Greek Oregano vs Italian Oregano

Wondering about the difference between Greek and Italian oregano?  The first thing you need to know that in the battle of Greek Oregano vs Italian Oregano, they’re both winners! And you will be too, once you learn about the differences in oreganos.

Differences between Greek and Italian oregano photograph

Greek Oregano vs Italian

Oregano is a member of the prolific mint family and both Greek and Italian oregano share many common characteristics with their mint cousins. Like all mints, oreganos have a strong strong aroma and a distinct flavor that can dominate if not carefully balanced. Greek oregano and Italian oregano are more alike than not but they’re NOT interchangeable, in either the garden or the kitchen.



Visual differences between Greek and Italian Oregano

If you’re trying to tell the two apart, the quickest way to do so is to look at the leaves. Greek oregano has larger leaves with slightly more prominent veins. In general, Greek oregano will be larger and can be slightly darker in color.

Greek oregano plants are usually larger – both in height and spread. Italian oregano plants a typically smaller and grow in more of a clump. When oregano plants are very young, it’s harder to tell them apart visually. But as they grow, Greek oregano will quickly spread and put on height.

How to tell Greek and Italian Oregano apart

While the bigger leaves are a great indicator, expect Greek oregano to have a thicker stem.

The aroma is also a dead giveaway. Greek oregano has a stronger, more pungent aroma. If you’re familiar with any member of the mint family, you already know what I mean – they share an almost skunky, musky scent. While Italian oregano does have the signature mint family perfume, it’s much more subtle and you have to crush the leaves to release it.



photo of Italian oregano

Italian Oregano

Photo of greek oregano

Greek Oregano

What about flavor? Do Greek oregano and Italian oregano taste different?

Yes they do! The same concentration of flavinoids that gives Greek oregano a more pungent aroma also give it a distinctly different flavor. Expect Greek oregano to have a deeper  flavor with heavy notes of camphor. It stands out strongly, even in dishes with other strong flavors. Italian oregano has a lighter flavor that’s more grassy than camphor. It almost has light citrus notes and a more complex overall flavor.

Greek Oregano vs Italian Oregano in the kitchen

In the US, oregano is grown mostly for use in the kitchen, though it does have some wonderful medicinal properties. Here are some of the differences between Greek and Italian oregano.

Greek Oregano Uses

The majority of recipes that call for ‘oregano’ mean Greek oregano. Even classic Italian dishes generally rely on the bold flavor of Greek oregano.

Greek oregano is, of course, essential to Greek salad dressing.

Most recipes will specify the variety of oregano but if it just says ‘oregano’, you can likely assume they mean Greek oregano.

Italian Oregano Uses

Use Italian oregano if you don’t have Greek. The flavors are similar though not interchangeable but Italian oregano will still bring the basic ‘oregano note’ to the dish.

I often choose Italian oregano if I’m adding the herbs to a dish where they won’t be cooked. The lighter flavor blends in better without dominating. I sometimes use it in tomato sauce if I want to keep the overall flavor of the sauce lighter and sweeter.

Italian oregano is lovely when chopped finely and sprinkled over grilled chicken or fish or over a lightly seasoned pasta dish. I also like it as part of a vinaigrette salad dressing if I want to have a hint of oregano flavor but don’t want the oregano to steal the show.

If you enjoy the general flavor of oregano but prefer it to be toned down, try subbing Italian oregano or doing a mixture of both.

Can you use Greek and Italian oregano together?

Absolutely! In fact, my Herby Couscous Recipe includes both Greek and Italian oregano.

fresh herbs for couscous

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Resources to help you can grow, use and preserve herbs