For those who didn’t grow up eating Tex-Mex or Mexican food, “Mexican oregano”In a recipe, there may be a question. For example, “What is Mexican Oregano?” And “Can I just use any oregano instead?”That’s right, class.
The Mexican “oregano”, as it is commonly called, is a bit misleading. The Mediterranean oregano (oregano), which I call “real oregano”, is closely related to marjoram. Mexican oregano belongs to verbena, but it’s actually part of the mint family. Although they are not related, the two plant species share certain flavors and aromas, called terpenes. This makes them both taste and smell very similar.
They are more distinct when you taste and smell them together. Real oregano has a slightly sweet taste with bitter and peppery flavors that probably come from its roots in the mint family (pun intended). These secondary flavors may vary depending on which variety it is grown in and where it is located. For example, Turkish, Greek, or Italian oregano are all subspecies that can be used to make oregano. Even though they can have a cooling effect, some may not be as strong as real mint. Mexican oregano on the other hand is lighter with floral, citrus, and a hint if anise flavors, which are common to most herbs of the verbena famiy.
Both oregano varieties are actually native to different parts. Real oregano is from many temperate climates in Western and Southwest Europe, Asia, and most of the Mediterranean countries. Mexican oregano, however, comes from Mexico. Guatemala and parts of South America.
Mexican oregano is a common ingredient in my kitchen. I use it in Mexican meat dishes, such as Pollo al Carbon and Carnitas. It’s a key ingredient for almost all of my recipes for chili and beans. It’s essential for making my family’s delicious, but tedious mole. Even though each dish is unique, Mexican oregano works well with them all. Mexican oregano’s warm and pungent flavor is just one part of the Mexican Oregano experience. It also has floral, citrus, lime, licorice, and aniseed notes that complement any dish.
I personally don’t use Mediterranean oregano interchangeably, the same reason that I don’t trade thyme with oregano. They just don’t taste the same even though they look a lot alike. However, Mexican oregano can be skipped and real oregano is still better than nothing. Marjoram, which is a relative of citrus oregano works even better.
It’s easy to find Mexican oregano. It’s available in the US from grocery brands such as McCormick, Badia, most Mexican and Latin American online retailers, Penzey’s, The Spice House and Rancho Gordo. Grab a glass if you see one. Because Mexican oregano can be used in many different types of beans, it is best to buy dried.
This Pollo al Carbon is a…
These juicy, brightly grilled chicken breasts are great for wrapping in warm tortillas and adding fresh salsa verde.
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