Oregano is a herb from the mint family. It is a popular flavor in Italian, Mediterranean, and Mexican cuisine and can be added to dishes fresh and dried.
It has an earth centered flavor with a bit of a subtle minty kick. It’s safe to say that this flavor really stays put regardless of what it is mixed in with.
If your dish calls for oregano, it’s because it wants the oregano flavor. Sometimes, oregano is not available. If this is the case, and your chosen recipe calls for it, don’t worry.
There are a number of alternative herbs that you can add to your dish to work around the missing ingredient.
Here are fifteen alternate herbs that you can use if you don’t have access to oregano. They can all be substituted for oregano in different contexts, as they all have their own unique flavor and texture.
Dried Herbs vs. Fresh Herbs
Cooks face this question whenever they embark on making a dish. Should you use fresh herbs, or should you use dried herbs?
Fresh herbs are fresh from the pot or the ground. They are the most organic form of the chosen herb that you can source.
They are grown, picked, washed, and placed directly into a dish either as a garnish or for flavoring the food.
A good example of fresh herbs being used in a dish is basil leaves as a pizza topping, or coriander sprinkled on a curry.
Dried herbs are herbs that have been dried out and stored in a preserving container, such as a glass jar.
These types of herbs don’t pack the same punch as fresh herbs, but they still retain a lot of flavors, and this comes through in the meal.
Dried herbs are more commonly used as a mixer ingredient in food, as opposed to a garnish.
The Substitutions For Oregano
Thyme is a herb from the mint family. You can use it fresh or dried, it depends on what the dish calls for.
When using as a substitute for oregano, we lean towards using the fresh thyme option when looking for a garnish.
The flavor is different, but the effects on the dish are similar enough that it is a good replacement for oregano. Thyme has a more potent flavor than oregano, so use less of it.
Marjoram is the best alternative to oregano on this list. It has a very similar flavor and can be used more or less like for like in a dish as an alternative to oregano fresh or dried.
Marjoram works well in salads and with meat dishes too. It is most commonly placed in Italian cuisine and is perfect as a substitute herb on various pizzas.
3. Generic Italian Seasoning
Generic Italian Seasoning is a mixed pot of dried herbs. It is compiled of a mixture of different, dry Italian herbs such as basil, marjoram, and oregano.
If you find yourself short of oregano for anything you’re cooking, mixed Italian seasoning is a perfect substitute. It will also contain smaller dried oregano leaves, so you still get the authentic oregano flavor as well.
Basil is quite similar to oregano in flavor and consistency. It can easily be used fresh in lots of Mediterranean and Italian dishes. It doesn’t really work well in Indian cuisine.
Basil has the most flavor when it is fresh but is also fine as a dried herb. It is also one of the most popular and well known herbs around, owing to its versatility and distinctive flavoring.
5. Mexican Oregano
Mexican oregano is a branch of the oregano herb family. While regular oregano tastes a bit like mint, the Mexican variety does not.
If you are looking for a more citrus based flavor, Mexican oregano is going to be your go-to herb.
If you don’t have any regular oregano, Mexican oregano is great as a stand in for Mexican dishes and spicier type cuisine. It does taste stronger than regular oregano, so use it sparingly.
Parsley has a distinctive flavor of its own, but it can be used as a stand in for oregano in certain contexts.
It is most famously known as a garnish, for example on garlic bread, but it can be used mixed into dishes for a flavor kick or in sauces and other dishes too.
If you are using it as a substitute for oregano, lean toward using it as a garnish above anything else. This is because the flavors don’t quite match up in the way that other herbs on the list does.
Tarragon has a licorice style kick to it. This is quite in tune with the mint hint that oregano has to offer, and that is why tarragon is also a great alternative in any dish that you might want to use oregano in.
It can be added like for like in terms of quantity and won’t overpower your dish at all. Tarragon works really well in sauces.
Dill is a herb along the celery family line. It has a distinctive, almost fluffy-like bright green appearance and is commonly grown across the seas.
If you are using dill in place of oregano, opt for a smaller amount of dill than you would add if it were oregano. This is owing to the difference in the strength of flavor, and the difference in flavor also.
Fennel is a herb of the carrot family. It is one of the more vitamin enriched herbs on the list and is a good replacement in a multitude of dishes.
It does, much like tarragon, have a slight licorice flavoring. Don’t let that put you off, because if used in half quantities, it can be a really great sub for oregano across the board.
Sage is a lovely little herb that is from the same herb family as oregano, the mint family. That means that they have quite a similar taste and smell.
So, naturally, that gives sage an upper hand over other herbs when it comes to the herb substitution bench for oregano.
11. Summer Savory
Summer Savory is more commonly used in medicine than in cooking. However, owing to its likeness with thyme and rosemary, it is a great herb that is overlooked too often.
You can use Summer Savory in the same way as thyme, dried or fresh.
Rosemary is very similar to Summer Savory. It has a distinctive, but not overpowering, flavor that is actually very versatile across a range of dishes.
If you are using it in place of oregano, you can use the same amounts. It doesn’t taste exactly the same, but it is a close enough match and will have similar effects on your dish.
13. Bay Leaf
Bay Leaf is quite a strong herb leaf. These are used in cooking to distill flavor into a sauce or meat. They can also be used in non-meat based dishes.
Because a bay leaf has such a strong flavor, it’s not commonly used as a replacement herb.
But, if you’re short of any other herb, you can add a bay leaf for a short while and achieve the same kick that you would get from oregano.
Fenugreek is most commonly used for its seeds or crushed seeds. However, you can sometimes use the leaves as well.
When used instead of oregano, fenugreek can provide a similar consistency. The flavor is not the same, in fact, it is distinctively different.
That doesn’t stop it from being a good oregano match, though. Fenugreek is really popular in different Indian cuisine.
Carom is actually a seed of a herb, the Ajwain herb. They are okay as an alternative to oregano, but not the best.
Their flavor has the same sort of bitter taste that you get from any herb in the mint family, such as oregano. But the carom itself is far from the herb family. It is, again, another common herb in Indian cuisine.
16. Greek Oregano
Greek oregano is another direct type of common oregano. It is different, but the differences are subtle.
The Greek version of oregano is very distinctively earthy and has much less of a kick to the flavor than generic oregano.
Given that is a direct link to oregano, it can be used like for like in any recipe that calls for it.
Any one of the 15 herbs on this list can be used in place of oregano.
It depends on what you are cooking. Different recipes call for different flavors, that goes without saying. Oregano can add a pleasant kick to any dish.
All you need to do is think about the flavor of the herb that you are using as a substitute and how it will complement, or not complement, the dish you are creating.
The best alternative that is most similar to oregano is, without a doubt, marjoram. However, the other types of herb from the oregano family, are also perfect substitutes in cooking.
Mexican Oregano and Greek Oregano are not the only alternate versions of oregano, of course. There are dozens and dozens more.
But, these two are the two most closely matched to the original flavor, and therefore they made it to the list above the others!