Does your latest recipe call for marjoram—a common spice used in many meat-based dishes? Have you discovered that you’re out of marjoram, or does your local store not carry it?
While it makes an essential addition to both European and French dishes—it is possible to use a replacement for marjoram and still end up with a great tasting meal.
Because marjoram has a very Mediterranean flavor to it, try to go for substitutes that have a similar underlying taste for the best results.
Here’s what you can use instead of marjoram when you’re running low.
Oregano is a popular marjoram substitute. You must have noticed that this herb is often called for in the same recipes as marjoram—a clear indicator that they work well in similar dishes. Whether you opt for dried or fresh oregano, it is much more flavorful than marjoram. Dried oregano is considerably more potent—so make sure you only use one third the amount of dried oregano as the marjoram that is called for in the recipe. When using fresh oregano, use only half the amount.
A member of the mint family, basil is very aromatic—which means fresh basil has a highly distinguishable taste when used in any recipe. Dried or ground basil works well as a marjoram replacement, but fresh basil does not.Although these two ingredients taste quite different from each other—when dried, their tastes aren’t very easy to tell apart. Dried herbs often lose much of their aroma, so you can use dried or ground basil to replace dried marjoram. Use the same amount of basil as the marjoram that is called for in your recipe. Basil works best when used as a marjoram replacement in pasta sauces and stews.
Thyme is a commonly used herb for a variety of dishes. It works well as for marjoram substitution, especially if you’re making a European dish. Both dried or fresh thyme can be used—its flavor is mellow and mild like marjoram, so you can use the same amount of thyme as the marjoram that is called for in the recipe. There are different kinds of thyme which have slightly different flavors but to replace marjoram conveniently, you should aim to get the French or English thyme.
Another member of the mint family, sage has the similar sweet yet citrus and pine taste of marjoram. It works best in Mediterranean dishes, whether you are making meat, vegetables, or paste.Because of their similar flavors, you don’t have to make any changes in the ratio when replacing marjoram with sage. To be on the safe side, however, start with 3/4th teaspoons of sage for every one teaspoon of marjoram and work your way up.
5. Summer savory
Summer savory is closely linked to sage in taste and has a similar sweet and peppery taste like marjoram. It works in dishes such as roast venison and other meat-based recipes but works best when flavoring or seasoning sausages. You can replace dried marjoram with ground or dried summer savory. Another option is winter savory—which is less sweet than summer savory. However, you can still use it if you aren’t making a dish that doesn’t require that sweet underlying flavor. If you are using summer savory, use the same amount of it as marjoram. If you’re using winter savory, use a slightly lesser quantity than marjoram to account for its bitter taste.
This is a spice used in many Middle Eastern dishes and is made from a combination of savory, thyme, sesame seeds, and marjoram. Za’atar also contains a few other spices, which is why you need to be careful about the taste it brings to your dish. You can use it to flavor meats and vegetables for the best results. Za’atar has a slightly nutty flavor, which makes it more potent than marjoram. You should use half a teaspoon of za’atar for every one teaspoon of marjoram to start. Work your way up only if you determine that your dish needs more flavor.
The bottom line
The smartest way to stay safe when experimenting with a marjoram substitution that you have never used before is to start small. Because dried and fresh ingredients bring different flavors to a dish, the amount required of any ingredient becomes subject to taste—so keep doing taste checks on your recipe as you progress.