What is a good substitute for marjoram when your recipe calls for this “less than popular” ingredient? Many ask this question when the spice is on their list, but not in their cupboards.
Luckily, you can use various herbs and spices to resolve this problem. Many of these options will give you the same great flavor and aroma of marjoram. Other options will change the taste slightly but improve the flavor profile significantly.
Keep reading to learn more!
- What is a Good Substitute for Marjoram?
- 1. Oregano is the #1 Choice
- 2. Thyme is the Next Best Thing
- 3. Summer Savory Gives a Bold Flavor
- 4. Sage For an Aromatic Earthy Herb
- 5. Basil for a More Subtle Approach
- 6. Tarragon For Mediterranean Meals
- 7. Herbes De Provence (If You Have It)
- 8. Lemon Thyme Offers a Sweet and Sour Taste
What is a Good Substitute for Marjoram?
Any home chef can cook like a pro. You don’t have to have culinary skills to substitute ingredients without ruining the taste. You just need a little knowledge and some excellent references to look back on. (hint hint).
We know our stuff when it comes to creativity in the kitchen. Below is our list of marjoram substitutes you can use and the best ways to swap each of them out.
Here is a comparison flavor table of the herbs oregano, thyme, summer savory, sage, basil, tarragon, herbes de provence and lemon thyme with marjoram.
Herbs to Replace Marjoram
|Herb||Flavor Profile and Best Use For||Editor’s Rating for Marjoram Substitution (1-5)|
|Oregano||Spicy, bitter, and pungent aromas that pair well with tomato-based sauces and grilled meats.||4.8/5 Stars|
|Thyme||Delicate, lemony flavor that pairs well with vegetables and cheese dishes.||4.5/5 Stars|
|Summer Savory||Sharp aroma that is similar to thyme but more peppery in flavor. It pairs well with beans, poultry, salads and beef dishes.||4.3/5 Stars|
|Sage||Earthy and woody flavors with a slight menthol-like edge. Great for stuffing poultry dishes.||4.2/5 Stars|
|Basil||Sweet, anise-like flavors with overtones of mint that pairs well with tomatoes and eggplant-based dishes.||4.1/5 Stars|
|Tarragon||Mild licorice-like taste that is great for sauces as a fish seasoning or poultry seasoning.||— / —|
|Herbes de Provence||Subtle sweet yet savory flavor, perfect for adding depth to any dish!||— / —|
|Lemon Thyme||Stronger version of regular thyme with added notes of lemon zest. Ideal for seafood dishes or pasta salads .||— / —|
1. Oregano is the #1 Choice
Many people will reach for the oregano when they realize the marjoram is too low. The reason this ingredient is widely considered is because of the similar taste.
Oregano and marjoram come from the mint (Lamiaceae) family. Both are earthy with a mild sweet taste and a minty undertone. (*)
You may notice marjoram is a bit sweeter than oregano. And oregano is a lot more savory. Perfect in tomato sauces, stews, and curries.
Both spices are staples in MidEastern and Italian cuisine. But oregano packs a more potent punch. Therefore, you will always use less oregano than what is called for in marjoram.
Rule of thumb: Use ⅔ TSP of oregano to 1 TSP of marjoram
2. Thyme is the Next Best Thing
If oregano isn’t an option either, thyme is the next best thing. Thyme mimics the earthy, mild mint flavor of marjoram. It is not as strong but can still give your dish a delectable, savory taste.
Thyme has the same nutritional value as marjoram and won’t change the consistency or texture in any way.
Because of its mild nature, thyme is ideal in meat rubs, salad dressings, and soups. Remember, fresh thyme looks different from marjoram when using it in cold dishes.
Rule of thumb: Use one TSP of thyme to one TSP of marjoram.
3. Summer Savory Gives a Bold Flavor
Summer savory is a staple in many Canadian and European homes. It is often likened to sage and used on hearty, rich dishes. It packs a peppery punch with an aromatic flavor similar to thyme.
Many cooks use this ingredient on pot roasts, venison, and pork sausage. In these situations, you can swap summer savory with marjoram, and no one will be the wiser.
Summer savory should only replace marjoram if it is in its ground or powder form.
Rule of thumb: Use one TSP of summer savory to one TSP of marjoram.
4. Sage For an Aromatic Earthy Herb
Sage is well-known for its earthy flavor profile and unique earthy aroma. It is an evergreen shrub that, like many others on this list, is part of the mint family. (*)
Sage adds a warm, citrusy pine flavor to most dishes with earthy undertones. You will find this ingredient in stuffing, potatoes, and other holiday side dishes.
