Food With Oregano

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Food With Oregano The main idea of our blog is to help people get healthy and also help them improve their diet by using the most effective ingredients – oregano oil.

Food With Oregano

Garlic and Oregano Pesto is a great way to use up surplus fresh oregano. It is just bursting with bold flavors and tastes great on grilled foods, especially if you are looking for a delicious zesty Mediterranean flavor. Oregano pesto freezes well so you can preserve the season and enjoy year round. A great fresh oregano recipe essential for the home gardener.

Ingredients for oregano pesto in a blender

what to do with all this fresh oregano? make a delicious homemade oregano pesto!

I have had so much oregano growing in my garden, I just had to come up with a few oregano recipes to make sure it doesn’t go to waste.

If you have been hanging around here at all then you know I just hate wasting food, especially something that I put so much effort into growing (ok the extent of effort with this was literally digging a hole and covering it up again…but still).

So I have been on the hunt for oregano recipes using fresh oregano for the past couple of weeks, when I had a little bit of an ‘a-ha moment‘ and decided to use it up like I did my excess fennel, and whip up a fun pesto.

Oregano pesto in a glass mason jar

fresh oregano pesto is so easy

We cut down a whole trees worth of oregano and got to pesto testing.

Well let me tell you, it was delicious! And so easy too. It freezes well too, so you can pop a couple batches in the freezer and enjoy that fresh zesty oregano flavor all year round.

Although, if your oregano is as crazy as mine, you will have the fresh stuff all year round anyway, but it’s always nice to have something pre-prepared, right?

To make your own homemade oregano pesto you are going to need:

  • Fresh oregano (of course)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic, peeled
  • Raw almonds
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

That’s it!

Just pop it all into a blender and watch the magic happen.

To store: pop into the fridge for around 5-7 days. I usually put an extra little layer of olive oil on top of the pesto and it helps to preserve it for a little longer and stops it from going brown on top.

If you want to freeze it then I usually freeze my pesto in ice cube trays. Just pop the mixture into the ice cube tray, freeze, and once frozen remove and store in a ziploc bag until needed.

oregano pesto

i have the oregano pesto, now what do i do with it?

I hope you guys love this fresh garlic and oregano pesto as much as we do!

I use it anywhere I would normally use a good pesto. It goes particularly well with the following foods and recipes:

  • jazz up pizza/pasta sauces;
  • use as a pizza sauce itself;
  • make a simple oregano pasta
  • mix with some olive oil and drizzle in a nice salad;
  • dress up some roast potatoes like these potatoes from A Communal Table;
  • freshen up some oregano and lemon chicken skewers
  • add a dollop to some salmon and bake in the oven.

Troubleshooting:

  1. I can’t have nuts: you can sub sunflower or pumpkin seeds instead.
  2. I can’t handle raw garlic: sauté the garlic and allow to cool before adding to the rest of the ingredients in the blender.
  3. I don’t have enough fresh oregano: if you have other herbs on hand then play around. This works well with some basil or parsley. Pesto’s are very forgiving so just blend away and have some fun.
  4. I am vegan or don’t eat dairy: sub in nutritional yeast instead, it works really well.
oregano recipes: oregano and lemon chicken skewers
need more recipes using fresh oregano?

I have a few more oregano recipes here you should definitely check out if you have a surplus on your hands are are wondering what to do with all this fresh oregano:

  • Dehydrated Oregano Without A Dehydrator
  • One Pot Oven Roasted Chicken with Potatoes
  • Grilled Greek Potatoes In Foil With Lemon and Oregano

How to Cook with Oregano 

Oregano is a flowering plant that is native to the Mediterranean but is now grown all over the Northern Hemisphere. An oregano plant can grow up to 3 feet tall and its leaves can range in size from tiny to an inch long. Oregano has been used in many places in the Mediterranean as an herbal medicine to reduce inflammation and fighting bacteria.  This herb got its name from Greece where it means “joy of heart”. 

What Does Oregano Look Like?

Oregano looks somewhat similar to mint leaves in color and size, and is in fact a member of the mint family. The green oregano leaves are flat and oval and tend to be a little fuzzy. Oregano is also commonly confused with marjoram, as they look very comparable, though the flavors of the two herbs are somewhat different.

How to Cook with Oregano

Dried oregano looks like most other dried herbs, flakey and green. 

What Does Oregano Taste Like?

