Oregano vs Mexican Oregano: The Differences and What They Mean for Your Cooking

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If you have ever browsed through the spice aisle of your local grocery store, you might have noticed two types of oregano – regular oregano and Mexican oregano. While they both share the same name, they are quite different in terms of their flavor profile and culinary uses.

Oregano is a common herb that comes from the mint family. It is widely used in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine, among others. Mexican oregano, however, comes from a different plant and is mainly used in Mexican and Latin American cuisine.

So, what exactly are the differences between these two varieties of oregano? Let’s dive in.


One of the most significant differences between oregano and Mexican oregano is their flavor profile. Regular oregano has a warm and slightly bitter flavor, with hints of mint and camphor. It is a staple in Mediterranean dishes, such as pasta sauces, pizzas, and Mediterranean rubs, among others.

On the other hand, Mexican oregano has a more robust and pungent flavor, with notes of citrus and licorice. It adds a bright and zesty flavor to Mexican dishes, such as chili, mole sauce, and carne asada marinade, among others.

Visual Differences

Another way to tell the difference between these two types of oregano is through their appearance. Regular oregano has small, oval-shaped leaves that are a grey-green color. Mexican oregano, on the other hand, has elongated and pointed leaves with a lighter green color.

Culinary Uses

While both types of oregano can be used interchangeably in some recipes, they are better suited for specific culinary styles. Regular oregano works well in Mediterranean dishes like pasta sauces, pizzas, and herb rubs, while Mexican oregano is widely used in Mexican and Latin American recipes like chili, mole sauce, and carne asada marinade.

How to Use Mexican Oregano

If you are trying Mexican oregano for the first time, there are a few ways to incorporate it into your cooking. Here are some tips:

  1. Add it to your chili: Mexican oregano is a staple ingredient in traditional chili recipes. Add a teaspoon or two to your chili for an authentic flavor.
  2. Mix it into marinades: Mexican oregano pairs well with citrus, garlic, and chili powders. Use it in marinades for steak, chicken, or shrimp.
  3. Use it in spice blends: Create your own Mexican spice blend by mixing and grinding Mexican oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, and cumin
  4. Try it in mole sauce: Mexican oregano adds a bright, citrusy flavor to mole sauce. Add a pinch or two to your next mole recipe.

Concluding Thoughts on Oregano vs Mexican Oregano

In conclusion, oregano and Mexican oregano are both flavorful and aromatic herbs, but they have distinct culinary uses. While regular oregano lends itself to Mediterranean dishes, Mexican oregano is a staple herb in Mexican and Latin American cuisine. Experimenting with both herbs can lead to new and exciting flavor combinations.

FAQs about Oregano vs Mexican Oregano

1. Are oregano and Mexican oregano interchangeable?

While both herbs can be used interchangeably in some recipes, they have different flavor profiles that lend themselves better to specific cuisine styles. It’s best to use regular oregano in Mediterranean dishes and Mexican oregano in Mexican and Latin American dishes.

2. Can I use dried oregano in place of fresh oregano?

Yes, you can use dried oregano in place of fresh, but you will need to reduce the amount you use. The general ratio is one tablespoon of fresh oregano to one teaspoon of dried.

3. Can I grow Mexican oregano in my garden?

Yes, you can grow Mexican oregano in your garden. It is a hardy perennial plant that prefers well-drained soil and full sun. It can be propagated by cuttings or by seed.

Using oregano and Mexican oregano in your cooking can add a layer of complexity to your dishes, elevating the flavor profile and authenticity. Whether you are cooking Mediterranean or Mexican food or somewhere in between, experimenting with these herbs can bring a new level of flavor to your dishes.


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