There were days when herbs were used only for medicinal purposes. But thanks to new and novel methods of cooking and international cuisines becoming much more accessible, it’s well-known than ever in the past.
Also, due to the revolution in food technology and cooking-competitions world-wide, herbs are more a necessity rather than merely a gardening beauty.
One such herb is Marjoram, that’s sweeter than its counterparts, woodsy in smell, and used both as fresh and dried, and can quickly grow at home in pots or lawn.
But what if your favorite recipe has marjoram as the main ingredient, but it’s not available.
What would you do?
If not, definitely you need a substitute for marjoram, that would be the nearest match.
What is Marjoram?
Marjoram is a subtropical, temperate, and creeping plant that belongs to the mint family and the leaves of which are used for cooking.
Marjoram is a herbal plant commonly found in the Mediterranean, North African, and North American countries. With the extensive use of marjoram in the dishes, including pizza, it’s famous worldwide.
i. Taxonomic Hierarchy of Marjoram
The above hierarchy is a brief overview of the classification of Plant Kingdom, Plantae, which ultimately leads to the Origanum Majorana plant.
ii. How does Marjoram Taste like?
The taste is floral, woodsy, and a bit citrusy. Although the taste is similar to Thyme but Marjoram is sweeter than Thyme. The flavor compounds present in it are sabinene, terpinene, and linalool.
iii. How does marjoram look like?
Unlike Oregano, this plant is creeping; it tends to grow horizontally more than vertically. Its stalks are small, with oval-shaped green leaves and white flowers.
iv. What is Marjoram Used For?
Fresh marjoram is used in egg and vegetable dishes, salad dressings, different types of soups, marinades for chicken, salmon, and others.
Its traditional use is still prevalent today; that is, medicine is made from marjoram leaves and flowers to treat seasonal flu and infections.
v. Marjoram vs. Oregano
Often we confuse Marjoram with Oregano. Although both belong to the same class and genus yet, both are entirely different species.
Oregano has larger leaves than marjoram.
Oregano is a bit bitter, whereas marjoram is sweeter and delicate. That is the reason marjoram is also called Sweet Marjoram.
Marjoram has little white flowers that grow at the tip of the stalk. On the other hand, oregano has purple flowers.
What are the possible Marjoram substitutes?
Although marjoram is perineal, yet the chances are you may not find throughout the year in the market, especially when you did not save it when you bought last time.
So, what will you do when you are going to make a dish having marjoram as a primary ingredient? Of course, you would try to find the nearest substitute to marjoram, which would almost compensate for the taste you would have got with marjoram.
Here it’s important to mention that when we say fresh, it means in its original green form plucked just now or stored for not more than 24-48 hours.
When we say dried, it’s the same herb but dried naturally like tea leaves, to be used months later without the fear of spoilage and keeping almost the same taste for cooking.
Much of these substitutes can quickly be grown at home or kitchens, which do not require special gardening tools or so.
So, let’s take a brief overview of the possible marjoram substitutes, or in other words, the following list will answer your query of ‘what else can I use instead of marjoram’?
Oregano is the closest substitute of Marjoram, as it belongs to the same genus and family. Usually, you would see marjoram as oregano substitute too. That is the reason they are often confused with each other.
It depends if your recipe needs dried marjoram or fresher one, as oregano is equally useful in both cases.
How Much Orgenao as a Marjoram Substitute Needed
As Oregano is bitter than Marjoram, a lesser amount of Oregano, like 2/3rd, is considered an equivalent match. Chefs also suggest that always start using the substitute with half of the quantity of the actual ingredient, and keep on adding gradually unless the desired taste is achieved.
Here it’s important to note that oregano may not give all its taste abruptly, so keep checking at 2-3 times after adding. This rule is specially applied to slow-cooked dishes.
Basil belongs to the mint family, Lamiaceae, too. But unlike marjoram, Basil belongs to the genus, Ocimum.
The highly aromatic, Basil, tastes slightly different from marjoram. In its fresh form, it tastes a bit spicy, so you need to take this fact in mind while using it as a marjoram substitute.
But it’s recommended to use it in its dried form to avoid a significant change in the taste because you’re replacing a sweeter ingredient with a bit spicy one.
How Much Basil Needed as Marjoram Substitute?
Although a bit spicy while cooking, its recommended to use the same amount of Basil as you would have used if you had marjoram. Use it in the pasta sauce or stews is a good idea.
Thyme is another member of the mint family. It is quite common in specific European cuisines. The famous spice mixture, herbes de Provence, is complete without Thyme.
It can be used both fresh and dried. Thanks to its earthy and little bit of sweet taste, it’s the right alternative to Marjoram. So, you can use marjoram as a substitute for thyme without thinking twice.
Everyday recipes include Lemon Thyme Chicken, Garlic Thyme chicken, etc.
How Much Thyme Needed as Marjoram Substitute?
There are hundreds of varieties of Thyme produced, among which English and French are common. Due to Thyme’s sweet taste, the exact amount of what you require of marjoram is recommended.
4. Lemon Thyme
Lemon thyme is another perennial herb from the mint family that’s famous for its lemon scent, thanks to the presence of limonene and thymol.
Its found in Italy, Southern France, Spain, and few countries in North Africa.
It’s used in marinaded chicken and fish but is also popular in fresh salads as well.
How Much Lemon-Thyme Needed as Marjoram Substitute?
The recipes that require marjoram along with lemon can easily be replaced with Lemon Thyme. Since marjoram is sweeter in taste than Lemon thyme, it’s recommended to use half or not more than 3/4th of the marjoram quantity required.
