Thyme vs Oregano: What’s the Difference

When it comes to cooking, mastering the use of herbs is essential for both beginners and seasoned professionals. Thyme, a popular culinary herb, is often used in various recipes. However, with a vast array of herbs available, it can be quite confusing to navigate their distinct flavors and unique characteristics.

Thyme and oregano, two commonly used herbs, can sometimes be mistaken for one another or even used interchangeably. In this article, we will clear up any confusion regarding these two herbs, their similarities and differences, and their best applications in the kitchen.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the differences and similarities between thyme and oregano
  • Learn about the health benefits associated with these herbs
  • Discover their best culinary uses and how to grow them at home

What is Thyme?

Thyme is a widely appreciated green plant with a uniquely fresh, earthy, and floral taste. You may find its flavor profile somewhat similar to lavender and rosemary. This versatile herb is available in two main types: common thyme and lemon thyme. While common thyme is typically used for culinary purposes, lemon thyme adds a hint of citrus to recipes.

Belonging to the genus Thymus, thyme is a perennial herb that is part of the mint family, Lamiaceae. Interestingly, this plant family also includes oregano. Thyme grows delicate flowers ranging in colors from white and pink to lilac. Originating in the Mediterranean area, there are several other varieties of thyme, such as wild thyme, which may be utilized as decorative border plants. These plants serve not only as aesthetically pleasing additions to a garden, but also as a source of alluring aroma and attraction for bees.

Thyme holds a rich history, dating back to Ancient Egyptian and Roman civilizations where it was employed for embalming and flavoring cheese and wine, respectively. Today, its popularity continues to span across various cuisines worldwide.

You can purchase thyme either fresh or dried, and even grow it in your own garden or windowsill herb box. The flavor of dried thyme can be slightly more potent than that of fresh thyme, but both forms work wonderfully in a variety of dishes. Thymol, a natural compound found in thyme, is known to possess medicinal benefits, contributing to the herb’s historical usage for health and wellness in addition to culinary applications.

What is Oregano?

Oregano is a flowering plant from the Lamiaceae family and belongs to the Origanum genus. It is commonly found in the Mediterranean region and is a vital feature in many Italian pasta dishes and Italian Herb mixes. Oregano is closely related to marjoram, another herb, and is sometimes also called “sweet marjoram.”

The flavor of oregano is very distinctive and fresh, similar to thyme but with a pungent, grassy, and hay-like taste. However, its woody and sweet undertone makes it a delightful sensation in various dishes.

Oregano can be found in multiple forms, such as dried oregano, fresh oregano, and even in powder form. The dried version has an even stronger taste than fresh oregano and is commonly found in many pantries. Crushing dried oregano further releases more flavor, which can be done using a pestle and mortar before adding it to your recipes. The same can be done with fresh oregano.

Its culinary versatility is widely appreciated across Mediterranean cooking, and it’s also known for its medicinal uses.

Are Oregano and Thyme the Same?

No, oregano and thyme are not the same, but they share a family connection. Both herbs belong to the Lamiaceae family, which consists of mint-like herbs. However, oregano comes from the Origanum genus while thyme belongs to the Thymus genus.

Although they might share some similarities, their flavor profiles are distinct from each other. Oregano has a more potent flavor, while thyme has a subtle taste. Here’s a comparison of their characteristics:

FlavorRobust, slightly bitterSubtle, earthy
AromaPungent, warmSweet, mild
UsageTomato-based sauces, pizza, Mediterranean cuisineSoups, stews, roasts, French cuisine

Besides their difference in flavor and aroma, oregano and thyme also possess distinct medicinal properties. For instance, thyme has been used to purify the air, aid sleep, and was believed to give courage in ancient times. Meanwhile, oregano was considered a remedy for sore throats, colds, and coughs and is known for its antibacterial properties.

So, when it comes to flavoring your dishes, consider the unique attributes of each herb to enhance and complement your culinary creations.

Can I use oregano instead of thyme?

Yes, you can definitely use oregano as a substitute for thyme in a variety of recipes. Although their tastes are not identical, both oregano and thyme complement each other well and enhance numerous other flavors, making them excellent additions to many dishes.

