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Mexican oregano is a bright, citrusy, and vibrant herb you need to taste to understand. Find out everything you need to know about this flavor enhancer, including its differences from other oregano varieties, how to cook with it, health benefits, and everything in between!

Mexican Oregano in a Small Bowl
What’s all the fuss about Mexican oregano?

🌿 What is Mexican oregano?

Mexican oregano is a unique and flavorful herb that’s native to Mexico, the southern United States, and certain parts of Central America. It comes from the plant species Lippia graveolens, which is a member of the Verbenaceae family.

Despite sharing the name “oregano” with the Mediterranean variety, it is an entirely different species. This versatile herb has been used for centuries in traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, adding depth and complexity to a wide range of dishes.

It’s a perfect complement to other spices commonly used in Mexican cooking, such as dried chiles and cumin. Today, its popularity has extended beyond Mexican and Latin American cuisine to food enthusiasts and chefs all over the world.

It’s used as a way to add robust and herbaceous flavors to dishes like pozole, quesabirria tacos, and carnitas. No matter what recipe you’re making, Mexican oregano will enhance it so much more!

🍃 Mexican oregano vs Mediterranean oregano

As we mentioned above, Mexican oregano and Mediterranean oregano are two separate herbs that differ in their botanical origin, flavor profile, and cooking applications. These are the main differences:

  • Mexican oregano: Derived from the Lippia graveolens plant, and it belongs to the Verbenaceae family. Mexican oregano has a robust, earthy flavor with notes of citrus and anise, which allows it to pair well with salsas, carnitas, and pozole.
  • Mediterranean oregano: Comes from the Origanum vulgare plant, which belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). Has a mild, sweet, and slightly peppery flavor that is well suited for Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, pairing well with pizzas, tomato-based sauces, and salads.

Although there is some overlap in terms of flavor profile, the taste, aroma, and overall use cases for cooking are far from the same. Their uniqueness makes them more suited for individual recipes, meaning they’re not always interchangeable.

🍴 Flavor profile

Mexican oregano has a robust flavor with underlying notes of star anise, lemon, and citrus. It is quite earthy and imparts a rather strong flavor when used in cooking.

For this reason, we recommend starting small and working your way up so you don’t end up overpowering your dish. It’s no surprise this herb is popular in Mexican cuisine as it elevates other rich, spicy, and robust seasonings well.

Hand Holding Mexican Oregano
Crush it with your hands to release the oils

🍎 Health benefits

Mexican oregano is not only prized for its culinary applications but also for its medicinal properties. As with most herbs, it contains a plethora of vitamins and nutrients like these:

  • Flavonoids: These antioxidants are important in the prevention of many diseases related to inflammation.
  • Vitamins: Mexican oregano is loaded with B vitamins, which are helpful for energy production. Plus, it also contains vitamin C, K, and E.
  • Minerals: There are high concentrations of magnesium, calcium, and iron found in Mexican oregano.

In addition to being a seasoning, this herb is used in traditional Mexican medicine to treat stomach ailments and respiratory infections. It’s typically steeped and consumed in tea form.

📝 How to cook with Mexican oregano

Mexican oregano is used to liven up a variety of recipes, from meat-based dishes and salsas to pickling recipes (like onions or jalapeños), enchilada sauces and even tea.

It is sold in different grinds, starting at whole leaves all the way down to a fine powder. The grind you choose will depend on your recipe needs and preferences, but one isn’t better than the other.

If you can’t find the powder form of Mexican oregano, you can grind it in a spice grinder, small blender, or with your hands.

🍽 Dishes with Mexican oregano

The recipe options are pretty much endless when it comes to Mexican oregano. We’ve included some of our favorites, but don’t feel limited to only these (let your creativity run wild!):

Mexican Oregano in a Small Bowl
So much flavor in one little herb!

🌡️ Storage

Mexican oregano leaves or powder store best in a cool, dry, and dark location. Exposing it to light or air will degrade the overall quality of the herb more quickly.

Consume it within 5-6 months for the most intense and vibrant flavors. We recommend using glass jars or airtight containers to extend its shelf life.

💰 Buying guide

So now that you know there is a difference between Mexican oregano and other oregano varieties, it’s time to get your kitchen stocked! Here are some tips to make sure you find the best quality herb.

What to look for

Depending on where you live, Mexican oregano will be sold in packages or in bulk. As we noted earlier, you can find it in whole leaf form, crushed, or completely ground into a powder.

As long as the leaves are intact, the smell is fragrant, and there’s no moisture present, you should be good to go.

Try to avoid overly dry Mexican oregano that lacks fragrance as it is most likely stale.

Where to buy

Mexican oregano may be challenging to find at your small local grocery store (outside of Mexico) unless it’s a large chain with a Latin or Mexican food aisle. You’ll definitely be able to find it at a local Mexican market if you’re lucky enough to live near one!

If not, Mexican oregano is easily available to purchase online. If you know you’re going to be using it frequently, we recommend picking some up in bulk and following our storage tips.

Mexican Oregano in a Package
Mexican oregano in a package

♻️ Substitutions

With a hard flavor profile to emulate, there are two good substitutions we think would be worthy to replace Mexican oregano with:

  1. Marjoram: The number one substitution when it comes to Mexican oregano is marjoram. It has similar floral, earthy, and citrus properties that work well. Replace Mexican oregano with an equal portion of marjoram.
  2. Oregano: If you can’t find marjoram, equal amounts of Mediterranean oregano will be your next best choice. The citrusy flavors are not as prominent, so try adding coriander or even a squeeze of lime to make up for it.


What else is Mexican oregano called?

Mexican oregano is sometimes referred to as Mexican marjoram or Mexican wild sage.

Which spices go well with Mexican oregano?

Most Mexican spices pair extremely well with Mexican oregano such as cumin, cilantro, paprika, cloves, or chiles.

Is Mexican oregano the same as cilantro?

No, these two herbs are unrelated with different flavor profiles.

Can I substitute Mediterranean oregano for Mexican oregano in a recipe? 

Even though both herbs are called oregano, they have a very different flavor profile, which affects the authenticity of a recipe. Although it can serve as a suitable replacement if you have no other options, the overall flavor will be different. 

Is Mexican oregano available in different forms?

Yes, Mexican oregano is most often found in whole leaf form, but you can also find it in crushed or powder forms. The type you choose is dependent on the recipe you’re making. However, if you purchase whole leaves, you can easily grind them in an at-home grinder.

🤓 Learn about more ingredients

If you’re wondering what ingredients like piloncillo or tomatillos are and how to use them, take a peek at some of our other guides:

🎁 Conclusion

Mexican oregano is a versatile and vibrant herb that adds a unique touch to a variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. Its flavor profile is a blend of earthy, citrusy, and slightly anise-like notes that complement other Mexican spices.

By knowing the differences between Mexican and Mediterranean oregano, you’ll be able to make better decisions to elevate the flavors of your favorite dishes. 

We hope we’ve helped you better understand everything there is to know about this incredible herb. If you give it a try, we’d love to know how you use it and which type of oregano you prefer!

Note: We’ve updated this post to include new information and helpful tips.

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