What Are The Different Oregano Substitutes?

Different Oregano Substitutes to Use Based on the Type of Dish

Not panic - that’s what! We’ve put together a list to get you through your cooking crisis and to help you unleash your inner Anthony Bourdain. 

Or perhaps you suffer from an oregano allergy and are fed up with having to avoid cooking certain recipes just because it calls for the dreaded herb.

Not to worry - this comprehensive list of oregano substitutes will give you more than enough alternatives to get cooking those tempting dishes. 

We’ve got 13 tasty substitutes for oregano to help you get back to cooking the food you love! Read on to learn more...

What is oregano?

Oregano is a pungent herb that is most commonly used in pizza and pasta dishes.

It is one of the most popular herbs around the world because of its strong, punchy flavor. What makes it a truly versatile herb is that you can use it both fresh and dried.

The oregano plant consists of tiny leaves that pack a flavorful punch. When in bloom, this delicate plant shows off pink or purple flowers which are also edible.

It originates from Mediterranean countries such as Greece, where the literal translation of its Latin name - Origanum vulgare - means “joy of the mountains”. 

It actually wasn’t a herb that was often used over here in America until soldiers returning from World War II made it a popular choice on pizza.

By now we’re sure it’s hard to imagine your favorite pizza without it! While it was a popular herb for pizza, oregano can also be used for making pasta sauces, pesto, seafood, chicken, hamburgers, and many more dishes.

While oregano can be used for cooking in both dried and fresh varieties, the two distinctions have a marked difference in the strength of flavor.

Oregano is one of the only herbs that is fine to be added towards the start of the cooking process, as the flavor can withstand whatever the dish has to throw at it.

Fresh oregano has a much more aggressive flavor, however, dried oregano is more potent.

Substitutes for oregano

Sometimes, no matter how prepared you try to be, you might not have all the oregano you need in the store cupboard for your required recipe. Or perhaps you’ve accidentally missed it off the shopping list!

Whatever the reason you need to find a substitute for oregano, it can be tricky knowing what to use instead. Especially if you’re more of a novice when it comes to cooking!

We’ve put together a list of 13 oregano alternatives for you to use instead below.

Dried oregano

If your recipe is calling for fresh oregano and you have none left, there’s no need to panic.

Dried oregano can work just as well as its fresh variety, and often will pack just as much of a punch as long as it’s used correctly.

An important factor to remember is that dried oregano must be used in a different quantity to its fresh variant.

The general rule of thumb is to use 1 teaspoon of dried oregano for every 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano required.

A top tip is to crush the dried oregano a little before adding it to your dish. This will help to release more of the flavor!

Amount required: 1 tablespoon of oregano

Substituted with: 1 teaspoon of dried oregano

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, olive oil-based dishes, meat marinades

Mexican oregano

You might be sitting there thinking, “Why would I substitute oregano for… oregano?” But Mexican oregano is a completely different herb!

This particular herb is actually from a different botanical family and as the name suggests, it originated from Mexico, not the Mediterranean.

Mexican oregano is known by several names. It’s often called Mexican marjoram or Mexican sage!

This particular herb is actually one of the strongest flavored varieties of oregano, which naturally makes it a great substitute for its Mediterranean counterpart. It’s even considered to be more potent in flavor than oregano!

Interestingly, Mexican oregano is often used in chili powder because of its strong pepper flavor.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 1 teaspoon of Mexican oregano

Best used for: Traditional Mexican dishes such as tacos, stews, chilis, and many more

Marjoram

Did you know that oregano is often confused with marjoram? That’s because in the botanical family tree the two herbs are actually very closely related!

Over in the Mediterranean, oregano is sometimes known as wild marjoram, despite the fact that they’re two completely different plants.

Marjoram tends to have a subtler, gentler flavor than its potent cousin. The flavor tends to be sweeter than oregano and isn’t as pungent.

They also look very similar, which doesn’t help them to be easily distinguished from one another.

Just like its cousin, marjoram is suitable for use fresh or dried. This makes it a wonderful alternative to oregano for you to use in your cooking!

It also makes a great substitute for tarragon.

Amount required: ¾ teaspoon of dried oregano

Substituted with: 1 teaspoon of dried marjoram

Best used for: Chicken dishes, pork dishes

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of fresh oregano

Substituted with: 3 teaspoons of fresh marjoram

Best used for: Chicken dishes, pork dishes

Basil

This leafy green herb is another popular choice for culinary seasoning. Basil tends to be used in a variety of different recipes, and can really make a dish come alive.

Basil is another herb that can be used both dried and fresh.

