Oregano and Basil are two common herbs that are both part of the mint family. While they can get mixed up easily, they have very different uses.
Oregano and Basil are two common aromatic herbs that look similar but taste different. They are both leafy green plants that are used in cooking that originate from the Mediterranean area.
Originally Published On: February 17, 2023
Oregano: Origanum vulgare
Basil: Ocimum basilicum
Both Oregano and Basil are plants in the mint family, similar to Lavendar and Rosemary. Oregano is native to the Mediteranean area, but can be grown throughout the northern hemisphere. Basil originates from Central Africa and Southeast Asia. The both have large leaves which are the most flavorful part of the plant.
While both Oregano and Basil have flowers, they are very different. The flower of Oregano has a purple color to it. Basil flowers look almost more like weeds of white. Most of the time, if you are growing these for the herbs, and they start to get so tall they flower, that’s called “bolting”. We have personally found that once a plant “bolts” it loses a lot of its flavor.
While Oregano and Basil leaves look similar, they have very different tastes.
Oregano has a slightly woody taste. It’s warm and Earthy. Some have described oregano as having a bit of a bitter taste.
Basil also has a warm flavor. But, unlike oregano, it is sweeter in taste.
One of the biggest differences between oregano and basil comes in how they are used in a culinary sense.
Oregano is a staple herb when it comes to traditional Italian cuisine. It pairs extremely well with tomatoes and is often called the “pizza herb” for this reason. Spicy food also works really well with oregano. You’ll also find oregano in Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines as well.
The best things to cook with oregano include vegetables, meat, and fish that have been fried, roasted, or grilled. You can use the entire oregano stalk although most of the flavor is in the leaves. While it has the most potency fresh, dried basil works very well for recipes, too.
Basil is best eaten fresh and works well in recipes that are “fresh” in taste. Typically, basil is added at the very end of a recipe, often as a garnish, since cooking it can destroy the flavor. Unlike some herbs, the entirety of the basil plant can be eaten. The leaves are the most popular, but the flower and seeds are edible as well.
If needed, you can substitute oregano and basil for each other, although it will change the taste of the dish slightly. Basil is more sweet and oregano has a more earthy flavor. Just remember, basil can’t be added into the middle of cooking or it will lose its flavor if the leaves are fresh. When using dried basil, you can add it in earlier if needed.
We use a lot of oregano and basil in our house. I like both of them a lot and so does my family. We’ve had them both growing in our own herb garden many times in the last decade or so.
- Shrimp Scampi with Basil
- Thai Basil Pesto Flatbread
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Basil in Orzo Pasta
- Chicken Basil Cream
- Summer Basil Chicken and Shrimp Kabobs
You’ll find varying information about the nutritional value of oregano and basil. The nutritional value changes whether it’s dried or fresh, and can vary based on which species of the plant is used.
Dried oregano contains 2.7 calories per 1 g serving. This serving contains 0 g of fat, 0.1 g of protein and 0.7 g of carbohydrate. The latter is 0 g sugar and 0.4 g of dietary fiber, the rest is complex carbohydrate. Spices, dried, oregano contains 0 g of saturated fat and 0 mg of cholesterol per serving. 1 g of Spices, dried, oregano contains 0.85 mcg vitamin A, 0.0 mg vitamin C, 0.00 mcg vitamin D as well as 0.37 mg of iron, 15.97 mg of calcium, 13 mg of potassium.
Basil contains 1.6 calories per 0.7 g serving. This serving contains 0 g of fat, 0.2 g of protein and 0.3 g of carbohydrate. The latter is 0 g sugar and 0.3 g of dietary fiber, the rest is complex carbohydrate. Spices, dried, basil contains 0 g of saturated fat and 0 mg of cholesterol per serving. 0.7 g of Spices, dried, basil contains 0.26 mcg vitamin A, 0.0 mg vitamin C, 0.00 mcg vitamin D as well as 0.63 mg of iron, 15.68 mg of calcium, 18 mg of potassium.
Herbs have been used in medicine for thousands of years. You can find a plethora of information about how each has been used for a variety of ailments and medicinal uses all over the world.
Oregano has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It’s known to help with a variety of ailments such as skin sores, aching muscles, cramping, indigestion, diarrhea, asthma, and colds. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.
Basil has been used in the treatment of snakebites, colds, and nasal inflammation. It’s full of antioxidants and helps support a healthy liver. Basil has also been known to help protect against skin aging, reduce high blood sugar, and aid in overall cardiovascular health.
Grow Your Own
Depending on where you live, you may be able to grow oregano or basil (or both) in outdoor and indoor herb gardens. You’ll have to check the USDA zones to see what growing zone you are in and the growing season for these plants. For example, I live in a very warm climate so we have a longer growing season than many areas.
Oregano is a plant that likes to take over the space it’s in, so make sure it has plenty of room to grow.
Basil can be very finicky. You’ll do best to keep basil in a pot so you can bring it inside as soon as the weather cools down. It’s a summer plant and wants warm locations. You can grow it outdoors in the summer but will need to move it inside for the other seasons.
Both plants will want to be somewhere they receive full sun for optimal growth. In North America, this typically means you want them to be planted in an area that gets the afternoon sun on the south side of the home.
Oregano needs well-drained soil. It works well in raised beds that have a way for extra water to drain out the bottom.
Basil, on the other hand, prefers moist soil but it still needs to drain well. The best thing to do for basil is to add a layer of mulch to help keep moisture in the soil.
Make sure your oregano plants are in well-draining soil as they don’t want to be inundated with water. The best way to know when to water is when the soil is dry at the top two inches or so. You don’t want to drown the plant by overwatering.
Basil can be freely watered as long as the soil will drain as needed.
When you harvest both oregano and basil, make sure to never take away more than one-third of the plant. That could shock it and stunt the growth or kill the plant.
Basil needs to be pruned often, especially early in the sprouting stage. The more you prune it, the more it will promote good growth.
Both plants can be dried by using a drying rack, a dehumidifier, or by hanging upside down in bundles.
7 thoughts on “Oregano vs Basil”
I love both oregano and basil and have even tried growing them in my house, with mixed results. They make a great difference with foods, especially anything involving tomatoes or tomato sauce.
Though I love both of these herbs I’ve never truly known the delicate differences! This post was super helpful and will definitely help improve my cooking going forward!
Hhhhmmm…this is my first time reading of the Oregano herb. Basil is more common to me. Let me ask around for what it is, here in my country.
This is a never-ending discussion among seasonal foodies and newbies like me. Thanks for the details. Although I love both, Now I know more about their differences.
New home cooks like me can find it hard to differentiate the oregano and basil. But a great job on the detailed post.
I use basil a lot, but not oregano. Definitely different flavor profiles, and I don’t find much use for oregano. I suppose if I made marinara sauce it would be a good idea.
It’s good to know the differences and how to use both of those herbs to their fullest. Thanks for sharing this informative post with us.