Best Marjoram Substitutes

Herbs and spices are of the utmost importance in the culinary world. Each one that you add to a dish changes the flavor palette, unlocking delicious tastes that you may not have expected. However, some are used more than others. In the case of marjoram, others are used far more often. You may have heard of marjoram before, as quite a few popular recipes call for it. If that’s the case, it can definitely be important to know what it can be substituted with! Learn all about marjoram and what you can replace it with in this helpful culinary article.

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What is Marjoram?

Marjoram is an herb that’s part of the mint family. It’s native to the Mediterranean, as well as parts of Asia and Africa. The plant itself grows to be anywhere from 1 to 2 feet tall. It has square stems and small, fuzzy green leaves. These leaves grow in clusters that look similar to knots. As such, the plant is sometimes called “knotted marjoram.”

Marjoram itself is part of the genus Origanum. This genus contains about 40 plants, but only one of them is considered true marjoram. The others are all varieties of oregano.

What Does Marjoram Taste Like?

Marjoram is related to oregano, and as such has similar flavors. However, marjoram tends to be a bit more earthy. Some also describe it as being closer in taste to pine or citrus. This makes it entirely unique in the oregano family, making it a desirable perennial herb to have.

How is Marjoram Used?

Marjoram can be used in a variety of recipes. Most commonly, it’s used to add an earthy, or pine like flavor to soups, stews, salad dressings, and sauces. However, it can also be used in teas.

Marjoram comes in two forms; dried and fresh. Each should be used differently from one another. When using dried marjoram, it should be noted that the herb is far stronger tasting. It can be used in herb blends and spice mixes, and can be added to meals while they are cooking.

On the other hand, using fresh marjoram is recommended when adding flavor to dishes towards the end of the cooking process. This helps the delicate leaves preserve their flavor. If they’re added too early, they’ll lose it.

Other Reasons to Use Marjoram

In addition to its unique flavor, marjoram has been looked at for specific health-related uses. In particular, marjoram is known for being rich in antioxidants. This makes it beneficial for individuals with chronic inflammation.

Additionally, some budding research suggests it may have antimicrobial uses. While the research is only in its fledgling stages, this may mean that marjoram can be used to treat things like fungal infections. It could also be used for bacterial issues in the gut.

Can You Grow Marjoram at Home?

Yes! In addition to being called “knotted marjoram,” it is sometimes called “pot marjoram.” This is because of its ability to be kept as a potted plant. When keeping marjoram as a houseplant, it’s important to remember that it is cold sensitive, so it should be kept indoors during the colder months of the year.

Marjoram Substitutes

When you’re looking to replace marjoram in your recipes, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Check out some of the best substitutes for marjoram below!

Oregano

Being that oregano and marjoram are directly related, you can bet that it’s the best substitute available. The two herbs have fairly different flavors, so it’s important to adjust recipes accordingly. Marjoram is sweeter than oregano is, as well as more mild in flavor, both dried and fresh. As such, oregano should be used a bit less heavily in recipes. To replace the sweetness that marjoram provides, you may want to look into adding another natural sweetener. Don’t overdo it though! It’s not too sweet.

When replacing marjoram with oregano, use roughly half to two thirds of what the recipe calls for marjoram. This prevents any overpowering flavors in the dish.

Thyme

Thyme is in the same family as marjoram and oregano, so of course it will have a similar flavor, as well. Marjoram isn’t as strong as thyme is, so be sure to use quite a bit less than any recipe calls for. It’s the second best option available if you don’t have any oregano on hand.

Thyme can be used at about the same ratio that oregano is used. Some will use the entire amount that the recipe calls for, and have sounded no issues with that.

Basil

Basil isn’t similarly flavored to marjoram, but in the majority of recipes that call for marjoram, basil will work. It has a much more distinct flavor, meaning that your guests who know the difference will know when basil is used instead of marjoram. They may not be able to tell with the two substitutions listed before this, though.

When replacing marjoram with basil, use the same amount that the recipe calls for. The overall flavor will be different, but it won’t be overbearing.

Sage

Sage, surprisingly, is very similar in flavor to marjoram. This is because it is an evergreen shrub with very woody stems, giving it a similar earthy palette. Additionally, sage is native to the Mediterranean, so it has long been used as a substitute for marjoram. Sage is as good an option as oregano or thyme when you’re looking for a marjoram substitute.

Sage should be substituted at the full amount of marjoram in the recipe, as well. It will be a little less sweet than if marjoram was used, but the dish will still take on those desired earthy tones.

Summer Savory

When you’re in a pinch, summer savory will work in dishes that call for marjoram. The noticeable difference between the two is summer savory’s peppery flavor. This is much less noticeable than using the relative of summer savory, winter savory, though. As such, it will work when you need a quick substitute for marjoram.

Summer savory can be used the same as marjoram. However, it will come with a peppery flavor, so be sure to cut back on the pepper, if the recipe calls for it.

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