If you don’t have marjoram on hand, you can use sage in its place. You can use it fresh or dry. Sage is famous for keeping tons of flavor even after drying. Yet fresh sage gives a robust taste.
Rule of thumb: Use one TSP of sage to one TSP of marjoram
5. Basil for a More Subtle Approach
Basil does look similar to marjoram, and one can easily pass for the other to the untrained eye. As far as taste goes, basil is a bit milder. Marjoram offers a stronger flavor profile with more earthy, peppery tones.
Basil is a passive seasoning, which makes it best in sweeter dishes. You will notice it often goes side by side with oregano in Italian-style meals. It is a perfect ingredient when cooking pizza, spaghetti dishes, or salad dressing.
Rule of thumb: Use one TSP of basil to one TSP of marjoram. You can add more to taste as you see fit.
6. Tarragon For Mediterranean Meals
Terragon is not ideal for every recipe. You can only substitute tarragon for marjoram in certain meals. These meals include Mediterranean and French cuisine. The reason you can’t use this option in everything is because of its licorice flavor. This distinct taste gives foods a fennel like undertone that is not notable in marjoram.
This seasoning gives a minty taste that is subtly sweet, like marjoram. This is a good option in seafood dishes or salad dressings.
Rule of thumb: Use one TSP of tarragon for one TSP of marjoram.
7. Herbes De Provence (If You Have It)
If you don’t have marjoram in the cupboard, you probably don’t have Hebes De Provence. If, for some reason, you do, you can use this as a substitute in various cuisines.
Herb De Provence is not a single herb; it is a mixture of many. You will find popular ingredients in this concoction, like basil, bay leaf, thyme, and others. It gives off a bold flavor and aromas that will make your mouth water.
You want to use this seasoning in savory dishes such as grilled fish, ratatouille, or roasted veggies.
Rule of thumb: Use one TSP of Herbes De Provence to one TSP of marjoram.
8. Lemon Thyme Offers a Sweet and Sour Taste
Lemon thyme is just one of the many types available for culinary use. It is also one of the sweetest, which makes it an excellent marjoram substitute.
This herb is perfect in all forms, whether fresh or dry. Many also enjoy this option raw.
You can use lemon thyme instead of marjoram in light dishes. Dishes such as cooked vegetables, seafood items, and soups.
Rule of Thumb: Use one TSP of lemon thyme for one TSP of marjoram.
When to Use Marjoram
Marjoram is a versatile ingredient that can offer most dishes an exquisite flavor profile. It provides a subtle yet distinctive taste that is flexible in most recipes.This is a seasoning you can cook with fresh or dried.
What can you use marjoram for? Let’s take a look. (*)
- Tomato based meals- Use marjoram to boost the flavor of pizza, tomato sauces, or soup.
- Roasted or sauteed dishes– Marjoram will give a bold, flavorful taste when roasting or sauteing foods.
- Salad dressing- marjoram will offer a satisfying, slightly sweet, complex flavor to salad dressing.
- In meat recipes- Marjoram will give meatballs, sausages, meat loaves, etc., a distinct layer of flavor. It can also intensify the natural flavors and aromas of other ingredients.
- As a marinade- Combining marjoram with other herbs makes a delicious marinade. It enhances the flavor of fish and meat menu items.
There are many great recipes available that require marjoram for its unique flavor. And even though this ingredient is tasty, replacing it isn’t a huge deal. As long as you know what you should replace it with.
Fresh Vs. Dried Marjoram
You can use fresh or dried marjoram in many meals interchangeably. But the options available for fresh marjoram are smaller than their dried form. Fresh marjoram should only be put into meals towards the end of cooking. This will preserve its flavor and brightness.
Dried marjoram is more robust and can be added to various herb blends. You can add the dry marjoram while prepping for meals or as a basting ingredient.
Fresh marjoram also requires more care than dried. Dried marjoram in a dark, cool location will last for several years. The lifespan of this herb in fresh form is only about ⅓ of that.
How Can You Tell Marjoram is Bad?
One major downfall of fresh marjoram is that it can go bad. To avoid ruining your recipes, here are a few ways to tell your herb is rotten.
- Omits a foul odor- Marjoram leaves will omit a foul odor when cooking. You can smell this when nearing the herb if it is very spoiled.
- Leaves are wilting- The leaves will start to wilt even though the steam is still fresh and sturdy.
- Leaves are brown- Bad marjoram leaves will turn brown while the steam is still green.
- Mushy texture- Decaying marjoram herb leaves will become mushy like other plants.
If your marjoram presents any of these signs, it is time to toss it.