Best oregano for cooking

How well do you know the names of the fresh herbs? Many herbs look quite similar, so it’s easy to be confused. This visual guide to herb identification makes identifying fresh herbs a snap.

Herb Identification – Do you know your herbs?

Most people know the names of a few fresh herbs that are most commonly used in recipes. Basil and rosemary have quite a distinctive look so it’s easy to remember what they are.

However, many other herbs have a very similar leaf structure, especially if the plant is not too developed. This can make it hard to identify the plant you have in front of you.

I can’t tell you how many times I have come back from a shopping trip with a bunch of cilantro, thinking that I had picked up flat leaf parsley parsley. These two herbs may look similar but have a very different taste when used in it pays to know what you are buying.

Another herb that has a look alike cousin is oregano. Look at the marjoram leaves in the picture above. Can you see how easily it would be to get confused between the two?

Herb Gardening Information

I am in the process of writing several articles that give information on how to grow and use the various herbs in the photo above above. Be sure to check back often to see more posts.

Just click on any of the links below to find out more about that fresh herb.

Basil Bay Laurel Chervil
Chives Cilantro Dill
Oregano Rosemary Sage
Thyme Wheatgrass

If you have always used dried herbs and spices then you are probably lost when it comes to trying to identifying herbs. This handy herb identification chart will come come in handy. I have included the herbs that most cooks may come in contact with.

Guide to Growing Herbs

Armed with this handy chart, you’ll soon be an expert at guessing the names of herbs by sight. The next step will be learning about the smell of different herbs. I find that even more interesting.

We’ve all seen those little bubble packs of fresh herbs at the grocery store, but did you know that you can easily grow herbs yourself? I’ve written a complete guide that will give you all the information you need in one place. Be sure to check out my guide to growing herbs.

I hope you enjoy using this convenient herb identification chart. I would suggest that you pin it to Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.

For more identification, be sure to check out my list of perennial herbs and watch the video at the top of this page for photos and names of more herbs.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Quick Guide to Growing Oregano

  • Plant oregano in spring, once all chances of frost have passed. The long stems look great spilling over the edges of containers and also work well as a ground cover.
  • Space oregano plants 8 to 10 inches apart in a sunny spot with fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. Offer partial shade if growing in warm climates.
  • Give young plants fertile soil to take root in by mixing several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter into your native soil.
  • Keep soil consistently moist and water when the top inch becomes dry.
  • Encourage fabulous leaf production by regularly feeding with a water-soluble plant food.
  • Once oregano is established, harvest sprigs with sharp gardening shears. Feel free to harvest often to promote new growth, but avoid pruning more than one-third of the plant at a time.

Soil, Planting, and Care for Growing Oregano

Oregano prefers a sunny spot; however, in zone 7 and farther south, it benefits from a little afternoon shade. Set plants in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7.0. To improve your soil, blend a few inches of aged compost-enriched Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil with the top layer of your existing soil. Oregano grows beautifully in containers, too. For best results, fill pots with a premium quality potting mix like Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix, which also contains aged compost and is just the right weight and texture for container growing.

Rich, nutrient-filled soil is the foundation of a great harvest, but your plants will eventually use up those nutrients and you’ll need to replace them. So, for best results, you’ll also want to feed oregano with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition throughout the growing season (follow the directions on the label). It nourishes both plants and the beneficial microbes in the soil that help plants take up all the food they need.

Oregano spreads easily; in late spring, cut it back to one-third of its size in order to make the plant bushier. In milder climates (zone 8 and southward), oregano is evergreen. In zone 7 and northward, protect plants with mulch through the winter, or cover them with a cold frame. Small plants in containers can be moved indoors for the winter. Cut out dead stems in the spring before the plants begin new growth.

To ensure you have fresh oregano at your fingertips year-round, another great option is to grow it indoors in a water-based (aka hydroponic) system. When you choose a unit like the Miracle-Gro® Twelve™ Indoor Growing System, it’s quite simple to both plant and care for your oregano plants, and you don’t have to spend a moment worrying about the weather outside. Designed to double as a sleek-looking end table, this system circulates water, air, and plant food to plant roots, plus provides plenty of light for growing via an LED grow light.



