Oregano is a staple herb in many cuisines, from Italian and Greek to Spanish and Mexican. Its earthy, aromatic flavor is hard to duplicate. But if you’re caught without oregano, don’t despair. There are several possible substitutes that can mimic oregano’s savory essence.

1. Basil

Sweet basil makes an excellent stand-in for oregano when it’s lacking. Basil has a similar pungent, lightly minty quality. And it holds up well to cooking. Use fresh basil leaves in place of oregano in sauces, soups and on pizzas. The flavor won’t be exactly the same, but the basil will provide a tasty herbal note. Use the same amount of basil as you would oregano. Just tear or chop the leaves finely before adding. Dried basil can also work, though the flavor is less bright.

2. Marjoram

Marjoram is closely related to oregano, with a delicate lemon-pine flavor. It can be used in the same quantity as oregano in recipes. The background taste will be noticeably different from oregano’s boldness. But marjoram’s savory herbaceousness works well in many of the same Mediterranean-style dishes. Use it in Italian sauces, on meats, in salad dressings and more.

3. Thyme

Thyme has a gentle minty earthiness that makes a nice substitute for oregano’s woodsy notes. It won’t be as robust, so use about 50% more fresh or dried thyme leaves compared to the oregano amount. Cooking helps bring out thyme’s flavor, so it’s great for simmering in sauces, soups and stews. Add sprigs of fresh thyme to roast meats and vegetables too.

4. Parsley

Fresh parsley doesn’t mimic oregano’s pungency. But its clean, fresh green flavor can fill in nicely. Use flat-leaf Italian parsley for the best match. Chop the leaves and add more volume than you would oregano – about double the amount in recipes. Dried parsley flakes don’t make the best substitute since the flavor is diminished. Stick with fresh parsley.

5. Mint

In certain dishes, especially Greek and Middle Eastern foods, mint can substitute for the boldness of oregano. Peppermint and spearmint both have a pronounced herbal quality. Use fresh leaves and add them at the end of cooking for the strongest flavor. Mint works well in salads, yogurt sauces, lamb dishes and chilled summer soups. Start with equal amounts of mint leaves as you would oregano.

6. Mexican Oregano

If you have another type of oregano on hand, use it! Mexican oregano is the closest cousin to Mediterranean oregano. It has a stronger, woodsy taste and more potent scent. For the best flavor match, use only 3/4 as much Mexican oregano compared to regular oregano called for.

When oregano is missing, look to your other fresh and dried herbs. A combination of basil, thyme and parsley can help complete the savory flavor profile. Or turn to mint, marjoram or Mexican oregano for a close cousin. With a little creativity, you can still deliver delicious dishes.

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julia jane

Julia Jane is a home cook inspired by her mother's cooking. With the desire to share my cooking experiences with everyone, she created this website

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