Oregano vs. Mexican Oregano…What’s The Difference Anyway?
So what’s the real difference between oregano and Mexican oregano? And who decided one was the regular oregano and one was Mexican oregano. There’s plenty of stories floating around about this but the truth is no one really knows for sure. Hopefully, in this blog, we can fill in the gaps a little for you.
To start off, it’s important you know that these spices share a name, and pretty much nothing else. Regular oregano is an Italian and Mediterranean spice with minty undertones. In America, it’s referred to simply as oregano with no country specification because it’s more commonly used on foods that are considered “American.” It pairs well with grilled meats and stews, but that’s not the only thing you’ll find it in. It’s also found in pasta sauces and strongly flavored Italian cuisine. If it were to be prefaced with geography it would be Mediterranean because it grows throughout Italy, Spain, Turkey, Egypt, and Morocco.
The two are also different in appearance. If the two were sandpaper, Mexican oregano would be like 80 grit and oregano would be like 200 grit. Notice the difference below. I often use my spice grinder with Mexican oregano when I use it in things like my homemade enchilada sauce, etc.
Despite its earthy flavor and savory profile, oregano is actually a type of mint. Much like wine, or woods used for smoking, depending on the region it’s grown in, it has a slightly different taste. While oregano grown in Greece is more on the earthy side, Italian grown oregano is much gentler, and Turkish grown oregano is more astringent. Depending on even the patch of the field it’s grown in, the oregano may be more bitter, sweet, or spicy.
Mexican oregano is very different. First, in Mexico, it’s just called oregano, and what Americans refer to as oregano is called Mediterranean oregano. Although the herb is native to Mexico it also grows throughout Central and South America. It also goes by the name Puerto Rican oregano and is commonly found in Tex-Mex chili, tacos, salsa, and most Latin American dishes.
Mexican oregano has similar undertones or base flavor as Mediterranean oregano but that’s where the flavor similarities stop. You’ll find it to have a mild licorice taste in addition to a vague citrus flavor. It is generally used in conjunction with other Mexican spices like cumin and chili peppers.
Are Oregano and Mexican Oregano Different?
The genetic makeups of the two are also different. Mediterranean oregano is made from a combination of Spanish thyme and the herb oregano Vulgare, also known as wild marjoram.
Mexican oregano is harvested from the Lippa graveolens plant and gets its citrus notes from the plant as well. The Lippa being a descendant of the lemon verbena plant.
Oregano itself was originally Greek before different types of the herb began to grow. It was originally used medicinally because similar to thyme, it has thymol and carvacrol which loosen phlegm in the lungs. In other words, Greek oregano was today’s cough drops.