A multitasking perennial, oregano is a fragrant addition to a perennial garden as well as the kitchen. Plant it in a sunny garden bed or container close to the house for quick and easy harvest for your next Italian meal. In the garden you’ll love oregano’s clean, green foliage and casual mounding habit. It debuts small flowers in summer, which are a favorite stopping point for pollinators. A perennial all-star, oregano is a must-grow garden herb.

genus name
  • Origanum vulgare
  • Sun
plant type
  • Herb,
  • Perennial
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • 2-4 feet wide
flower color
  • Blue,
  • White,
  • Pink
season features
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Groundcover,
  • Drought Tolerant,
  • Slope/Erosion Control
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Fragrance,
  • Good for Containers
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10,
  • 11
  • Division,
  • Stem Cuttings

Harvest Tips

Pick leaves as needed throughout the growing season. Flavor diminishes after plants bloom; for best taste, harvest leaves before flower buds open. Savor oregano’s spicy taste on grilled meats or seafood, sprinkle it onto cooked vegetables, or stir it into pasta sauces. Gather fresh flowers to add to salads.

Oregano’s flavor doesn’t dissipate with drying. To dry a large amount of oregano, cut stems back to 3 inches (before flower buds open); cut again in the same way in late summer. Dry the stems by bundling them together and hanging them upside down in a dark place with good air circulation. When leaves are dry, crumble them from stems; store leaves in an airtight container. When cooking, if a recipe calls for dried oregano, you can substitute twice the amount of fresh for the same flavorful result.

Check out more edibles to grow in your garden.

Harvest Often

Begin harvesting oregano as soon as sprigs are 6 inches high. Harvest stems frequently to prevent the plant from producing flowers. Flowers diminish the flavor of the foliage and create woody plant stems. Oregano tolerates shearing well; don’t hesitate to shear plants back by half their stem length to encourage them to produce tender, flavorful foliage.

Planting Partners

Oregano grows well in full sun, making it a good choice for planting alongside other sun-loving herbs like rosemary, parsley, sage, and thyme. Grow these herbs together in a planting bed, alongside perennials in a mixed border, or in a raised bed. Herbs also thrive in containers of all shapes and sizes. Have fun with repurposed planting vessels for herbs.

The diverse textures and subtle color variations of herbs make them exceptionally useful in the garden design. A trio of oregano plants planted near a boisterous planting of hollyhocks and daylilies gives the eye a quiet place to rest amid the color and interest of the combination. Low-growing oregano forms a wide mound of foliage, blanketing nearby soil and smothering out weeds.

Learn about oregano’s cousin, Cuban oregano.

Oregano Care Must-Knows

Oregano is best grown from nursery-grown transplants or cuttings. Oregano can be grown from seed, too, but seed often does not yield plants with exceptional flavor. Plant oregano in full sun and well-drained soil. It will tolerate part shade, but the plant often becomes open and floppy. Well-drained soil is essential; good drainage is important for good growth and it promotes overwintering.

Winter Cover

Oregano is marginally hardy in Zone 5. Help plants overwinter by covering them with a winter mulch of evergreen boughs or straw applied after the soil freezes in late fall. Remove the mulch as soon as growth resumes in spring. Oregano can also be grown inside during winter. Transplant plants from the garden to a generous container in early fall. Place in a sunny window during winter and water when the surface of the soil is dry.

Use herbs in your cooking every day with this indoor herb garden!

More Varieties of Oregano

Cascading ornamental oregano

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Also known as Lebanese oregano and hop oregano, Origanum libanoticum references to its area of origin and the shape of its flower clusters. The plant has fine blue-green foliage, and in summer it sends out wiry arching stems with pendulous pale green papery bracts with pinkish-purple flowers. The plant grows 18 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide. Zones 5-10

Cretan oregano

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Pot marjoram (Origanum onites) is a shrubby plant that grows 18 inches tall and up to 24 inches wide. Its leaves have an intense oregano flavor. Late in the growing season, when the plant becomes quite woody, the flavor may become bitter. Cut back the plant at that time to encourage tender regrowth. Cretan oregano bears white to pale pink flowers. Zones 7-11

