Oregano powder is an essential ingredient in many cuisines, from Italian and Greek to Mexican. Its earthy, aromatic flavor enhances everything from pizza and pasta sauces to tacos and chili. But what if you find yourself out of oregano powder when a recipe calls for it? Not to worry - there are plenty of tasty substitutes you likely have on hand.
Read on and explore what makes oregano powder unique and how to best replicate its flavor using ingredients you already have in your pantry and fridge. You'll also find recipe ideas to try the substitutes and make sure your dish still delivers bold, delicious flavors even without oregano powder.
What is Oregano Powder?
Key Takeaway: Oregano powder is made from dried oregano leaves that have been finely ground. It provides an intense, earthy flavor and aroma.
Oregano powder is simply dried oregano leaves that have been ground into a fine powder. It comes from the oregano plant, which is a fragrant herb in the mint family. There are a few varieties of oregano, but most oregano powder comes from:
- Greek oregano - This Mediterranean variety has a robust, woodsy, slightly minty flavor. It's considered true oregano.
- Mexican oregano - Actually a different (but related) species, this oregano has an intense earthy flavor with citrusy notes.
No matter the variety, oregano powder packs some serious flavor punch. It has an earthy, woodsy taste with peppery undertones. The aroma is also very fragrant with hints of mint and lemon.
This potent herb is popular in Italian, Greek, Spanish, and Tex-Mex cuisines. You'll find it used in everything from pasta sauce to chili seasoning blends. The powder form allows the flavor to distribute evenly and adhere well to foods.
Why Use an Oregano Powder Substitute?
There are a few reasons you may need to use a substitute for oregano powder:
- You're out of oregano powder - It happens to all of us. You go to season a recipe and realize you're completely out of that spice you need.
- Avoiding allergies - Some people are allergic to oregano and can experience reactions from ingesting it. Substitutes allow them to still enjoy the flavor.
- Bringing a new flavor - While oregano is great, you may want to change up the flavor profile. Substitutes add variety.
- Dietary restrictions - Certain diets like paleo and Whole30 exclude oregano. Substitutes let you stick to the diet but keep dishes flavorful.
- A fresh take on a recipe - Using a substitute can give a fun, new twist to a familiar dish.
The good news is there are plenty of spices, herbs, and seasoning blends that can mimic oregano powder remarkably well. Let's take a look!
15 Substitutes for Oregano Powder
1. Dried Marjoram
Marjoram is part of the oregano family, so unsurprisingly it makes a great substitute. It has a milder, sweeter, more floral flavor than oregano.
Use an equal amount of marjoram in place of the oregano powder called for. Add it at the same stage of cooking for the best flavor distribution.
Marjoram works especially well in Mexican dishes in place of Mexican oregano powder.
2. Dried Thyme
Thyme is another Mediterranean herb that shares some similar earthy, woodsy notes with oregano. It's not quite as sweet as marjoram.
Use thyme powder in a 1:1 ratio in recipes. You may want to start with 3/4 of the amount first and add more to taste. Thyme can be pretty strong.
Thyme is fantastic in Italian recipes, stews, sauces, and on meats when substituting for oregano powder.
3. Dried Basil
Sweet basil makes a quality substitution for oregano powder, especially in Italian cuisine where the two are often paired.
Replace the oregano powder with an equal amount of dried basil. Add it at the same stage of cooking.
Basil works well in sauces, pizza, and on rich meats like lamb. Opt for the dried form over fresh for best results.
4. Italian Seasoning
As you might suspect, Italian seasoning contains oregano as well as complementary Italian herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram.
Use the same amount called for of oregano powder, keeping in mind the other additions will intensify the flavor. You may need to adjust other seasonings.
Great for all Italian recipes and also on eggs, chicken, fish, and vegetables. Choose dried seasoning for maximum flavor.
5. Herbes de Provence
Another blended herb option, Herbes de Provence contains oregano as well as marjoram, thyme, basil, and more.
Use the same 1:1 ratio as you would for Italian seasoning, keeping in mind the other strong, herby flavors.
Wonderful in Mediterranean recipes, herb-roasted vegetables, grilled meats, and mushroom dishes. Use dried for best results.
6. Smoked Paprika
For a kick of smokiness, use sweet smoked paprika in place of oregano powder. It provides rich flavor without spiciness.
Replace at a 1:1 ratio, or start with 3/4 and adjust to taste. you may need less paprika than oregano powder.
A fantastic way to add subtle smoky flavor and aroma to chili, stews, rubs, tomato sauces, and more.
7. Ground Rosemary
Rosemary has an intensely woodsy, pine-like flavor that makes it a good stand-in for oregano powder. But a little goes a long way due to its bold flavor.
Start by using about 1/4 the amount of rosemary as you would oregano powder. Gradually add more if needed.
Wonderful paired with lamb, chicken, on roasted veggies, in marinades and bread. Buy ground or grind your own dried rosemary.
8. Garlic Powder
Garlic powder offers a nice savory, pungent background note similar to oregano powder. The two are often used together in spice blends.
Replace at about a 1:2 ratio, using twice as much garlic powder as you would oregano powder. Adjust to taste.
Great way to add rich garlicky flavor to sauces, salad dressings, rubs, veggie dishes, and more without raw garlic. Use plain garlic powder, not seasoned salt.
9. Onion Powder
Like garlic powder, onion powder provides some of the same savory qualities as oregano powder and they work well together.
Use about double the amount of onion powder as oregano powder is called for. Add more if needed.
Fantastic in spice rubs, marinades, dressings, and dry seasoning blends in place of oregano powder. Be sure to use plain onion powder.
