Marjoram is popular addition to many European dishes including sauces for fish and even salads. It is used in many German sausages and in Italian tomato-based sauces. Likewise, it is important to keep some on hand at all times if you are a fan of French cooking. Marjoram is versatile and pairs well with most other herbs and spices for flavoring both meat and vegetables. The good news is that if you run out of marjoram or cannot find it at your local grocery store, all is not lost; there several marjoram alternatives from which to choose.
Your best bet: Oregano
Like marjoram, oregano belongs to the mint family and it is used in many of the same dishes as the two herbs complement each other very well. Fresh oregano is best though dried is a good substitute as well.
Note that both fresh and dried oregano are considerably stronger than marjoram, with dried oregano being the most potent of the three. The similarity is such that some cooks actually consider marjoram a milder version of oregano. When using fresh oregano as a marjoram substitute, use about half of what the recipe requires for marjoram. With dried oregano, use a third.
A decent second choice: Thyme
Thyme is another traditional herb used in European cuisines, especially in the Mediterranean region. Both are ingredients of the herbes de Provence herb blend. Like marjoram and oregano, thyme is a part of the mint family and can be used in dried or fresh form. Thyme is just as versatile as marjoram and its flavor is equally mild. You can use it in both meat and vegetable dishes.
There are more than a hundred different varieties of thyme. The types on which you should focus when replacing marjoram are the French and English varieties. You can use thyme in exactly the amount that your recipe requires for marjoram.
In a pinch: Sage
In the US, sage is widely known as one of the main ingredients in the stuffing for Thanksgiving turkey. It has many more applications and is another great replacement for marjoram.
Like the other herbs listed above, it is a member of the mint family and is thus a relative of marjoram. It has many of the same pine and citrus notes that marjoram provides. Like thyme and oregano, it is widely used in Mediterranean cooking. It is a popular flavoring for meat, potato and pasta dishes. Use the same amount of sage that your recipe requires for marjoram.
Your other options include sweet basil, which is also a member of the mint family. It is highly aromatic and you can use it in many of the same dishes that require marjoram.
Za’atar is yet another option that will provide many of the same flavors. This Middle Eastern spice mix typically contains herbs such as thyme and savory along with sesame seeds and sumac. It can provide the herbal flavor that you would otherwise get from marjoram.
Poultry seasoning is yet another option that can work since most blends contain sage, thyme and marjoram.