Dittany of Crete

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Origanum dictamnus makes an excellent rock garden plant. It has fuzzy gray-green leaves that form a mound 6-8 inches tall. In summer it sends up flower stalks with persistent papery bracts that are light green with a blush of pink. Zones 7-11

Golden oregano

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This variety of Origanum vulgare (‘Aureum’) has yellow-green leaves and white flowers. Like its green-leaf cousin, Greek oregano, it is edible. Golden oregano is sometimes sold as creeping golden marjoram. The plant grows 12-18 inches tall and wide. Zones 6-10

Greek oregano

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Origanum vulgare hirtum offers the best flavor for culinary use. Like all culinary oreganos, it has white flowers. It is often confused with wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare), but true Greek oregano has a much stronger flavor. It grows 6-10 inches tall and spreads 12-18 inches wide. Zones 5-10

‘Herrenhausen’ ornamental oregano

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This selection of Origanum laevigatum is a butterfly magnet when in bloom from midsummer through fall. Flowering shoots rise 18-24 inches above the spreading rhizomatous stems. Clusters of pink blooms with purple-maroon bracts make ‘Herrenhausen’ an excellent fresh or dried cut flower. The plant has dark green foliage with a purplish tinge. Zones 4-10

‘Pilgrim’ ornamental oregano

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Origanum laevigatum ‘Pilgrim’ ornamental oregano produces masses of rosy pink flowers and bracts on upright arching bloom stalks that reach 15-18 inches tall. This drought-tolerant perennial is great for dry hillside gardens. Zones 5-10

‘Jim’s Best’ oregano

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This Origanum vulgare variety is noted for its variegated green-and-gold foliage. The light green leaves are marbled with flecks of yellow. It grows 6-12 inches tall and spreads up to 24 inches wide. It was named by Jim Long of Long Creek Herbs. Zones 5-10

‘Hot & Spicy’ Greek oregano

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Origanum vulgare ‘Hot & Spicy’ is a type of Greek oregano with an exceptionally intense flavor. Its leaves are dark green. Flowers are white to light pink but not especially showy. It grows 12-18 inches tall and spreads up to 24 inches wide. Zones 5-10

Garden Plans For Oregano

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Oregano Leaves Stock Photos and Images