If a recipe calls for thyme and you’ve run out or someone doesn’t enjoy its taste, feel free to replace it with oregano. This substitution works particularly well in Italian and Mediterranean dishes, as both herbs are essential components of the Italian Herb mix. So go ahead and experiment with oregano as a thyme substitute and enjoy the flavorful results!

Can I use thyme instead of oregano?

Yes, you can use thyme in place of oregano in various recipes. They both complement many meat, fish, and potato dishes from diverse cuisines. While they are both popular in Italian food, thyme is also commonly used in British and French culinary traditions.

Differences in taste between thyme and oregano include the following flavors:

  • Thyme: earthy, subtle, and slightly sweet with notes of mint and lavender
  • Oregano: more pungent, peppery, and grassy with a hint of bitterness

Given their distinct flavor profiles, substitution may slightly alter the taste of your dish, but both herbs will add a fresh and delicious touch to your recipe. So feel free to use thyme when you’re out of oregano or if you simply prefer its taste.

What health benefits does thyme have?

Thyme is an incredible herb that not only adds delicious flavor to your dishes but also provides numerous health benefits. Packed with vitamins A and C, it contributes to maintaining strong immune systems and good eyesight. Here are some key benefits of thyme:

  • Rich in antioxidants: Thyme is known for its antioxidant properties, helping your body fight off harmful free radicals.
  • Antibacterial properties: Thanks to a compound called thymol, thyme can be used as a natural antibacterial product. This makes it useful for soothing sore throats and various skin issues.
  • Boosts immune system: The vitamin C content present in thyme strengthens your immunity, keeping you healthy and resilient against infections.
  • Nutrient dense: Thyme is a good source of protein, calcium, iron, and potassium. These nutrients support important functions of your body and contribute to overall health.

When using thyme essential oil, remember to always dilute it with a carrier oil, as it can be toxic in high concentrations. Keep in mind, you should never consume essential oils, including thyme essential oil. Incorporating thyme in its fresh or dried form into your diet not only offers the aforementioned health benefits but also adds a delightful taste to your meals. So, go ahead and enjoy this versatile herb while reaping its numerous health advantages!

What health benefits does oregano have?

Oregano offers numerous health benefits packed into its small leaves. As you incorporate oregano in your cooking, you’re getting a bonus of antioxidants and nutrients essential for a healthy lifestyle. One key benefit of oregano is its source of vitamin K, which promotes healthy blood clotting. Besides, oregano’s essential oil has antifungal, antiviral, and medicinal properties, making it an ideal ingredient to help soothe your sore throat and cough. Give oregano a try for its nutritional value with minimal calories and enjoy its powerful health benefits.

Can you grow oregano and thyme at home?

Yes, you can absolutely grow oregano and thyme at home! These hardy perennials are easy to cultivate, even for beginners. Starting a herb garden is an excellent way to begin your gardening journey. Plus, there’s nothing more delightful than picking fresh herbs from your own garden to use in your meals.

To grow these herbs, follow these simple steps:

  1. Choose a suitable location: Both oregano and thyme thrive in well-drained soil and require at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Your garden, balcony, or any sunny spot are ideal locations.
  2. Planting: You can start oregano and thyme from seeds, seedlings, or cuttings. Plant them about 12-24 inches apart to give them room to grow.
  3. Watering: Be sure to water your herbs consistently, keeping the soil slightly moist but not waterlogged.
  4. Harvesting: You can harvest thyme and oregano as soon as they start growing vigorously. Snip sprigs as needed for your recipes.

If you want to preserve these herbs for later use, simply follow these steps to dry them:

  • Gently clean the sprigs and bundle them together with jute cord. Make sure not to bundle too many sprigs together to prevent mold growth.
  • Place the herbs in a brown paper bag to catch any falling herbs and protect them from dust.
  • Hang the bag to dry for 1 week, but not longer than 10 days.
  • Crush your dried herbs and store them in an airtight container for future culinary adventures.

Taking care of your own herb garden not only adds fresh flavors to your meals but also brings joy and satisfaction. Happy gardening!