Fresh basil tends to be stronger in flavor, however, dried basil is more convenient to have in your store cupboard. Dried basil will also need less maintenance!

Remember to adjust the quantity of basil accordingly depending on whether you use it dried or fresh.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 2 teaspoons of basil

Best used for: Beef dishes, breads, potato dishes

Parsley

Parsley is another fantastic Mediterranean vegetable that has made its way onto our culinary palate.

This particular herb is very versatile, and tends to be used in a wide variety of dishes either as a seasoning or as a garnish.

The great thing about parsley is that it’s another herb that you can use both fresh and dried.

If you opt for dried parsley instead of fresh, remember to halve the amount you use. Dried herbs tend to be more concentrated than their fresh counterparts.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 2 teaspoons of parsley

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes

Tarragon

There are many different types of tarragon available, however, the variety used for cooking tends to be French tarragon.

It is a notorious herb that gives a very potent flavor and is very aromatic. Tarragon is the go-to herb of choice for chicken dishes.

Tarragon would also make a good substitute for oregano in tomato-based dishes.

This flavorful herb will be the perfect alternative if you’re out of oregano or just simply don’t wish to use it.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 2 teaspoons of tarragon

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, salad dressings, chicken dishes

Dill

Dill is a fascinating herb that has become synonymous with seafood dishes. It also tends to be used for pickles and potato salads, but actually has a variety of uses. 

Not only can you use the plant to add flavor to your dishes - you can use the dill weed seeds to give it a bit of spice.

This particular herb is suitable for use both dried and fresh, however, the fresher variety has a much more interesting flavor.

Dill is one of the herbs that can lose flavor the longer it’s cooked, so you’d be best adding it as late as possible.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 1 ½ teaspoons of dill

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, salad dressings, fish dishes, soups

Fennel

This fascinating white fibrous bulb is another great substitute for oregano. What really makes this an exciting choice is that the entirety of the fennel is edible.

The leaves, seeds, and even the bulb are frequently used in cooking. It tends to get confused with anise because of the similar flavors.

Fennel suits a variety of recipes, but particularly salads and roasted meat dishes.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 1 ½ teaspoons of fennel

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, salad dressings, soups, roasted meat dishes

Sage

Another popular oregano substitute is sage. This aromatic herb has an earthy flavor and is used both dried and fresh for cooking.

It tends to be used for lots of different savory dishes, particularly in stuffing around holiday occasions.

It may well be one of the more common herbs that you have in your store cupboard, making it the perfect substitute for oregano.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 1 teaspoon of sage

Best used for: Pork dishes, beef dishes, poultry dishes

Summer savory

Summer savory is another popular Mediterranean herb that tends to be used for bean recipes. Its flavor is very similar to oregano, making it a good choice as a substitute.

Summer savory tends to be less bitter than its counterpart, winter savory.

This particular herb is also associated with German cooking. Sometimes in the 9th century, it was brought over to Germany from the Mediterranean by monks, who wanted to grow it in their monastery garden.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 2 teaspoons of summer savory

Best used for: Salads, sausage dishes, sauces, grilled meat dishes, bean dishes

Rosemary

Rosemary is a wonderfully aromatic herb often used to flavor meat dishes, particularly with lamb.

However, it is a versatile herb that can be used for a variety of recipes. It can be used both fresh and dried, and thanks to low moisture content it tends to retain its flavor when dried, making it incredibly potent.

As rosemary is quite a potent herb, you won’t need as much of it to substitute oregano.

Due to its spiky nature, you may wish to chop or grind it a little before adding it to your dish.

Amount required: 1 teaspoon of oregano

Substituted with: Pinch of rosemary

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, soups, casserole dishes, poultry dishes, lamb dishes

Thyme

Another versatile herb, thyme is used in a variety of dishes. Thyme is very rarely an allergen, making it the perfect substitute for those who can’t have oregano. 

This particular herb tends to release more flavor for the longer that it’s cooked. You also won’t have to worry about thyme breaking down during the cooking process.

Thyme can be used both fresh and dried. Its flavor is also very similar to oregano.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 2 teaspoons of thyme

Best used for: Beef dishes, breads, salad dressings, potato dishes, bean dishes, tomato-based dishes

Dried Italian seasoning

If you haven’t got any oregano left in your store cupboard, dried Italian seasoning can make a good alternative. That’s because it includes oregano as one of the herbs it uses! 

Dried Italian seasoning also tends to include basil, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. So you’ll have more than enough flavor to bring your dishes to life!