Oregano has a very distinctive and pronounced flavor and smell.   The fresh leaves are peppery and sometimes even a little pleasantly sharp or bitter.  This is especially true of larger, more mature oregano. The strong aroma of oregano adds to the boldness of the flavor experience. Oregano is commonly used to balance an acidic or salty dish with its hint of sweetness.  It’s used frequently in Mediterranean cooking, especially Italian and Greek food, but also popular in Mexican cuisine, as well as Argentinian and Turkish food.   

How to Cook with Oregano: Everything you need to know about how to buy, store, prepare, and cook with fresh oregano. Plus 9 recipes with oregano!

Dried Oregano Substitute

In some dishes dried oregano can serve as a replacement for fresh – and in some cases, like cooked tomato sauces, pizza, certain marinades, and dressings, dried can even be preferable.  The rule of thumb is to use 1 teaspoon of dried for 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano.

If you are making a dish where oregano is not going to be cooked, and the recipe calls for fresh, stick to the fresh.  But if the dish is going to be cooked, substituting dried for fresh in the 1 to 3 ratio usually works just fine.

Dried oregano is typically used in longer cooked dishes because the flavor holds up better, but for salads, crostini, or as a finishing touch, you really want fresh.

Substitute for Oregano

Fresh marjoram is the closest substitute for fresh oregano but there is still a slight difference in taste.  Marjoram has a slightly milder flavor so you may want to increase the amount slightly. Fresh thyme is another option; the flavors are quite different, but they are used in similar ways in similar cuisines, so the taste should be complimentary.   You can also use dried Italian seasoning in a pinch instead of dried oregano, since dried oregano is one of the featured herbs in Italian seasoning. 

How to Cook with Oregano

Where to Find Fresh Oregano?

Dried and ground oregano can be found in the spice section of almost any grocery store. Fresh oregano will be found in the herb section of the produce aisle.  Sometimes it’s sold by the bunch, sometimes smaller amounts are available in little plastic clamshells.

Oregano also grows very easily indoors in a pot, or in a garden and then you could just snip off a few leaves when you need it. 

A Culinary Guide to Oregano: Benefits and 11 Uses for Oregano

Whether sprinkled over a slice of pizza, worked into a flavorsome marinade, or stirred into a brothy soup, there’s no denying that oregano instantly improves any savory creation. Originating in the mountains of Greece, this aromatic herb has long been a hallmark of cooking across the Mediterranean region. Since its first cultivation thousands of years ago, oregano has become a popular ingredient around the world, used to flavor dishes ranging from traditional Mexican pozole to zesty chimichurri.


What Is Oregano?

Also known as wild marjoram and Origanum vulgare (meaning “joy of the mountain” in Greek), oregano is a fragrant culinary and medicinal herb that has been used for thousands of years. Belonging to the mint family, or Lamiaceae, oregano is known for its earthy flavor that makes it a great addition to a wide variety of dishes, from light salads to hefty Italian sauces.

Thanks to its subtly sweet, herbaceous flavor, oregano has become one of the most popular cooking herbs in the world, featured prominently in Italian, Turkish, Mexican, and Greek cuisine. Unlike most herbs, oregano is mostly commonly sold and used in its dry form, as the aromas of fresh oregano are highly pungent and can easily overpower a dish.

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Varieties of Oregano

  • 1. Mediterranean Oregano (aka. Greek oregano, common oregano, or Origanum vulgare hirtum) – The most common form of the herb—it has a milder taste and bold aroma.
  • 2. Mexican Oregano (aka. Lippia graveolens) – A flavorful variety of oregano that is popular in Mexican cooking thanks to its strong peppery notes that pair well with chilies.
  • 3. Italian Oregano – A combination between oregano and marjoram, this hybrid herb has a sweeter flavor that’s ideal for seasoning pasta and pizza sauces.
  • 4. Cretan Oregano (aka Turkish Oregano, pot marjoram, and Origanum onites) – A species of oregano grown throughout Greece, Turkey, and Italy with a similar flavor profile to common oregano.

What Does Oregano Taste Like?

A subtle balance between sweet and spicy, the flavor of oregano is bold and earthy with a slight bitterness that’s reminiscent of the aromatic organic compound camphor. This unique flavor is due to the rich variety of essential oils within oregano, including pinene, limonene, thymol, and carvacrol.

Oregano is commonly confused with marjoram, another member of the mint family that has a similar appearance and aroma. However, marjoram has a sweet, lemony taste in contrast to oregano’s more savory flavor.

