Marjoram, a sweet-tasting herb used extensively in Mediterranean cuisine, is most commonly used to season fish, poultry, and strong-tasting meats such as lamb and duck. Additionally, marjoram leaf may be used to season sauces for pizza, pasta and other dishes. If you are in the middle of a recipe and just discovered that you are out of marjoram, you can use many other herbs and spices as acceptable substitutes for marjoram.
An ideal substitute for marjoram, oregano is very similar in taste and texture but slightly stonger. Its flavor is not quite as floral or sweet as marjoram, so you should use roughly half of the amount of oregano that the recipe calls for in marjoram. If you use too much, it may overpower your dish. Note that oregano is strongest when used in its dry form; fresh oregano is more similar to marjoram in flavor.
Very similar to marjoram in taste and appearance, thyme is a good substitute for either marjoram or oregano. Although its taste is not as light and florid as the flavor of marjoram, thyme can give food a delicious, earthy flair. Use the same amount of thyme that you would use if you had marjoram on hand.
Known for its peppery flavor and its popularity in meat dishes, sage can be an effective substitute for marjoram when you are short on your favorite ingredients. Consider adding a trace amount of sugar to your sage to make its flavor more closely resemble marjoram. Note that large amounts of sage can overpower a dish, making it unintentionally “smoky” in flavor and aroma.
An acceptable substitute for marjoram, basil has a sweet and floral taste. Because of this, it can complement almost any other flavor used in a dish that calls for marjoram. Use the same amount of basil that the recipe calls for in marjoram, but note that it loses its flavor quickly and should be added at the very end of a recipe.