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  • Close up shot of oregano leaves.
  • Fresh oregano leaves
  • Oregano leaves, close up
  • photo of fresh oregano leaves on a white background
  • Fresh Oregano leaves
  • Oregano Marjoram fresh green leaves Origanum vulgare
  • Oregano oil and fresh oregano leaves on the wooden board
  • Closeup oregano leaves from the herb garden. Fresh oregano herb on stone background.
  • macro background image of dried oregano flakes herb
  • Dried Oregano Leaves in a Ceramic Bowl. The image is a cut out, isolated on a white background.
  • Dried Oregano in a Bowl on White Wood
  • Assortment of fresh herbs mint, oregano, thym, blooming sage and young vegetables beetroot and carrot over old wooden stool as b
  • dried oregano leaves
  • Oregano leaves
  • Using special garden scissors to harvest oregano leaves
  • Mayonnaise salad
  • Fresh oregano leaves
  • Monotone Oregano leaves 1 tablespoon in a white spoon on the white background
  • Olive oil bottle with oregano leaves
  • Frost covered Oregano leaves in early spring
  • Brown rice risotto with oregano leaves and lemon ice cream dessert with basil leaves. Photo taken in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Year 2019.
  • Slice of Quiche anyone?
  • Fresh oregano
  • Anchovies and tomato pizza with oregano leaves
  • Fresh oregano leaves growing outside
  • Detail photo of Oregano leaves
  • Closeup oregano leaves from the herb garden. Fresh oregano herb on stone background. Fresh oregano shallow depth of field.
  • Golden oregano Leaves some of which in focus others out of focus
  • Dried Oregano Leaves in a Glass Canister with a Metal Clamp. The image is a cut out, isolated on a white background.
  • Origanum vulgare leaves in Spring. Oregano.
  • A beautiful, messy oregano plant on a worn wood table.
  • dried oregano leaves
  • Fresh parsley and oregano leaves
  • Oregano leaves on the drying rack of a dehydrator.
  • Mayonnaise salad
  • Fresh oregano leaves
  • Bowl of dried oregano leaves isolated on white background, top view
  • Olive oil bottles with mint, rosemary and oregano leaves
  • Oregano leaves
  • Brown rice risotto with tasty fresh vegetables calabrian pepper oregano leaves. Photo taken in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Year 2019.
  • A small pile of Oregano leaves are sitting on a plain white background.
  • Fresh oregano
  • Variety of grains in stacked measuring cups – selective focus
  • Fresh oregano leaves growing outside
  • Oregano or Pot Marjoram (Origanum vulgare) leaves
  • Different sorts of cooking oils. Olive oil flavored ,spice oils and sesame oil with herbs rosemary ,thyme,dill,sage ,peppermint ,oregano , sweet basil
  • Flowering Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Obverse green and fresh leaves of oregano (spice). Group isolated on white background.
  • Dried and fresh oregano leaves closeup
  • Detail shot of a potted oregano plant with beautiful long sprigs on a moody gray background.
  • dried oregano leaves
  • Fresh parsley and oregano leaves
  • Golden oregano or marjoram herb growing in a Scottish garden
  • oregano fresh on chopping board
  • Oregano with pink flower
  • Oregano plants and leaves texture background, Origanum vulgare
  • Essential oil of oregano in vintage bottle with fresh oregano leaves on wooden background
  • Brown rice risotto with tasty fresh vegetables calabrian pepper oregano leaves. Photo taken in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Year 2019.
  • Oregano leaves isolated on white
  • Fresh oregano
  • Oregano leaves and dried oregano on wooden spoon
  • Fresh oregano leaves growing outside
  • Dried oregano leaves on wooden spoon over white background
  • Oregano plant close-up
  • photo of fresh oregano leaves hightlighted by spot light
  • Reverse green and fresh leaves of oregano (spice). Group isolated on white background.
  • Dried and fresh oregano leaves closeup
  • Rustic still life of a kitchen counter with worn wooden utensils in a porcelain pitcher and a lovely tangled oregano plant in the background.
  • dried oregano leaves
  • Fresh oregano leaves and black peppercorns
  • cristina cassinelli, fresh oregano leaves on a sheet of white homemade paper, fresh herb, cooking herb, ingredient,
  • Close up corn soup with oregano leaves and garlic bread in white ceramic cup on wooden table background
  • Oregano with pink flower
  • Fresh Oregano leaves
  • dried oregano leaves isolated on white background
  • Essential oil of oregano in dark bottles with fresh oregano leaves isolated on white background
  • Brown rice risotto with oregano leaves and lemon ice cream dessert with basil leaves. Photo taken in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Year 2019.
  • Oregano Marjoram fresh green leaves Origanum vulgare
  • Mint, rosemary, oregano and thyme leaves on white plate
  • Oregano leaves, dried oregano and olive oil on white background
  • Fresh oregano leaves growing outside
  • Dried oregano leaves on wooden scoop over white background
  • Close-up of oregano sprig on white background
  • photo of fresh oregano leaves hightlighted by spot light
  • Obverse green and fresh leaf of oregano (spice). With micro drops of water. Isolated on white background.
  • Dried and fresh oregano leaves closeup
  • A still life image of a rustic, wood kitchen counter with wooden spoons in a porcelain vessel and a lovely, tangled oregano plant in the background.
  • dried oregano leaves
  • ham with hot pepper and oregano leaves, food closeup
  • Fresh oregano
  • A Punnet of Oregano isolated on white background.
  • Italian focaccia bread with oregano, olive oil and rosemary on a cutting board.
  • Leaves of Oregano
  • dried oregano leaves isolated on white background
  • Green leaves of fresh oregano plant
  • Italian tomato soup oregano leaves porcelain dishes silver spoon blue linen napkin glass. Photo taken in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2019.
  • Oregano Marjoram fresh green leaves Origanum vulgare
  • Mint, rosemary, oregano and thyme leaves next to old pocket knife on cutting board
  • Freshly picked oregano leaves isolated on white.