What’s the Difference Between Oregano and Basil?

While fresh basil has a flavor that is herbal and minty, with hints of clove and pepper, it has a more pronounced sweetness compared with oregano’s bitter, earthy flavor. The flavors of these complementary herbs are similar enough that, especially when used as dried herbs, they can be substituted for one another in richer dishes, like tomato-based sauces and stews. In lighter dishes, like dressings and marinades, the distinction between the two will be more apparent as the flavors of the peppery oregano and sweet basil are more pronounced.

What’s the Difference in Cooking With Fresh vs. Dried Oregano?

While most culinary herbs tend to lose much of their flavor when dried, oregano is one of the rare exceptions to the rule. The flavor of fresh oregano and dried oregano is very similar, so the choice between the two typically comes down to appearance, aroma, and price. Given its pungent flavor, dried oregano is used more frequently during the cooking process, as the flavors are easier to control. Fresh oregano is generally used as a garnish, or added at the end of cooking.

Dried oregano, which is sold in brown, powdery flakes, is the more affordable and ubiquitous option, available in most grocery stores and markets. Fresh oregano has an appealing leafy green appearance that can add color and aroma to dishes, but isn’t as widely available.

How to Dry Oregano

There are three possible methods for drying oregano:

  • 1. Hang drying – Group the fresh oregano springs into bundles, tied together with a rubber band around the end. Use the rubber band to hang the oregano on a nail or herb drying rack in a dry, sunny room. Let the herbs hang until completely dry, 1-2 weeks. Strip the dried leaves from the stem into a large bowl, discard the stems, and crush the leaves by hand until they’ve reached a fine, powder-like consistency. Store in an airtight container for 6-12 months.
  • 2. Flat drying – This method is best for drying smaller quantities of the herb. While fresh, remove the leaves from the stem and lay them out on a paper towel-covered tray in direct sunlight until dry. Crush the leaves by hand and store.
  • 3. Microwave drying – This shortcut method is best utilized in herb emergencies that require a quick turn around. Remove the leaves from the stalk and lay them out on a paper towel-covered plate. Microwave the oregano on low until the leaves have completely dried, cool, and crush into powder form. Note that this method will deplete the flavor of the oregano the most out of any of the drying methods.

Culinary Uses of Oregano

Some of the most common uses of oregano include tomato-centric recipes, like pizza and pasta sauce, as well as olive oil-based dishes. Oregano is commonly combined with olive oil to create flavorful oregano oil, Italian vinaigrettes, and marinades for lamb, chicken, and beef dishes. Other ingredients that pair well with oregano include garlic, basil, onion, and thyme.

Fresh oregano leaves are an excellent garnish to add in moderation at the end of cooking, particularly to hearty vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, and cauliflower. Whether cooking with dried or fresh oregano, it’s best to crush or chop the herbs by hand before adding them to a dish in order to release the flavorful essential oils contained within.

Health Benefits of Oregano

In addition to being packed with vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals like iron, calcium, and manganese, oregano is also rich in dietary fiber. This leafy herb is also packed with essential oils like carvacrol and thymol, which have antibacterial, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory powers that help to fight harmful free radicals and prevent illness.

11 Recipe Ideas Using Oregano

  1. 1. Italian Vinaigrette – A simple salad dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  2. 2. Basic Pizza Sauce – A universal sauce for homemade pizza can made using tomato paste, tomato sauce, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.
  3. 3. Green Pozole – A traditional Mexican soup made with chicken broth, chicken breast, salsa verde, hominy, green chiles, garlic, cumin, and Mexican oregano.
  4. 4. Baked Chicken with Oregano and Lemon – Chicken breast marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, oregano, and salt. Baked until golden and served with grilled vegetables and an herby Greek yogurt sauce.
  5. 5. Oregano Pesto – An alternative take on traditional pesto made with fresh oregano, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
  6. 6. Oaxacan Mole with Mexican Oregano – Yellow mole made with guajillo chiles, Mexican cinnamon, chicken stock, saffron, tomatillos, masa harina, and dry Mexican oregano.
  7. 7. Mussels with Lemon and Oregano – Mussels cooked in a mixture of white wine, olive oil, minced garlic, chopped onions, lemon juice, dried oregano, and salt. Topped with fresh oregano and served with crusty bread.
  8. 8. Tomato Pasta with Oregano – A fresh tomato sauce consisting of plum tomatoes, olive oil, minced garlic, chopped fresh oregano, crushed red pepper, and seasonings. Served over cooked pasta with parmesan cheese.
  9. 9. Oregano Lamb Chops – Lamb chops marinated in olive oil, dried oregano, lemon juice, and minced garlic. Grilled and served with a chopped Greek salad.
  10. 10. Chimichurri Sauce – An herbaceous combination of fresh parsley, fresh garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and dried Mexican oregano.
  11. 11. Eggplant and garlic confit with oregano – Chef Thomas Keller uses oil to confit Chinese eggplant and garlic, a technique that will impart a creamy, succulent texture to both.

