaspoon of oregano, use around 1.5 teaspoons of basil. Adjust the amount according to your taste preference.
You can use either fresh or dried basil.
5. Italian seasoning blend
If you are looking to substitute oregano in a pasta or pizza recipe, then your best bet could be an Italian seasoning blend.
Italian seasoning is a mixture of dried herbs, including oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and sometimes sage. It already contains oregano. So you are covered in that way.
You can substitute it for oregano in a 1:1 ratio.
Make sure to read the ingredients because you might need to adjust the salt if your blend carries it already.
Overall, oregano is a versatile ingredient used in cuisines worldwide. However, when you don’t have it on hand, you can replace it with any of the options outlined here.
Even though no other herb can replace oregano one on one, you can safely substitute it with different alternatives.
Cooking is a creative process, so I encourage you to experiment with different herbs, dry or fresh. I promise your dish will be as fantastic as if you used oregano!! Don’t be shy and make a lab out of your kitchen; your family will appreciate it.