Mexican oregano is a uniquely-flavored herb you need to taste to understand. Find out what it is, how it's different from other oregano varieties, and everything in between!
Table of Contents
📖 What is Mexican oregano?
If you haven't had much exposure to Mexican or Tex-Mex cooking, seeing Mexican oregano in the ingredient list might lead to some confusion.
Don't worry, you're not going crazy!
Mexican oregano comes from the plant species Lippia graveolens, which is a member of the Verbenaceae family.
This plant is native to Mexico, the Southern United States, and some areas in Central America.
Mexican oregano vs Mediterranean oregano
The term "Mexican oregano" is a bit of a misnomer since it's actually unrelated to Mediterranean oregano (the variety you're probably familiar with).
While Mexican oregano is part of the Verbenaceae family, Mediterranean oregano is part of the mint family (aka Lamiaceae). In normal terms, they are two completely different herbs that share the same "oregano" moniker.
Even though they are classified separately, the two herbs do share a few similar terpenes (flavor and aroma compounds). But, you'll notice more differences than similarities once you try them side-by-side.
🍴 Flavor profile
Mexican oregano carries a slight anise flavor with underlying notes of 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 complements other spices like cumin and chiles extremely well.
🍎 Health facts
As with most herbs, Mexican oregano contains a plethora of vitamins and nutrients. A few of these compounds include:
- Flavonoids: These antioxidants are important to 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 in Mexican oregano.
In addition to being a seasoning, this herb is used in traditional Mexican medicine to treat stomach ailments and colds. It's typically consumed in tea form.
🔪 How to use it
It is sold in different grinds from whole leaves to completely ground. Which one you choose will depend on your needs and preferences, but one isn't better than the other.
If you can't find the powder form, it can be ground in a spice grinder, small blender, or with your hands.
📋 Recipes 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!):
- Black bean soup
- Caldo de albóndigas
- Pozole verde
- Tortas ahogadas
- Machaca con huevo
- Quesabirria tacos
- Mexican chorizo
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 shelflife.
💰 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.
With a hard flavor profile to emulate, there are two good substitutions we think would be worthy to replace Mexican oregano with:
- 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.
- Oregano: If you can't find marjoram, equal amounts of Mediterranean oregano will be your next best choice. The citrusy flavors are not as prominant, so try adding coriander or even a squeeze of lime to make up for it.
Mexican oregano is sometimes referred to as Mexican marjoram or Mexican wild sage.
Most Mexican spices pair extremely well with Mexican oregano such as cumin, cilantro, paprika, cloves, or chiles.
No, these two herbs are unrelated with different flavor profiles.