What are the health benefits of oregano?

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Oregano is a herb from the mint, or Lamiaceae family. People have used it for thousands of years to add flavor to dishes and to treat health conditions. It features in the Mediterranean diet.

The Greeks and Romans associated oregano with joy and happiness. The name comes from the Greek words “oros,” meaning mountain, and “ganos,” meaning joy.

There are different types of oregano. The most common type is Oregano vulgare, also known as Spanish thyme and wild marjoram.

People use oregano in the diet as supplements and as an aromatic oil.

The antioxidants thymol, carvacrol, limonene, terpinene, ocimene, and caryophyllene give the herbTrusted Source its flavor and scent. They also contribute to the health benefits of oregano oil. Oregano provides other antioxidants when people consume it in the diet.

Benefits

a person chopping oregano that is in a basket
Oregano may help fight bacteria, relieve inflammation, and regulate blood sugar.

People around the Mediterranean region have used oregano for centuries in herbal medicine to treat many ailments, including:

  • skins sores
  • aching muscles
  • asthma
  • cramping
  • diarrhea
  • indigestion
  • colds
  • to boost overall health

Scientists need to do more research to confirm the benefits of using oregano, but there is some evidence that it could help:

  • fight bacteria
  • relieve inflammation
  • regulate blood sugar and lipids
  • fight cancer

Oregano and other herbs provide antioxidants. Dietary antioxidants help the body eliminate free radicals, which are toxic substances that result from natural processes and environmental stresses. A buildup of free radicals can trigger oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to cell damage that may result in various diseases, including cancer and diabetes.

Antibacterial properties

The main components of oregano essential oil are carvacrol and thymol. These may have antimicrobial properties.

In a 2019 laboratory study, carvacrol and thymol prevented various strains of Staphyloccus aureus (S. aureus) bacteria from developing in meat and dairy products, suggesting that it could help control bacterial growth in foods.

Amid growing concerns about diseases becoming resistant to antibiotics, researchersTrusted Source carried out lab tests to investigate the effects of oregano oil on various microbes that do not respond to other drugs.

The oil showed “significant antibacterial activity” against 11 such microbes. This suggests that substances in oregano could play a role in fighting diseases that no longer respond to antibiotics.

While these tests indicate that compounds in oregano may have antibacterial properties, it does not mean that eating oregano will prevent infections.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that plays a key role in the immune system. Which foods contain vitamin C?

Anti-inflammatory properties

According to one literature overview, the oils and constituents of oregano oil, such as thymol and rosmarinic acid, appear to have anti-inflammatory properties.

In animal studies, oregano extract has reduced inflammation that could lead to:

  • autoimmune arthritis
  • allergic asthma
  • rheumatoid arthritis

It is worth noting that the studies used concentrated extracts of oregano. This is not the same as humans eating oregano in the diet.

Protecting against cancer

Some of the ingredients in oregano may have anticancer properties.

Scientists have found evidence that extracts may help prevent DNA damage in cells due to oxidative stress, radiation, and mitogens, a type of protein that can cause unwanted cell division.

Researchers have also found evidence that carvacrol and thymol may prevent melanoma cells from growing and skin cancer from spreading.

While eating oregano by itself is unlikely to prevent cancer, a varied, plant-based diet that is rich in antioxidants may help prevent cell changes that can lead to cancer.

In 2013, lab studies suggested that Origanum majorana could help slow or stop the progression of metastatic breast cancer.

How can diet affect the risk of cancer? Find out here.

Diabetes

Compounds in oregano may help manage type 2 diabetes. Authors of a 2016 rodent studyTrusted Source concluded that Origanum extract may help:

  • improve insulin resistance
  • regulate the expression of genes that affect fat and carbohydrate metabolism
  • restore damaged liver and kidney tissues

The authors noted that some people already use oregano leaves and oil to manage high blood sugar levels.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Experts do not know what causes it, but oxidative stress may play a roleTrusted Source.

