Thyme delivers woody, lemony, and peppery notes, while the oregano has hints of bitterness and spiciness and is more pungent. Both are common in Mediterranean, Italian, and Middle Eastern cuisines. However, thyme is commonly associated with za’atar and bouquet garni, while oregano is great for tomato-based pasta and pizza sources.
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What is thyme?
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is an evergreen herb from the Lamiaceae or mint family. Apart from its minty flavor profile, it’s also lemony and has hints of pepper and sweetness.
Unlike other fresh herbs, it isn’t as aromatic. Rather it smells rather subtle and dry. There are also different varieties of thyme, but the most popular are the following:
|Common thyme||Also referred to as English or garden thyme, this thyme carries a clove and mint-like flavor|
|Lemon thyme||From the Mediterranean, lemon thyme has floral, earthy, and minty notes and a pronounced lemony flavor|
|Orange thyme||As its name implies, this thyme has a milder flavor and brings the zest of the orange into recipes|
|Za’atar thyme||Sharing the same name as the spice mix (which includes thyme, marjoram, and oregano), za’atar — the thyme — has a mix of mint and lavender and some woody notes|
dried vs. fresh thyme: comparison
Apart from the types of thyme in terms of variety, you can also find this perennial herb in two forms: dried and fresh.
In general, dried herbs are more potent than their fresh counterparts. But unlike other dried herbs, dried thyme doesn’t have that straw-like taste. For every 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, use 1 teaspoon of its dried version as a swap.
What is oregano?
Oregano (Origanum vulgare) also belongs to the mint family. Beyond its minty notes, it’s sweet, peppery, and pungent, leaving an astringent feel in the mouth. The flavor profile will vary depending on what type of oregano you have.
|Common oregano||Mediterranean or regular oregano is the one you’ll commonly find on Amazon and your favorite grocery store. It’s mildly sweet with bitter and peppery undertones|
|Greek oregano||If you’re looking to add that oregano flavor but looking for savory and earthy undertones, Greek oregano is the ingredient to use|
|Turkish oregano||Like the common oregano, it’s slightly bitter and peppery but sits on the more intense side|
|Italian oregano||This oregano is a staple Italian seasoning that is milder and has heavy camphor notes|
|Golden oregano||Golden oregano gives a subtle oregano flavor but is milder|
|Sweet marjoram||Note that all types of marjoram are considered oregano variations. But compared to other varieties, this has a more delicate flavor and has woodsy, citrusy, and floral notes|
|Ornamental oregano||The least oregano-tasting variety among its peers, it’s more used because of its visual value|
dried vs. fresh oregano: comparison
Fresh oregano offers a more refreshingly peppery taste. Dried oregano is still flavorful, but like thyme, you should replace it following a 3:1 ratio (1 tablespoon or 3 teaspoons of fresh oregano is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of its dried form).
What is the difference between oregano and thyme?
Do you have oregano and thyme in your pantry? Here are some must-know differences between the two.
Thyme and oregano belong to the same plant family of mint. While thyme is a member of the Thymus genus, oregano hails from the related Origanum genus. Both herbs are indigenous to the Mediterranean region, though oregano is also found in Eurasia (west and southwest).
These two herbs have green leaves that grow in clusters. However, thyme’s hue ranges from green to grayish green, while oregano leaves can be vibrant to olive green. Thyme leaves are also smaller and thinner than spade-shaped oregano.
When dried, thyme leaves become more grayish. On the other hand, oregano becomes darker and closer to brown.
Since they come from the same mint family, they share that minty flavor. However, thyme has a relatively gentle taste with sweet, peppery, and lemony notes. Oregano is the more pungent of the two. It’s also peppery but sharper and more bitter.
Thyme has a woody aroma, while oregano is spicy to smell.
However, remember that not all thymes are suitable for culinary purposes. The widely used varieties in the culinary world are common and lemon thyme. They are a usual ingredient in marinades and a flavor enhancer for broth-based soups.
It’s also a key ingredient of France’s bouquet garni and other herbs like parsley and bay leaf. In Middle Eastern cuisine, it’s an essential ingredient of za’atar, together with marjoram and oregano.
Oregano is one of the most popular herbs. Different varieties mean it has a wide array of applications — but the most common is in pizza and pasta sauces, especially tomato-based ones. You can also use oregano in olive oil-based dishes, Italian vinaigrettes, and as a marinade for beef, lamb, and chicken dishes.
Fresh oregano and thyme leaves can last up to 2 weeks when kept in a refrigerator. You can use their dried versions from 1 to 3 years.
You can use oregano and thyme as freshly harvested herbs. However, if you want to let them last longer and take advantage of the deeper flavors they give, get them in dried forms.
|Origin||Native to the Mediterranean region, belonging to the Thymus genus of the Lamiaceae or mint family||Originating from the Mediterranean region and Southwest and West Eurasia, comes from the Origanum genus of the Lamiaceae or mint family|
|Appearance||Leaves are tiny, thin, and green to grayish green in color||Leaves are spade-shaped and can be vibrant green or olive green|
|Flavor||Minty and peppery, with sweet and lemony notes||Minty and peppery but has bitter undertones and is more pungent|
|Application||Key component of za’atar and bouquet garni||Commonly used in tomato-based pasta and pizza sauces and olive-oil-based dishes|
|Shelf life||Up to 1 to 3 years when dried, up to 2 weeks when fresh and refrigerated||Up to 1 to 3 years when dried, up to 2 weeks when fresh and refrigerated|
|Form||Whole and dried||Whole and dried|
Best oregano recipe ideas
Oregano — not to be confused with Mexican oregano, which belongs to another plant family — is an herb used to elevate the flavor and aroma of salad dressings, dips, and cream and tomato-based sauces. It is an effective marinade for poultry and meat recipes such as grilled pork or lamb and cajun-baked chicken wings when combined with olive oil.
Top thyme recipe ideas
Thyme is a key component of za’atar and bouquet garni. You can create delectable culinary creations like za’atar fish and chips, lemony salmon, and spiced chickpeas with za’atar. Meanwhile, you can use bouquet garni to flavor soups, stews, and meat dishes. For example, French onion soup and beef bourguignon.
Do oregano and thyme go together?
Oregano and thyme go well together like other Mediterranean herbs and spices. When used together, they give an herby punch to recipes like spaghetti sauces, chicken stock, lamb and beef stews, herbed pork chops, and smoked turkey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is oregano the same as thyme?
Though they belong to the mint family, oregano isn’t the same as thyme. They are both minty, but the former is more pungent and bitter, while the latter has a medley of sweetness and pepper- and lemon-like notes.
Can I substitute thyme for oregano?
These herbs can use in place of one another — especially in Mediterranean and Italian cooking. Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting fresh oregano for fresh thyme or dried oregano for dried thyme and vice versa.
Which is healthier, thyme or oregano?
These herbs come with many vitamins and minerals. Regarding nutritional value, oregano has more calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, sodium, beta carotene, magnesium, protein, and dietary fiber than thyme. Thyme has more Vitamins B1 and B2. However, both are renowned for their medicinal purposes — thanks to the oxidants and essential oils they contain.
How do you identify oregano?
Oregano leaves look like spades and are vibrant to olive green. They also have a soft, fuzzy texture and are much larger than thyme. The oregano plant can grow up to 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide, with woody branches and leaves that grow in a cluster. They have pink, light purple, or white flowers.
How do you identify thyme?
Thyme leaves are tiny and thin, with a hue that can be green to grayish green. The plant is a small shrub that reaches 12 inches in height. It has slender and spreading branches — the stems are soft at the top and woody at the bottom. They bear flowers that are white or lilac.