Also known as Dragon’s herb, Tarragon is a similar herb that is used widely in French cuisines. Its taste is slightly bittersweet, more like fennel. Both French and Russian Tarragons are famous.
Dried Tarragon smells like dill, giving a hint of black pepper and lemon. Fresh Tarragon obtained from French garden, on the other hand, is aromatic like its counterparts giving a smell similar to aniseed. Rusian Tarragon, being less aromatic, is more like grass.
Having aromatic feature and similar taste, Tarragon can also be used as Marjoram Substitute.
How Much Tarragon Needed as Marjoram Substitute?
You need Tarragon in precisely the same amount that your recipe requires for marjoram.
Another one from the mint family is Sage. Just like all other great substitutes of Marjoram we spoke about, sage also qualifies to be replaced with marjoram.
It has a sweet but savory flavor. Heavy dishes like sausages, cured meats, stuffing, pasta, etc. can be made delicious from Sage. However, if sage also not available, you may use any of the sage substitutes.
Since both of them share the same taste, they can be used for the same dishes. Ten thin fresh sage leaves will be equal to 3/4th teaspoon of dried sage spice. So, dried or fresh – the choice is yours.
How Much Sage Needed as Marjoram Substitute?
If your recipe requires marjoram, but you don’t have it, don’t worry as your dish will still taste equally good with Sage. Its sweet flavor like marjoram makes it an excellent choice. However, experts recommend that the 3/4th spoon for one spoon of marjoram is enough.
7. Summer/Winter Savory
It’s another addition to the mint family, which is a low growing plant close to Thyme and Rosemary. It’s native to the eastern Mediterranean and Caucasus. It’s used in preparing heavier meat dishes.
Summer savory is sweeter taste than winter savory. So, summer savory is the closest substitute for marjoram. But it does not mean winter savory can’t be used.
It is peppery in taste, with notes of Marjoram, Thyme, and mint.
Two factors are considered while using savory as an alternative to marjoram—the type of flavor you want in your dish; and, the availability of savory-type.
How Much Sage Needed as Marjoram Substitute?
If you are using summer savory, an amount equal to marjoram is sufficient; but if you are using winter savory, a bit lesser quantity is recommended because of its bitter taste.
It’s one of the popular spice mixes available in the middle east today. It contains savory, thyme, toasted sesame seeds, dried sumac, and many more spices, including marjoram.
It is used to flavor meats and vegetables, often mixed with olive oil. The taste of Zaátar is nutty, toasty, herbal, woodsy, citrusy, and spicy. It’s a mix up of aromatic features of floral thyme and mildly oregano.
Zaátar is a combination of a herb, sumac, and sesame seeds. Herbs can be either of thyme, oregano or marjoram, or even a mixture of them. For this reason Zaátar is one of the best marjoram substitute spices.
How Much Zaátar Needed as Marjoram Substitute?
Because of its nutty and toasty flavors, it’s recommended to use lesser than marjoram. Like if your recipe requires one teaspoon of marjoram, start with a half teaspoon of Zaátar and increase the quantity gradually.
Health Benefits of Marjoram
Following are the health benefits of marjoram spice or herbs
- Marjoram contains Vitamin A and K, which are one of the essential vitamins for the body.
- It has plenty of potassium, which helps to regulate blood pressure.
- A handsome amount of Maganese helps in the proper function of the nervous system
- Marjoram is rich in dietary fiber, that’s helpful in the bowel movement.
- One hundred grams of dried marjoram provides more than 1100 KJ energy – too much from a single source.
- It’s lower in sugar, that is, just 4.1% of the daily intake of 100 grams of marjoram
- It’s lower in salt, that is, 0.08% of the daily intake of 100 grams of marjoram
Where can you find Marjoram?
Cultivated around the Mediterranean, marjoram is native to southwest Asia and North African countries. Popular countries include UK, Southern Turkey, Cyprus, South American countries, the United States, and India.
How to Choose the Substitute for Marjoram?
Substitutes usually are chosen when you don’t find it. So, the alternatives are supposed to be the nearest match that may not make a big difference in the taste or isn’t expensive or hard to find.
Now, the questions arise as how would we know if dried or fresh herb should be used? Well, it makes sense. If you’re cooking for a long period of time, the dried one is better, and on the other hand, if you’re not cooking for long or just want to garnish your dish, fresh is the best choice.
A Recipe with the Best Marjoram Substitute
Now you have got an overview of what can substitute marjoram; it’s time you get to know at least one recipe that involves the use of marjoram, but works best if we replace marjoram with any of its substitutes. So, let’s go.
Fresh marjoram substitute for soup
In winter, soup is everywhere. Be it chicken, corn, vegetable, or any other variety of soup; it needs some garnishing and herbal ingredient to boost the taste. And marjoram is one of them, thanks to being rich in minerals and its aromatic scent. If marjoram is not available, substitute for marjoram in split pea soup or any other soup like the one given below is perfect.
So, here is the recipe.
- Any marjoram substitute like Oregano or Thyme
- Two eggs
- Black pepper
- 250 grams parmesan
First, mince your marjoram substitute and shred parmesan. Now beat the two eggs in this mixture and add half teaspoon salt and 1/4th teaspoon black pepper in it. Then boil 6 cups of water and add this egg mixture in it. Then keep stirring it slowly until it becomes creamy. It’s ready to be served.
Many herbs and spices can easily substitute marjoram in your favorite recipe, including eight famous and the nearest matches described above. The only thing to take care of is how much you should use. Oregano is the best alternative to use, and you should only look for the rest of the seven options if oregano is not available.