What can I substitute for oregano?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “what can I substitute for oregano?” with an in-depth analysis of oregano and some of the possible substitutes of oregano along with their advantages and disadvantages.

What can I substitute for oregano?

We can have several substitutes as a one-to-one replacement for oregano. These substitutes include basil leaves, thyme, marjoram, Italian seasoning, parsley, Tarragon, Dill, and sage.

Over the last few decades, the global herb and spice market has grown considerably, and was worth $12 billion in 2012, and is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of 4.8% to reach an estimated value of US $16.6 billion by 2019. The European Union market is the second largest trade for herbs and spices, amounting to 520,000 tonnes in 2013 with a value of €1.8 billion (1).

What is oregano?

Oregano is a type of herb with purple flowers and olive-green leaves. This is used in flavouring the food. Its addition in food products consisting of an adequate amount is termed as safe but not much effective for better health. Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a medicinal herb that belongs to the family Lamiaceae and was earlier known as Majorana hortensis Moench (2).

Oregano is mostly used against parasite infection, for any wound healing case or maybe for some other conditions. Oregano is a naturally occurring herb that can help the body to boost its immune levels by fighting against some of the microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria. This herb has a very rich history of usage in traditional medicine for curing skin disorders, stomach problems, diabetes, heart related issues and infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungus (2).

Oregano also consists of some chemicals which help in digestion and these chemicals also play a vital role in cough reduction. 

Substitutes of oregano

Some of the possible substitutes for oregano are as following,


Basil is considered one of the best substitutes for oregano. Basil leaves can be used in fresh or dried form. Fresh or dried basil leaves are used equally in quantity just like oregano fresh or dried leaves.

Basil consists of a distinctly Italian vibe, which is quite similar to oregano. To substitute for fresh oregano and Thyme which is another substitute is a much better option.

The major components identified in basil essential oil were estragole (40.9%), 1,8-cineole (24.3%), and linalool acetate (19.8%), first of them belonging to phenylpropanoids and the others to oxygenated monoterpenes. Besides, basil contains many phenolic compounds, which give the herb a high antioxidant activity (3).


Thyme is another substitute for oregano, but thyme has good results if we use it in fresh form. Fresh oregano and thyme leaves are almost similar in appearance and also have quite similar tastes and flavours. It can be a good substitute if we use it after garnishing. Dried thyme is avoided to use in place of dried oregano because in dried form it has a strong taste and flavour.

In a study, thyme essential oil showed the highest level of total phenolics, the highest antioxidant capacity, and exhibited the stronger antibacterial activity then other herbs studied. P-cymene was the major component in thyme, which possesses antimicrobial properties (3).

Italian seasoning

Oregano is also a part of Italian seasoning, which can be used as a good alternative to oregano, but only in a very small quantity that may be equal to a pinch. This is mostly referred to in the case of styling Italian dishes.

Italian seasoning is a spice mixture usually composed of marjoram leaves, thyme leaves, rosemary leaves, savory leaves, sage leaves, oregano and basil leaves. This spice mixture may act as antioxidants in the human diet, due to the polyphenolic compounds present in the herbs (5).


Marjoram is also a one-to-one replacement of oregano. The flavour of both oregano and marjoram are quite similar. In Mexican dishes, dried marjoram is a good alteration of dried oregano. A marjoram is a form of herb which is not easily available, it is found rare.

Sweet marjoram is characterized by a strong spicy and pleasant odour. The flavour is fragrant, spicy, slightly sharp, bitterish and camphoraceous. Though a perennial, it is treated as an annual under cultivation. The colour of the dried herb is light green with a slight grayish tint. Linanool and cis-sabinene hydrate give marjoram its characteristic flavor (4).


If we use oregano in those dishes which are tomato-based. In those dishes, oregano can be replaced with parsley. It has a unique taste because of its mild taste and solid smell.

It can also change the flavour of dishes depending upon their strong flavour and taste. If oregano is a key ingredient of the recipe then parsley can be used as an alternative compound of oregano.