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 1 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, pasta dishes, fish dishes, chicken dishes

Combining substituted ingredients

Sometimes to get the flavor just right, you might need more than one substitution.

The great news is that as long as you’ve got the majority of the alternative ingredients from above in your store cupboard - or even just a few of them - you can combine them to create the ultimate oregano substitute.

With these in your cooking arsenal, you won’t even notice the difference!

Why not try some of these substitution combinations below to get cooking dishes you love?

Basil and marjoram

Basil and marjoram are two herbs that work very well together and make a fantastic substitute for oregano.

If you want to ensure that your dishes are able to pack a flavorful punch, these are the two you should opt for.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 1 teaspoon of basil and 1 teaspoon of marjoram

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, chicken dishes, pork dishes, beef dishes

Basil and parsley

Both being popular seasonings, it’s only natural that basil and parsley are a popular combination.

If you’ve got plenty of these in your kitchen try adding them instead of oregano to your dishes.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 1 teaspoon of basil and 1 teaspoon of parsley

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, beef dishes

Marjoram and thyme

Marjoram and thyme both have such similar flavors to oregano that they make the perfect combination as a substitute. Try using these herbs together for the ultimate oregano substitution.

Amount required: 2 teaspoons of oregano

Substituted with: 1 teaspoon of marjoram and 1 teaspoon of thyme

Best used for: Tomato-based dishes, chicken dishes, pork dishes, breads, vegetable dishes

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use mixed herbs instead of oregano?

You can use mixed herbs instead of oregano, yes. That’s because oregano is one of the herbs that’s included in the mixture! If you tend to have lots of mixed herbs leftover in your store cupboard but haven’t managed to get to the store to replace your oregano, then mixed herbs will be a fantastic alternative. You can also use any Italian seasoning that you’ve got in your cupboard, too.

It’s important to remember that because mixed herbs aren't just oregano, it will slightly alter the taste of your dish. It will make a great substitute if you don’t have any oregano left in the house though!

If you’re looking for a substitute because of an oregano allergy, we’d recommend giving parsley, summer savory, marjoram, or tarragon a try instead.

You can also create your own mixed herbs using other herbs in your cupboard if you find that an easier solution. Three great combinations which work as a good substitute for oregano are basil and marjoram, basil and parsley, or marjoram and thyme.

Is oregano and Italian seasoning the same thing?

Oregano and Italian seasoning aren’t exactly the same thing, no. That’s because Italian seasoning is a combination of several different herbs to help add some more Italian flavor to your dishes. Italian seasoning does have some oregano in it, however, so this makes it the perfect substitute for oregano if you’ve run out of your favorite herb. If you have some Italian seasoning in your cupboard, it will make a great replacement for oregano until you can get some more.

If you’re looking for an alternative to oregano because of an allergy to the herb, you’ll be better off opting for something different. Why not try using marjoram, basil, or parsley instead to get a similar flavor but without having to reach for your EpiPen afterward?

Is oregano and basil the same thing?

No, oregano and basil are not the same thing. They are two very different herbs with very different flavor profiles. 

Basil can be used as a substitute for oregano, however. Oregano is a herb that wasn’t often used in American recipes much before World War II, but has firmly become a staple on many dishes such as pizza. In contrast basil is a herb that can be used in virtually any recipe. It’s very popular with tomato based recipes, and can be used both fresh and dried. 

Remember that fresh basil is more potent, and it’s best added towards the end of the cooking process. Dried basil is more convenient to have in your store cupboard. If you like to keep a bunch of herbs and spices to hand such as oregano, the dried basil variety will be a great alternative until you can get some more oregano.

Can you substitute thyme for oregano?

You can substitute thyme for oregano, yes! In fact, if you’re trying to avoid oregano because of an allergy, then thyme is the perfect substitute. That’s because it’s a herb that is very rarely an allergen, so will be the perfect alternative to other herbs like Mexican oregano or marjoram that are part of the same herb family as oregano. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Thyme can be used both dried and fresh, and has a very similar flavor to oregano. Thyme tends to release its flavor the longer it’s cooked, so you’ll be better off adding it at the start of the cooking process. Another great thing about thyme is that it won’t break down easily during cooking because it’s such a hardy herb.

In summary

So there you have it! You don’t just have 1 great substitute for oregano - you’ve got 13 of them, as well as 3 different herb combinations!

What’s really great about this list of oregano substitutions is that no matter why you’ve had to swap it for something else, these great-tasting alternatives will give you everything you need to bring a tasty edge to your cooking.

Even better than that - you now know which will be the best substitute ingredient for oregano based entirely on the dish that you need it for!

Cassie Marshall
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