What's the Difference Between Oregano and Marjoram?

What's the Difference Between Oregano and Marjoram?

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Kelli Foster
Apr 12, 2017
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Fresh oregano and marjoram are members of the mint family and staple herbs found in a wide array of Greek and Mediterranean recipes. They look remarkably similar and are often confused for one another, but there's a distinct difference that sets them apart. Do you know what it is?

The Difference Between Oregano and Marjoram

While the oval, flat green leaves of these mint-family herbs are often confused for one another, each one has a distinct smell and flavor that sets it apart. Oregano tends to be pungent and spicy, while more mild marjoram is floral and woodsy.

More About Oregano

A member of the mint family, oregano is widely grown across the Mediterranean, and sometimes referred to as wild marjoram. It's an aromatic herb with a robust flavor that's pungent, spicy, and slightly bitter. It can be found fresh or dried, and is easy to grow at home. Oregano pairs well with nearly any vegetable and is commonly used in tomatoes sauces, salad dressings, and marinades for grilled meats.

Grow your own: Everything You Need to Know About Growing Oregano

More About Marjoram

Marjoram is part of the mint family, and actually a sub-species of oregano. It's a delicate herb with a sweet, floral, lightly spiced fragrance. Marjoram can be found fresh or dried and is commonly used in salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. Because it has a light, subtle flavor, marjoram is best added at the end of cooking.

Read more: Inside the Spice Cabinet: Marjoram

Avoid Swapping Marjoram and Oregano

For the best-tasting results, stick with the herb specified in the recipe. Despite their similarities, these herbs have different flavors which will come through in the finished dish. Swapping in pungent oregano can prove to be overpowering in a recipe that calls for marjoram, and the delicate, sweet flavor of mild-mannered marjoram might not come through in a recipe that calls for oregano.

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