Parsley leaves also possess antimicrobial properties. The major components identified in parsley essential oil were β-phellandrene (32.4%), 1,3,8-p-menthatriene (13.9%), 1,8-cineole (12.5%), β-myrcene (12.7%), α-pinene (6.5%), and 2,6-dimethylstyrene (6.4%), all of them belonging to the monoterpene hydrocarbons class (3).


Tarragon is a good substitute that provides a dynamic kick to the mixture, but this dynamic change occurs only if we use it in good content.

Tarragon works better especially for two kinds of recipes, One with its bittersweet taste, where it can highlight the bitterness of the recipe of its original component.

Studies revealed that tarragon strongly inhibited platelet aggregation, which is a factor in conditions such as thrombosis. The main flavor components of tarragon are methyl chavicol and anethole (4).


This substitute has a grassy flavour. It has a little bit of bitterness that is a magnificent alteration of oregano. Oregano is famous due to its strong taste and flavour, but dill has a more solid impact than oregano. The content of the dill should be adjusted according to your taste to avoid an overwhelming taste and taste.

Dill is characterized by long dissected leaves and compound radiating umbels. Studies determined that the aroma of dill herb was directly related to concentration of five components namely dill-furan, -phellandrene, limonene, myrsticin and p-mentha dienbutyrate (4).


Sage is a herb that has a bittersweet taste and also has citrus qualities. Its taste is also solid when it is available in fresh form. To make it a good recipe by using this alternative of oregano, firstly make sure about the right content.

Rosmarinic acid was reported by studies to be the second most frequently occurring caffeic acid ester, following chlorogenic acid, and to have antioxidant activity equivalent to that of caffeic acid. The authors detected rosmarinic acid in rosemary, balm, sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram and savory. Since rosemary and sage belong to the Labiatae family, it is not surprising to find the same antioxidants in both plants: carnosol, carnosic acid, rosmanol, rosmadial, rosmarinic acid. Various methyl and ethyl esters of carnosol, rosmanol, and carnosic acid can be found in sage (4).


If dried oregano is not available or if you want to use fresh components in your recipe, then rosemary is a good option as an alteration. Both rosemary and oregano are used in the same amount in any recipe.

Rosemary was considered both lipid antioxidant and metal helator. Rosemary extract was found also to scavenge superoxide radicals. Rosemary extracts act as antioxidants to inhibit lipid oxidation in food systems (4).

Bay leaf

Bay leaf is also one of the good substitutes which are used in cooking. This herb can be used in any form such as in dried, ground, or whole. Bay leaves can also be added in those recipes which are slow-cooked which may be sauces, stews, and soups.

The commodity, traded as sweet bay leaf, and true, Roman, or Turkish laurel, is derived from the leaves of Laurus nobilis. The leaves of L. nobilis are plucked and dried under shade for use as a flavouring material in a variety of culinary preparations, especially in French cuisine. The leaves contain an essential oil of aromatic, spicy odour and flavour which can be isolated by steam distillation. The oil is a valuable adjunct in the flavouring of all kinds of food products, particularly meats, sausages, canned soups, baked goods, confectionery, etc (4).

Other FAQs about Oregano that you may be interested in.

Are oregano flowers edible?

Can oregano get you high? 


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “what can I substitute for oregano?” with an in-depth analysis of oregano and some of the possible substitutes of oregano along with their advantages and disadvantages.


  1. Drabova, Lucie, et al. Food fraud in oregano: Pesticide residues as adulteration markers. Food chem, 2019, 276, 726-734.
  2. Dhiman, Neha, and Aparajita Bhasin. Marjoram (Origanum majorana): An essential oil with potential pharmacological properties and health benefits. The Pharma Innovation Journal 2022, 11, 4454-4460.
  3. Semeniuc, Cristina Anamaria, et al. Chemometric comparison and classification of some essential oils extracted from plants belonging to Apiaceae and Lamiaceae families based on their chemical composition and biological activities. Molecules, 2018, 23, 2261.  
  4. Peter, Kuruppacharil V., ed. Handbook of herbs and spices: volume 3. Woodhead publishing, 2006. 
  5. Dearlove, Rebecca P., et al. Inhibition of protein glycation by extracts of culinary herbs and spices. J med food, 2008, 11, 275-281.