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Oregano seems to be one those herbs that people don’t seem to differentiate one from another when using them. For instance, when making pizza and the recipe calls for oregano, which oregano is the recipe referring to? With just about all herbs, there’s more than one type of the herb. Do you wanna know the difference oregano’s and what they are used for? OK, now that you’re on board, here we go!

BRISTOL CROSS OREGANO has beautiful Asian looking pinkish-purple flowers and a mild oregano flavor and aroma. Bristol Cross Oregano is used in tomato based dishes, pasta, rice, sauces, and vinegars.

CRINKLE LEAF MARJORAM is a low mounding Marjoram with attractive, golden crinkled leaves.

Use this oregano in pastas, tomato sauces, meat and vegetable dishes and herbal vinegars.

GOLDEN OREGANO (Origanum vulgare “Aureum”) use in tomato dishes, rice, pasta, sauces, dressings, vinegars

GREEK OREGANO (Origanum heracleoticum ) is as essential to pizza as Mexican oregano is to chili powder. You may use the two types interchangeably but using one specifically increases the authenticity of certain dishes. MEXICAN OREGANO has a more earthy flavor with less hint of mint in the aroma. Use it for your Mexican cooking. Set them side by side and you will quickly see the difference. MEXICAN OREGANO has an abundance of what appear to be tiny flower buds and leaves while GREEK OREGANO has a more cut-leaf appearance.

Greek oregano tends to be the most savory and earthy, while Italian is milder

Greek Oregano’s flavor is hot and peppery.

Its spicy yet refreshing flavor contributes to Italian, Greek, and Spanish cuisine, as well as Mexican. Complementary spices to Oregano are Thyme, Parsley, Chives, Basil, and Chili. Oregano is delicious in bread, pasta dishes, stuffing, and of course pizza.

ITALIAN OREGANO Origanum majoricum.

A delicious culinary herb that is essential to your Italian dishes. Italian Oregano is an excellent variety with a strong spicy flavor used in Italian cooking. A native of the Mediterranean region, Italian’ Oregano – the most famous variety in the oregano family, has the nick-name “Pizza Herb.” It is perfect for Italian, Greek, Spanish and Mexican dishes

It is spicy enough to be delicious in Mexican cuisine, like salsas or chili-flavored dishes, yet mild enough to be the best Oregano variety for Italian and Greek food.

MEXICAN OREGANO ( Lippia graveolens) is used to flavor pork, fish, beans, stews, soups, tacos, salsas, tomato based sauces and as an ingredient in seasoning blends. It is even used to flavor a cheese cake and make a herbal tea called té de pais in some rural areas. Mexican Oregano’s flavor is a sharp classic Oregano with citrus notes and a hint of sweetness. The bite of the volatile oils in this aromatic herb is so strong that a pinch chewed in the mouth causes a mild numbness to the tongue.

SWEET MARJORAM – (Origanum majorana)

A near relative of Oregano, Marjoram is sweeter and milder than its cousin. Marjoram blends particularly well with meats, tomato, and rice dishes, and is found in French, Italian, and Greek cooking. Try Sweet Marjoram with poultry, mushrooms, egg dishes, potatoes and herbed butters.

Besides being delicious in savory dishes, Sweet Marjoram is extolled for its soothing properties, and is often steeped into a tea to relieve headaches, tension, nausea and PMS.

TURKISH OREGANO (Origanum tyttanticum ) This one has a strong but not-too-hot flavor. It is the favorite for Mediterranean cooking

Turkish Oregano is an especially sweet, spicy, but not-too-hot variety of Origanum. Turkish Oregano is a favorite in meat dishes and pizza sauces or any Mediterranean recipe

VARIEGATED OREGANO a low mounding habit and milder flavor than most oregano’s.

use in fresh salads, vegetable dishes, salsa, meat dishes .

It has a milder flavor than most Oregano, yet still very flavorful. The tender, delicately textured leaves are perfect for fresh salads and vegetable dishes. Makes a nice salsa as well.

Posted by Elaynn @ 02:33 PM EDT ]

The Dirty Deets

Sure, you can keep a little dried oregano in your spice cabinet as a no-calorie pizza topper, but add some of the amazingly verdant fresh stuff to your shopping cart, too. Choose bright green leaves and a firm stem and use the leaves liberally (the stems are inedible, like your holiday wreath). Two teaspoons have no calories and six percent of your daily fiber needs.

