Culinary Arts

What Is Marjoram? Learn How to Cook With Marjoram, Plus 7 Marjoram Recipes

Written by MasterClass

Jun 19, 2019 • 2 min read

One of the most popular culinary herbs, marjoram’s delicate, citrusy flavor makes it especially versatile.


What Is Marjoram?

Marjoram (Origanum majorana or Majorana hortensis) is an aromatic herb in the mint (Lamiaceae) family that has been cultivated for thousands of years. In Greek mythology, marjoram was grown by the goddess Aphrodite. The fuzzy, green, oval-shape leaves grow opposite from each other, forming distinctive clusters, or knots (it’s also known as knotted marjoram).

Native to the Mediterranean, North Africa, and western Asia, marjoram is often called sweet marjoram to distinguish it from oregano varieties like wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare) and pot marjoram (Origanum onites), aka Turkish oregano. The genus Origanum, whose name comes from Greek origanon (brightness or joy of the mountains), contains around 40 species, only one of which is considered true marjoram—most of the others are called oregano.

What Does Marjoram Taste Like?

The primary flavor compounds in marjoram are sabinene (fresh, woody), terpinene (citrusy), and linalool (floral). Marjoram has a milder flavor than oregano and tastes similar to thyme, but sweeter and with a stronger scent. It’s warm, slightly sharp, and a little bitter.

What Are the Culinary Uses for Marjoram?

Marjoram can be wrapped in cheesecloth with other herbs to create an aromatic sachet for braises and stews, or sprinkled fresh onto vegetable side dishes. Dried marjoram is a popular addition to salad dressings, meat dishes, and preserved meats such as German sausage. Used in both fresh and dried form, marjoram is subtler than its relative oregano and well suited to delicate vegetables, tomato-based dishes, such as tomato sauce and pizza, and poultry seasoning.

Marjoram is an important component of spice blends including:

Dried Versus Fresh Marjoram: What’s the Difference?

Marjoram can be used as either whole fresh marjoram leaves or dried, crushed marjoram. Fresh marjoram is usually added at the end of cooking to preserve its flavor. Try fresh marjoram in herb sachets or sprinkled on top of a finished dish, while dried marjoram is better for herb blends and marinades.

How to Substitute Marjoram

Fresh oregano is a good substitute for fresh marjoram. Since it has a more pungent and less sweet flavor, use about half the amount of oregano. Keep in mind that dried oregano tends to taste even stronger than the fresh stuff. You can also experiment with thyme and sweet basil as marjoram substitutes.

7 Recipes Featuring Marjoram

  1. Homemade marjoram and garlic bratwurst with bread and sauerkraut
  2. Classic stuffing with sage, marjoram, and thyme
  3. Italian tomato sauce with marjoram
  4. Cacio e pepe with black pepper, parmesan cheese, and marjoram
  5. Roasted butternut squash with goat cheese and marjoram dressing
  6. Roasted red peppers marinated with sliced garlic cloves and fresh marjoram
  7. Za’atar-spiced grilled chicken breast with lemon juice

What Are the Health Benefits of Marjoram?

Marjoram is popular in traditional and alternative medicine due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. The fresh or dried leaves can be brewed as a tea, or marjoram essential oil can be extracted from the plant and may help to treat colds, coughs, and asthma, to aid digestion, help regulate menstrual cycles, increase milk supply during breastfeeding, and decrease blood pressure. Always check with your healthcare provider before using herbs medicinally.

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