Best Uses for Thyme

Thyme is a versatile herb that enhances a variety of dishes without overpowering their flavors. You can confidently incorporate it into your cooking with sauces, stews, and marinades, as well as in broths and soups. Feel free to use it as a garnish too!

This herb complements poultry really well and can also be utilized with veal, lamb, and fish dishes. For vegetable lovers, thyme pairs nicely with your favorite vegetable dishes, alongside other culinary herbs like tarragon, rosemary, and oregano.

If experimenting with Italian dishes, thyme can add a delicious twist to your recipes. It’s particularly well-liked in Creole cuisine, such as Jambalaya and Southern Rice dishes.

Surprisingly, thyme also works in sweet dishes! Try it with flavors like lavender and lemon for some fresh, summery tarts, light cocktails, and baked cakes. Enjoy exploring the different ways thyme can elevate your culinary creations!

Best Uses for Oregano

Oregano is such a versatile herb, popular in Italian cuisine and commonly used in pasta and pizza dishes. Not only does it shine in European dishes, but it’s also found in Greek, Cypriot, and Mexican meals.

Meats and vegetables benefit from oregano’s robust flavors. It pairs particularly well with red meats like lamb, pork, and beef, as well as tomatoes. You can also add it to soups, fish, eggs, and even gravy for an extra kick of flavor.

If you prefer meat-free dishes, oregano enhances the taste of your favorite vegetable dishes and complements legumes nicely.

Some suggested uses for oregano include:

  • Italian herb mix: Combine oregano with basil, bay leaves, and marjoram.
  • Sprinkle it on top of your favorite pasta dish.
  • Season meats and vegetable dishes for a touch of Mediterranean flair.
  • Mix oregano into your homemade tomato sauce for pizzas and pasta.

Remember to always incorporate oregano into your recipes with a friendly touch, and enjoy the tasty results!


In this section, you’ve learned that thyme and oregano are distinct herbs with unique flavors. While they can occasionally be used interchangeably in recipes, their differences may impact the final dish. Thyme and oregano complement each other and form key parts of Italian Seasoning. Both herbs make excellent additions to your pantry, and if you’re interested, they’re simple to grow in your own herb garden. Enjoy experimenting with these delightful herbs in your cooking!

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use as a substitute for oregano?

In case you don’t have oregano, you can use the following substitutes:

  • Thyme
  • Basil
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary

Keep in mind that each substitute has its own unique flavor, so the final dish may taste slightly different from the original recipe.

Are thyme and oregano from the same plant family?

Yes, thyme and oregano both belong to the Lamiaceae family, also known as the mint family. However, they are from different genera within the family, with thyme belonging to the genus Thymus and oregano to the genus Origanum.

Which is better for seasoning steak: thyme or oregano?

Both thyme and oregano can be great for seasoning steak, but it depends on your personal preference and the specific flavors you want to achieve in your dish. Thyme has a more subtle and earthy flavor, while oregano is more robust and slightly peppery. You can experiment by trying each of them separately or even using them together for a more complex taste.

Can thyme and oregano be used together in a dish?

Absolutely! Thyme and oregano complement each other well in many dishes, as they both have a Mediterranean flavor profile. Using them together can enhance the taste of your meal and create a harmony of flavors. Just be sure to use them in balanced proportions to ensure one doesn’t overpower the other.

What are the health benefits of thyme and oregano tea?

Thyme and oregano tea can offer several health benefits, such as:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Helping with digestion
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Providing antioxidants
  • Relieving cough and sore throat

However, it is important to note that consuming these herbs in moderate quantities is recommended and consulting a healthcare professional is always a good idea before starting any herbal remedies.

Do thyme and oregano grow well together in a garden?

Yes, thyme and oregano make good companion plants in your garden. Both herbs prefer similar growing conditions, like well-drained soil and full sunlight. Additionally, they can provide some pest control benefits when planted close together, as their aromatic properties can repel certain pests. Make sure to give them enough space to grow, and you’ll have a beautiful and aromatic herb garden!

Follow Us
Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
Follow Us
Latest posts by Cassie Marshall (see all)