If you want to use oregano oil to help heal your ailments, know that it’s too strong to use alone, so it needs to be mixed with another oil, such as olive oil, in a 1:3 ratio. You need only a few drops as a dosing.

  • Fresh oregano is a great antibacterial agent. It has phytonutrients (thymol and carvacrol), which fight infections such as staph. It’s loaded with antioxidants that help prevent cell damage, and it’s an excellent source of fiber, vitamin K, manganese, iron, vitamin E, tryptophan and calcium. You go, oregano! How’d you pack so much nutrition in those tiny, zero-calorie leaves?
  • Dried oregano is also healthful (with similar benefits to fresh), but it needs to be handled carefully. Store it in a clean, dry, glass container and chuck it after six months. Old oregano, like most spices, loses its flavor and benefits over time.
  • OK, so oregano oil should be used a little differently than fresh oregano. The oil is recommended as a remedy for sore throats, poor digestion, nausea, nasal congestion, cold sores and muscle and joint pain, and it has antimicrobial properties that make it a good preventive strategy. Winter is infamous for illnesses, which is why your oregano oil should be front and center in your pantry. No sugar coating here: It tastes terrible, so mix it where you can hide it best. In your marinara or your salad dressing works, but my fave way is to cover it is with a spoonful of honey to choke it down. (OK, I guess there is a little sugar coating.) Uses for oregano oil are different depending on the condition, but generally a few drops a day for a week to 10 days is recommended.

  • O. ‘Kent Beauty’ resembles hops when in flower, with pendulous rosy bracts. Long blooming and has lovely silvery foliage.
  • O. ‘Hopley’s Purple’ is a fragrant ornamental plant that stands up well to heat and drought conditions. It’s also a superb cut flower and a lure to butterflies.
  • Variegated O. vulgare with deep green leaves edged in ivory, has a low mounding habit and milder flavor than most oreganos. This attractive plant reaches heights of 12 to 24 inches and spreads to 24 inches.
  • O. ‘Aureum’ is an edible variety with robustly creeping gold-colored foliage and smallish pink, lavender, purple flowers in early to late summer.

Above: Oregano is a good choice to grow in a countertop herb garden if you have a sunny kitchen. See more in Small Space DIY: Countertop Herb Garden. Photograph by Erin Boyle.

Cheat Sheet

  • Harvest oregano’s leaves as needed but note that the most flavor-filled leaves are found before the flowers bloom. (This is also the best time to harvest leaves for drying.)
  • Fresh oregano, unfortunately, doesn’t stand up well to prolonged cooking; add tender leaves as a final ingredient or use dried leaves for anything needing a long simmer.
  • Oregano makes a good companion plant in the vegetable garden, repelling pests that commonly affect beans and broccoli. The flowers are also especially attractive to pollinators.
  • Try growing oregano in pots where it happily spills over edges or plant it on a low wall. Oregano is also a unique seasonal ground cover or edger along paths.

Above: For more, see What Can I Do with All This Oregano? Photograph by Meredith Swinehart.

Keep It Alive

  • Considering its Mediterranean roots, it’s not surprising that oregano can tolerate dry soil—and requires loamy, well-draining soil to prevent rot and disease. If any brown or spotted foliage appears, simply remove.
  • Oregano is a sun worshiper; ensure that your placement offers a generous amount of sunny heat. This also boosts the flavor profile.
  • Oregano does not require as much water as most herbs.
  • Allow oregano plants to grow to roughly four inches tall and then pinch or prune lightly to encourage a bushier plant.

For more growing and care tips, see Oregano: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design in our curated guides to Herbs 101 and Edibles 101. Read more:

  • 10 Ideas to Steal from Chefs’ Gardens Around the World
  • Everything You Need to Know About Herb Gardens
  • Garlic: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design
  • 10 Things to Do in the Garden in June
  • Thyme: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design
  • Old Chaser Farm: A Seattle Chef’s Garden on Vashon Island, Washington

What’s A Good Oregano Substitute?