In 2015, researchers found that an extract of oregano improved type 1 diabetes in mice. They suggested this could be due to oregano’s antioxidant properties, its effect on the immune system, and its ability to prevent cell death.

Which other herbs and spices may help with diabetes? Find out here.

Depression

In 2018, scientistsTrusted Source looked at how treatment with oregano oil and other substances affected rats with depression due to chronic unpredictable stress.

After 14 days, stress-related behavior improved in rats that received the oregano treatment. The study authors concluded that oregano might relieve stress-related behavior.

Can other herbs help with depression? Find out here.

Other possible health benefits

According to the National Library of Medicine, people take oregano products by mouth for:

  • coughs
  • asthma
  • allergies
  • croup
  • bronchitis
  • painful menstrual cramps
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • urinary tract infections and disorders
  • headaches
  • diabetes
  • bleeding after a tooth extraction
  • heart conditions
  • high cholesterol

People apply oregano oil to the skin for:

  • acne
  • athlete’s foot
  • dandruff
  • canker sores, toothache, and gum disease
  • warts
  • wounds
  • ringworm
  • rosacea
  • psoriasis
  • insect bites and as an insect repellant
  • muscle and joint pain
  • varicose veins

There is not enough evidence to support the medicinal use of oregano as a dietary herb, supplement, or oil in most of these cases.

However, it is unlikely to cause harm in most people as long as people do not consume too much oregano oil and ensure that any topical applications use a diluted form of the oil.

Nutrition

There are many types of oregano, and the antioxidant and nutrient content can vary widely.

The table below shows some of the nutrients in one teaspoon (tsp), or 1 gramTrusted Source (g) of dried oregano leaves.

It also shows how much an adult needs of each nutrient, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for AmericansTrusted Source. Requirements vary according to the individual’s sex and age.

NutrientAmountDaily adult requirement
Energy (calories)2.71,800–3,000
Carbohydrate (g)0.7130
Fiber (g)0.425.2–33.6
Calcium (millgrams [mg])16.01,000–1,200
Phosphorus (mg)1.5700
Potassium (mg)12.64,700
Folate (mcg, DFE)2.4400

Examples of antioxidants in the oregano herb include tryptophan, lysine, valine, arginine, vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E (tocopherol).

Get some tips on other antioxidant-rich foods.

Cooking tips

People can use the leaves dry or fresh to add a “Mediterranean” flavor to a range of dishes.

It pairs well with tomato and often features in pizzas and pasta sauces.

People also add it to:

  • baked goods
  • vegetable dishes
  • legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas
  • fish
  • chili dishes

Here are some tips for adding it to food:

  • While cooking, sprinkle meat, chicken with oregano for flavor.
  • Use it in marinades or stuffings.
  • Chop and mix into bread or pizza dough for a herby flavor.
  • Add fresh oregano leaves to a salad.
  • Sprinkle onto slices of mozzarella cheese and tomato, and drizzle with olive oil.

To moderate the flavor, try the following:

  • Add toward the end of the cooking process for maximum flavor.
  • Chop, crush, or grind the leaves to release more flavor.
  • Start with a small amount and scale up, as too much can make the food bitter.

If a recipe asks for one tsp of dried oregano, this is equivalent to one tbsp of fresh oregano.

People can buy oregano dried or fresh in grocery stores. They can also grow it in a pot on a windowsill or balcony or in the garden. It is a perennial, which means it can grow all year.

Various different forms of oregano are available to purchase online, including dried oregano and oregano seeds to grow the herb with.

Risks

Oregano as a herb, oil, or supplement is likely to be safe for most people.

However, people should:

Ask their doctor before starting any supplement, especially if they are taking other medications or have a medical condition.

Avoid oregano products for 2 weeks before surgery, as it can increase the risk of bleeding.

Dilute essential oils before use, either with a carrier oil, such as olive oil, or in water, as for a steam bath. The concentration of oregano oil should be no more than 1%, or skin irritation may occur.

It can be dangerous to swallow essential oils or apply them to the skin. People should check the correct way to use each product to prevent toxicity.

Oregano may affect the body’s ability to absorb copper, iron, and zinc. It may also lower blood sugar.

People with an allergy to plants belonging to the Lamiac

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