What to Use as a Marjoram Substitute

Dried marjoram
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Do you need marjoram for a recipe, but you find it's not in your spice rack and you don't have the fresh herb handy? Marjoram is often used in meat dishes and stews in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. Not to worry. There are several substitutes that will work in its place.

Substituting Fresh and Dried Marjoram

You can substitute fresh marjoram for dried and vice versa. Use one teaspoon dried marjoram for each tablespoon of fresh marjoram in a recipe.

One ounce of dried marjoram equals 3/4 cup fresh marjoram.

Best Substitute for Marjoram - Oregano

When you have neither fresh nor dried marjoram, the closest substitute is oregano. It is related to marjoram and has a similar flavor profile. However, oregano's flavor is stronger, so use two-thirds as much to keep it from overpowering your recipe. It would be best to substitute fresh oregano for fresh marjoram and dried oregano for dried marjoram, but use less of the oregano in each instance.

Substitution Chart - Oregano for Marjoram

Use this much oregano  ... for this much marjoram 
 2/3 teaspoon  1 teaspoon 
 1/2 teaspoon   3/4 teaspoon 
 1/3 teaspoon   1/2 teaspoon 
 1/6 teaspoon   1/4 teaspoon 

Marjoram is noted to be sweeter and milder than oregano. It has a sweet pine and citrus flavor. Both oregano and marjoram are from the genus Origanum, and they are of the mint family.

However, you may find that, to your taste, oregano gives a much more Italian flavor profile than you are looking for in the dish you are preparing.

While both are used in Mediterranean, Turkish and North African dishes, your taste buds might shout, "pizza!" That's why you should use less oregano, You may want to scale it back even more than the suggested substitution amount.

Other Substitutions for Marjoram

You can try replacing the marjoram called for in your recipe with an equal amount of sage, thyme, summer savory or basil.

If your recipe calls for fresh marjoram, the first choice would be to use the fresh substitute herb. Likewise, if it calls for dried, use the dried substitute.

You can find marjoram in various spice blends and you can try them in your recipe if you have them available. These include herbes de Provence, za'atar, poultry seasoning or Italian seasoning.

Making a Successful Substitution

If you needed marjoram in a familiar recipe, taste as you go to see how the substitute alters the flavor. You may hit upon a new variation that you like better than the original. Now you'll be able to wink and say you have a secret ingredient.

It gets trickier if you are trying to make an unfamiliar dish. You don't know how it is supposed to taste, so you won't know whether your substitution is successful or not. You may like the result, but if you were aiming for a regional specialty, you may be way off the mark when someone familiar with it takes a taste. You could be ruining your mother-in-law's special Sunday stew. In that case, it would be safest to head to the store and get some marjoram rather than risking changing the recipe.