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Herbs and spices are of the utmost importance in the culinary world. Each one adds a unique flavor to, hopefully, enhance the flavor of your dish. Like garlic or parsley, some are well-known but marjoram – not so much. But it does often appear in meat, soup and even dessert recipes you might want to try. If you don’t have it in your spice drawer and don’t want to run out to the store, you’ll need a substitute. So read on!
- What is Marjoram?
- What Does Marjoram Taste Like?
- How is Marjoram Used?
- Other Reasons to Use Marjoram
- Can You Grow Marjoram at Home?
- Marjoram Substitutes
- Visit Cook Gem for More Great Substitutes
What is Marjoram?
Native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia and Africa, the marjoram plant grows from 1 to 2 feet tall and sports square stems and small, fuzzy green leaves. These leaves grow in clusters that look similar to knots so you may also hear it called “knotted marjoram.”
Marjoram itself is part of the genus Origanum. With over 40 plants in the genus, only one is the actual marjoram herb. The rest of the genus contains different types of oregano with the oregano you’re most likely familiar with often referred to as “wild marjoram.” All are members of the mint family.
What Does Marjoram Taste Like?
Since marjoram is related to oregano, it shares a similar woody, pine-like flavor. However, marjoram tends to be sweeter, milder and with a slightly bitter taste.
How is Marjoram Used?
Marjoram comes in two forms; dried and fresh. Dried marjoram will have a much stronger flavor than fresh. The dried version should be added early in the cooking process to let its flavor blossom and blend.
Fresh marjoram is usually added to dishes towards the end of the cooking process to preserve flavor as the leaves are quite delicate and can disintegrate with long cooking times. More often, it’s used to garnish a dish.
Other Reasons to Use Marjoram
Marjoram is rich in antioxidants giving it anti-inflammatory benefits. Newer research suggests marjoram has anti-bacterial properties and may one day be used to treat infections or improve gut health.
Can You Grow Marjoram at Home?
Yes! It’s easy to grow year-round inside or in the garden. If grown outside in northern climates, it may not over-winter well so consider it an annual plant. Inside, it will grow well in a pot near a sunny window. Look for a variety with a height you can manage since some varieties can get quite tall.
Since oregano is directly related, it’s a natural substitute for marjoram. The key is to use much less. If using fresh oregano, use half of the amount of fresh marjoram called for in the recipe. If using dried oregano, start with a quarter of the amount of dried or fresh marjoram in the recipe and adjust to taste – but don’t use more than half the amount of oregano to marjoram.
Thyme is in the same family as marjoram and oregano, making it a good substitute for marjoram. As with oregano, use one quarter to one half of the amount of marjoram called for.
While your guests might not be able to tell you used thyme or basil as a marjoram substitute, they will be able to taste a basil substitute. However, basil generally makes a suitable flavor swap giving the dish a different – but not marjoram flavored – taste. Use an equal amount of basil for the marjoram.
Sage will supply the woody tones of marjoram but not its sweetness. Start with small doses to see how you like it. Add a dash of sugar to mimic marjoram’s sweetness.
In a pinch, you can use summer savory. Because of its peppery taste, omit any pepper the recipe calls for and use the same amount of summer savory as marjoram. If there’s no pepper in your recipe, start with half the amount.
Though these will noticeably alter the taste of your dishes, the basic flavor profile of these spices will likely go well with the other ingredients in recipes that call for marjoram. You can try these other spices in a 1:1 ratio – or start with half if you’re chicken like me.
Herbs de Provence – a blend of spices that includes marjoram
Lemongrass –this will enhance the citrus flavors in your dish
Tarragon – its licorice and slightly bitter flavor will likely go well in recipes that call for marjoram.
Za’atar – another spice blend (but no marjoram) that also contains salt, so reduce any salt called for in your recipe.
Visit Cook Gem for More Great Substitutes
We have many more wonderful food substitutes that will come in handy in your cooking ventures. We also regularly discuss vegan-friendly ingredients and food options to help you maintain your vegan diet.