Dried or fresh, oregano is one of those herbs used commonly in Italian or Mediterranean cuisine and it can really add that level of authenticity to a dish. But it is possible to run out so well worth knowing a few good substitutes.
When we replace oregano we can choose to use fresh or dried herbs. Best substitute is marjoram, followed by thyme, rosemary, sage and even dried basil. Often a mix is a good idea with mixed herbs or Italian Seasoning being great.
If we substitute dried herbs for fresh we need to be a little bit careful in terms of potency though!
How To Replace Fresh Oregano
Oregano has that fresh and hard hitting flavor or earthiness mixed with pungent herbaceous almost a mint crossed with a citrus. To recreate that strength it can be a case of mixing a matching, or accepting it won’t be perfect and replacing with herbs that offer a slightly mismatched taste and aroma.
Dried Oregano Or Fresh
I am saying that dried and fresh oregano can be used almost interchangeably. This is not always the case with dried herbs as they tend to change their taste profile.
Oregano is much more intense when dried and you will find that you need to replace fresh with dried in a ratio of 1:3 so 1 teaspoon of dried oregano = 3 teaspoons of fresh. It is useful to have herbs dried and to hand all through the year as you never know when your plants may need you to stop harvesting.
For a full guide on drying your own fresh herbs to maximize the flavor have a read here.
Marjoram As A Replacement For Oregano
This is a like for like swap. If a recipe calls for dried oregano replace it with dried marjoram. If a recipe calls for fresh oregano replace with fresh. If you only have dried and the dish needs fresh use the 1:3 ratio and replace 3 teaspoons of fresh oregano for 1 teaspoon of dried marjoram.
I would say that marjoram is the most perfect replacement for oregano and nobody will even notice. So if you want an alternative that is the closest go for marjoram. That said it can be hard to get hold of, so I have included many other options below!
Thyme To Replace Oregano
Not a perfect replacement at all and more or less there for it’s pungency and earthiness rather than exact closeness to oregano. Use it in a like for like manner. 1 teaspoon of oregano = 1 teaspoon of thyme.
If you are replacing fresh oregano with thyme make sure to adjust the quantities as thyme holds it’s flavor when dried as well. So 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano = 1 teaspoon of dried thyme.
Rosemary As An Alternative To Oregano
Rosemary makes a good replacement for oregano, as long as you go sparingly with it. Rosemary is pungent, but develops it’s flavor the longer it is cooked. So go for a ratio of 1 teaspoon of oregano = 3/4 teaspoon of rosemary. If you are using dried rosemary to replace fresh oregano 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano = 3/4 teaspoon of dried rosemary.
Just be aware that rosemary also adds a note of pine to a dish and can be a bit overpowering to other herbs. A bit of a bully really so just double check which herbs it is not so tasty to cook with here.
Sage To Replace Oregano
Sage is one of the most pungent herbs I can think of. We love it but it will be a strong and almost astringent replacement for oregano. This is going to work well in pork dishes as we know how well sage goes with pork.
Use sage carefully to replace oregano in the ratio 1:2. 2 teaspoon of oregano = 1 teaspoon of sage.
Dried Basil As A Substitute For Oregano
Basil holds on to it’s astringent qualities when dried and can be surprisingly strong. Replacing dried oregano with basil is a like for like replacement. When you come to replace fresh oregano go for the 3:1 ratio again. 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano = 1 teaspoon of dried basil.
We regularly dry basil as the plant really does benefit from being pruned and it would be a waste not to harvest the leaves. For a full, free drying guide click here.
Italian seasoning is made up of a mix of rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil mixed in with a few other optional herbs depending on how you feel. However a pre-made mix will have a large percentage of oregano in it, you may then have to adjust the quantities of other herbs in your recipe.
So if a recipe called for rosemary, thyme and basil already and then said to add oregano, you can replace all of these herbs with the same quantity of Italian Seasoning. After all we are trying to create an Authentic Italian feel to our cooking usually. As in 1 teaspoon rosemary + 1 teaspoon thyme + 1 teaspoon basil + 1 teaspoon oregano = 4 teaspoons Italian Seasoning.
Mixed herbs are sold as a pre made blend of Oregano, marjoram, basil and thyme. If you were to use this blend to replace oregano in a recipe take into account the other herbs in the mix. Reduce the overall herbs you add if they are already mentioned in the ingredients and then add more mixed herbs accordingly.
Herbes De Provence
Herbes de Provence is a herb mix that includes, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, marjoram and savory. So to replace oregano with herbes de Provence does make sense. Just make sure to reduce the amount of the other herbs you may be adding to compensate.
Trouble With Replacing Oregano
There is only one real problem in that when we replace one herb for another we are not getting an exact substitute for the health benefits. Oregano is a real powerhouse of calcium, iron and vitamin K. So you cannot just replace that. Although other herbs will come with their own health benefits.
Also you really do have to eat an awful lot of oregano to get the daily allowances!
What Next & Further Reading
I hope that you feel confident to replace this perky little herb in your cooking and can see that you don’t always need a perfect match. Alternatives that you have to hand can be better than nothing 9 times out of 10.
We have many other articles on replacing herbs in your cooking if you fancy having a read below as well.