About Oregano Uses, Pairings and Recipes

About Oregano Uses, Pairings and Recipes



When was the first time you tasted oregano? Shaken on a cheesy slice at your favorite pizza place? Or maybe in grandma’s famous spaghetti sauce? Our memories of this classic Italian seasoning are as authentic as the herb itself. Pure oregano has a leafy green appearance with an assertive, peppery bite. Achieving pure flavor in every bottle of oregano is a labor of love we’ve devoted ourselves to for over 125 years.

In Greek, oregano means “joy of the mountain." Even though it's super popular today, it actually wasn't widely used in the U.S. until GIs returned from Italy during World War II. Our pure oregano is a delicious addition to any tomato dish, eggs and omelets, chicken, fish and pork, cooked vegetables, vinaigrettes and more. Consider it your go-to herb for that real Mediterranean flavor. 



Oregano is a robust herb that comes in whole leaves or ground up, giving meals a peppery bite and a sweet, minty aroma.

Oregano is the assertive cousin to marjoram and a member of the mint family of herbs. Use your nose as a guide to oregano’s freshness. One whiff should immediately bring to mind the savory-sweet aroma of your neighborhood pizzeria.



There are several types of culinary and oriental oregano. We offer the classic Mediterranean style oregano as well as Mexican oregano.

Ground Oregano

An intensely flavored herb, ground oregano brings a peppery bite and a slightly sweet, earthy aroma to the kitchen. Use ground oregano when you want the pungent warmth but not the visual element of the leaves in the final dish. Ground oregano’s peppery flavor pairs well with a little char from the grill. Try adding it to your favorite marinade, vinaigrette, or rub. It’ll lend bold character to grilled poultry, pork and fish.

Oregano Leaves

Oregano leaves can come in fresh or dry form. The plant has tiny leaves that lend a pungent aroma and strong flavor to a variety of savory foods. When in bloom, the plant sports pink or purple flowers, which are also edible. As an herb, it is gluten-free and suitable for vegan and paleo diets. Dried oregano is the more common form and a popular herb found in spice cabinets. 



Marjoram is the closest substitute to match oregano’s peppery flavor and aroma. Top oregano substitutes include:

  • Marjoram

  • Basil

  • Italian Seasoning 

For any of these – if you need a ground herb – be sure to crumble or grind leaves to a powder, or mince fresh leaves, before adding them to your recipe. One tablespoon of chopped fresh herb equals one teaspoon of dried.

Mexican oregano? Not a match. This variety is sharper and lends citrus and anise flavors that might change the flavor of your dish.



Mexican oregano brings robust flavor to Mexican, Tex-Mex and South American cooking. We love its peppery, citrusy flavor in salsa, chili, burritos, enchiladas and tacos. 

Mexican cooks rely on the strong flavor of Mexican oregano for a wide variety of traditional dishes. It’s often used in fresh or cooked salsa, meat mixtures for burritos and tacos, enchilada sauce, and classic braised pork. 

Cuban cuisine makes delicious use of this peppery herb. Mexican oregano is the key flavor in that country’s famous slow-cooked ropa vieja, or braised and shredded beef. You’ll also find Mexican oregano in Cuban-braised pork and as a seasoning for black beans. 

In the home kitchens of Central and South America, you’ll find as many recipes for arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) as there are cooks. But all will feature Mexican oregano for its enticing flavor and aroma.

Rub a pinch of Mexican oregano between your fingertips to release the herb’s fragrant oils before dropping it into a bowl of tortilla soup. Your nose—and your taste buds—will thank you.



Mexican oregano is entirely different from its Mediterranean counterpart. Unlike the ground oregano we love so much in Italian tomato sauce and Greek marinades, Mexican oregano is a member of the verbena family, the flamboyant cousin of the lemon verbena. You’ll know it’s Mexican oregano if it smells like a super-intense version of Mediterranean oregano, with bright notes of pepper and lemon.



You can always substitute regular oregano leaves for Mexican oregano leaves. It won’t be quite as pungent, but it’ll do the trick. Substitute one for the other in equal measure. Mexican oregano does add a citrus note to recipes as well, so you may wish to introduce that flavor by including a few pinches of ground coriander.



Depending on how oregano is stored, it can last anywhere from 1-3 years. Check out how long spices and leafy herbs last



Like all spices and leafy herbs, oregano should be stored in a cool, dry place away from moisture and heat. 



Oregano is a great complement to all the herbs in the Mediterranean pantry. Make your own Mediterranean blend of oregano, basil, sage and thyme. Stir in salt and pepper and a good pinch of paprika for color. Sautéed chicken never tasted so good!

  • Basil: Sweet and fragrant basil complements tomato-based dishes including pizza, pasta and marinara sauce. It also pairs well with vegetable, chicken, pork or seafood.
  • Thyme: The plant’s tiny leaves—just a quarter inch at most in length—must be carefully harvested, cleaned, dried and milled to retain their rich color, piney aroma and earthy flavor. In the ancient world, thyme was a symbol of courage and bravery. One of the highest compliments to pay a Greek warrior, for instance, was to say he smelled of thyme. And in the Middle Ages, thyme was used to fend off nightmares. Today, our pure thyme holds its greatest place of honor in the kitchen as one of our most popular herbs.
  • Red Pepper: McCormick Red Pepper is made from the seeds and pods of red chili peppers. We test each new crop of field-grown peppers for color, flavor, aroma and heat. The chili pepper is one of the most spicy members of the capsicum family. There’s no better place to turn if you’re looking to add spicy, intense flavor to any dish. You know your crushed red pepper is fresh if it sets your nose tingling when you take that first whiff. It should be a deep red color, with flecks of yellow seeds. Ground red pepper, also called cayenne, started life in the New World as a particularly intense member of the capsicum family of chili peppers. It has since traveled the globe, bringing intense chili heat and vivid red color to every kitchen it enters.
  • Garlic: McCormick partners with family owned farms to grow garlic that can be used as powder or minced. It adds instant flavor into whatever you’re cooking because our bottles contain garlic and only garlic, and nothing else. Garlic is a member of the lily family, native to Central Asia and cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. It’s the most pungent of the lilies, with a strong flavor and aroma. Unless you’re using it to ward off vampires, as people have done since the 1700s, it pays to use allium sativum with a gentle hand.
  • Cumin: Cumin is one of the top 10 selling spices in the U.S. The spice dates back to Egypt 4,000 years ago, and McCormick Cumin is hand-harvested, sun-dried and carefully screened so you know you're getting nothing but the purest flavor. Add this spice for a warm flavor and earthy color to everyday soups, stews, meats and vegetables.



How We Source Oregano

Our buyers visit the fields and inspect each and every harvest to ensure that the leaves truly are oregano. Many purveyors include other herbs, like sumac, myrtle and olive leaves, which dilute the essence of pure oregano.

After careful harvesting, McCormick Oregano leaves are cleaned to remove stems and sticks. They’re then gently dried to preserve color, flavor and aroma.

When you see the McCormick label that says “Oregano,” you can rest assured that’s exactly what you’re getting.








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