Oregano is the herb everyone thinks of when making pizza sauce or pasta sauce. It is a common ingredient in many Greek recipes as well. In short, its zesty bite and slight peppery edge make it a versatile addition to a large number of savory dishes. This is one of those herbs that every serious cook keeps in their spice cabinet, with some going as far as to buy it in bulk or to grow it in their herb garden.

Despite its singular importance in western cooking, you do have a rich selection of alternatives if you run out of it.

Your best bet: Marjoram

Oregano and marjoram both belong to the mint family and the similarity is such that oregano is often called “wild marjoram.” Marjoram’s flavor is a milder and more floral than oregano’s, which is sharper and more assertive. Some cooks use the two herbs interchangeably. Many recipes make use of both herbs thus benefiting from marjoram’s complexity and oregano’s relative pungency. Still, marjoram is clearly your best oregano alternative just by virtue of its similarity.

Because marjoram’s flavor is a little more delicate, it may not hold up to long cooking. In other words, it is a good idea to add it towards the end of cooking time. The proportions are also important. Use three parts of marjoram for every two parts of oregano that your recipe requires.

A decent second choice: Thyme

Yet another member of the mint family, thyme is a popular oregano substitute for many chefs. It is especially effective in tomato-based dishes as well as those that feature beans and potatoes. It is also useful for salad dressings. It does differ in appearance to some extent as its leaves are smaller, but it provides a very close approximation of the oregano taste.

Note that there are many different varieties of thyme. You will want to focus on the French and English varieties when seeking a good oregano substitute. When using thyme in place of oregano, use exactly the same amount that your recipe requires for oregano.

In a pinch: Sage

Sage is another Mediterranean herb and is one that many cooks consider the perfect complement for fatty foods. In addition, it works well with poultry and is a popular Thanksgiving seasoning for turkey. Sage pairs well with other herbs and is effective in most dishes that call for oregano including vegetable dishes and soups. You can also deep fry the leaves and use them as an attractive garnish.

When using sage in place of oregano, it is best to use the fresh herb as this will give you the full effect of its flavor. Unlike oregano, the dried form is not ideal. Note that both oregano and sage are strong enough to handle long cooking times so it is fine for use in dishes that require extensive braising. When replacing oregano with sage, use it in exactly the same amount as that dictated by your recipe.

Other alternatives

Basil is another popular oregano replacement. It is especially useful when making tomato-based pasta sauces and beef dishes. Italian seasoning is another option worth mentioning. Along with various other herbs, Italian seasoning contains oregano and can be an effective stand-in for the herb. Naturally, it goes well with dishes that require oregano.

Herb Substitutions in Recipes

Herb Substitutes / Replacements

If you run out of a particular herb that is called for in a cooking recipe or you just want to try to vary a recipe some, you can try substituting an herb or herb mixture for another. The herb substitution will likely change the flavor of the original recipe and the herb you substitute may be stronger, so start slow by replacing only a portion and working your way up if more is needed.

Herb Substitutions in Cooking
Basil oregano or thyme
Chervil tarragon or parsley
part dried parsley plus small amt of dried sage
Chives green onion, onion, or leek
Cilantro parsley
Italian Seasoning blend of any of these: basil, oregano, rosemary, and ground red pepper
equal parts basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme
Marjoram basil, thyme, or savory
Mint basil, marjoram, or rosemary
Oregano thyme, basil, or marjoram
Parsley chervil or cilantro
Poultry Seasoning sage plus a blend of any of these: thyme, marjoram, savory, black pepper, rosemary
3 parts sage and 1 part ground thyme
Rosemary thyme, tarragon, or savory
Sage poultry seasoning, savory, marjoram, or rosemary
Savory thyme, marjoram, or sage
Tarragon chervil, fennel seed (dash), or aniseed (dash)
Thyme basil, marjoram, oregano, or savory

You also might find it helpful to review Common Herbs and Their Uses in Cooking Recipes for some of the more classic herb combinations.

Dried herbs to fresh herbs:
If you don’t have a fresh herb, the general rule of substituting a dry herb for a fresh herb is 1 to 3 as dried herbs are more concentrated. So if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley and you need to substitute dried parsley, try using 1 teaspoon of dried.

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