10. Crushed Red Pepper
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes brings a touch of heat and savory flavor similar to oregano powder.
Start with just 1/8th of the oregano powder amount and work up to as much heat as desired. A little goes a long way.
Excellent way to add mild heat and spice to Italian and Mediterranean recipes missing the oregano flavor.
11. Ground Fennel Seed
The licorice notes in fennel complement and mimic oregano's woodsyness beautifully. Anise and oregano are often paired.
Replace oregano powder with ground fennel seeds using about 3/4 of the amount. Add more fennel to taste if needed.
Wonderful in Italian dishes, sausage recipes, marinades, spice blends and anywhere you want a licorice undertone.
12. Ground Coriander
The lemony citrus flavor of coriander makes it a great match for replicating Mexican oregano powder.
Use 3/4 as much ground coriander as oregano powder at first. Coriander is quite potent so adjust slowly.
Fantastic addition of citrusy flavor in Latin recipes, taco seasonings, marinades, stir-fries, and dressings.
Cumin is an essential component of Tex-Mex spice blends along with oregano. Its earthiness helps replace oregano powder.
Start with about 1/2 of the oregano powder amount. Cumin has a very strong flavor so use sparingly and adjust.
14. Ground Nutmeg
Just a pinch of nutmeg can add some of the woody, slightly sweet quality oregano powder to your dish.
Use just 1/8 to 1/4 of the oregano powder amount and add carefully. Too much nutmeg can overwhelm.
Nice way to add subtle sweet spice flavor to cream sauces, cheese dishes, veggie bakes, and casseroles missing oregano.
15. Poultry Seasoning
Since oregano and thyme are the main components of poultry seasoning, they make a great substitute. Other herbs like sage and marjoram boost the flavor.
Replace oregano powder with the same amount of poultry seasoning blend. You may need to adjust other seasonings as it is very potent.
Wonderful fit for any poultry dish as well as in hearty soups, stews, and stuffings that would typically use oregano powder.
Tips for Using Oregano Powder Substitutes
- Start with less strong herbs and spices like rosemary, cumin, and crushed red pepper, and gradually add more as needed. It's easy to go overboard.
- Look for spices and dried herbs without added salt or seasonings for the cleanest flavor.
- When using a blend like Italian seasoning, reduce any other strong herbs and spices in the recipe so flavors don't compete.
- If a recipe calls for both dried oregano and oregano powder, you can substitute for just the powder amount.
- For pizza, pasta, and other baking recipes, add dried herbs early so they have time to rehydrate and incorporate their flavors.
- Use a mortar and pestle to make your own powder from dried herbs and spices. This maximizes fresh, robust flavor.
- Toasting whole spices like cumin and fennel briefly before grinding releases their aromatic oils and boosts flavor.
- Start with less of any substitution and add more as needed. You can always add but you can't take away!
Sample Recipes Using Oregano Substitutes
Now that you know your options for substituting oregano powder, it's time to try them out! Here are some recipes using these swaps so you can see just how well they mimic oregano flavor:
Greek Chicken Skillet with Fennel Seed
- Use 1 teaspoon ground fennel seed in place of the 2 teaspoons oregano powder.
Pasta with Sausage and Rosemary
- Replace the 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano powder with 1/2 teaspoon ground rosemary.
Cumin Chili Powder Blend
- Use 2 tablespoons cumin, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne instead of the oregano powder.
Herb & Garlic Pasta Rub
- Omit the oregano powder and use 1 tablespoon each of dried basil, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and onion powder.
Chicken Tuscano Soup with Thyme
- Use 2 teaspoons of thyme instead of the oregano powder.
Be sure to taste and adjust seasonings as needed when using substitutions. Herbs and spices can vary a lot in their intensity and flavor. But these recipes prove that even without oregano powder, you can make deliciously flavorful dishes!
Key Takeaway: Test out substitutes in recipes like Greek chicken, herb rubs, chili powder and more to get a feel for how they work as replacements.
Is dried oregano the same as oregano powder?
Not exactly. Dried oregano comes from drying fresh oregano leaves whole. Oregano powder is made by further grinding the fully dried leaves into a fine powder. So oregano powder is more intense in flavor than plain dried oregano.
What is a good substitute for oregano powder in pasta sauce?
For pasta sauce, good oregano powder substitutes include basil, Italian seasoning, thyme, smoked paprika, fennel seed, or garlic powder.
Can I use fresh oregano instead of oregano powder?
You can, you'll just need more of it. Use about 3 times as much fresh oregano as you would oregano powder. Chop or mince it finely to distribute the flavor.
Is thyme the same thing as oregano?
Thyme and oregano are related Mediterranean herbs but they are two different plants. Thyme has a mintier, more potent flavor while oregano is sweeter and woodsy. They work well as substitutes for each other.
What herbs go well with oregano?
Great herb pairings with oregano include basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, marjoram, garlic and parsley. Many of these also make good oregano stand-ins.
While nothing quite replicates the unique flavor of oregano powder, there are many dried herbs, spices, and seasoning blends that can mimic it beautifully. Whether you're out of oregano powder or just want to shake up a recipe, give one of these substitutes a try in your next dish!
With options like marjoram, thyme, basil, paprika, and more, you can still add rich, savory flavor even without oregano powder handy. Get creative with how you use substitutions in recipes from tacos to pasta sauce and explore new flavor combinations. With the right approach, your food can still be full of flavor!
Key Takeaway: Get creative and don't fear experimenting with oregano powder alternatives like marjoram, thyme, paprika and more to make delicious, flavorful recipes even when you're out of oregano.