Earthy, aromatic and pungent, oregano adds flavor to almost every dish. But because it’s so intense, you can overdo it. Whether you’re cooking with Mediterranean oregano, adding it to a spaghetti sauce, an Italian salad, chili or enchiladas, you can sprinkle on the herb with too heavy a hand. Not to worry, though – in most cases, a fix is available.
Scrape It Off
If you’ve added oregano just to the surface of a dish, such as on the outside of a roast chicken or halibut filet, you can scrape off some of the excess. You can completely remove the skin and its accompanying fat from roast chicken. To remove only the oregano, run a table knife along the food’s surface. If you accidentally scrape away all the oregano, simply re-season the food and sprinkle on less oregano than you did the first time around.
Strain It Out
It will take some doing, but you can remove too much oregano from soups and stews. This method only works for dried leaf oregano, not the powdered version of the herb. First, using a colander with large holes, strain the entire batch of soup or stew into a pot. Set aside the solids. Then, pour the strained liquid back into the original pot through a piece of cheesecloth that you’ve anchored to the sides of the pot with clothespins. Alternatively, place the cloth inside a sturdy metal or plastic strainer. Finally, add the solids back to the strained liquid and discard the cheesecloth and oregano.
The cheesecloth captures all the oregano as well as any other dried herbs, so taste the broth to see if it needs more oregano or other ingredients. The cheesecloth-straining process also works for salad dressings and meat or fish sauces, and, depending on the size of the holes in the fabric, you also may be able to strain with a fine-mesh bag, a large handkerchief, or a kitchen towel with a loose weave.
Dilute Its Effect
Adding one or more ingredients into a dish may help distract your taste buds from an overabundance of oregano. For instance, try adding more breadcrumbs or garlic powder to a meatball mixture. If you have some leftover ground meat, add that as well. Or, try adding a very flavorful element, such as lemon zest, into the meatball mix or into an Italian-inspired risotto that contains too much of the herb.
Rinse It Off
If you’ve added leaf oregano to a green salad along with some healthy vegetables, remove the oregano by placing the salad in a colander and rinsing it until the oregano flows out the holes. Take more care with an Italian bread salad or a Mediterranean fattoush salad with pita bread. For those salads, pick out the bread before rinsing the other ingredients. Make sure to re-dry all the salad ingredients before starting over again. This process also works for chunks of meat or poultry you’ve seasoned before adding to a cooking pot.
Enjoy Overly Seasoned Foods
In some cases, a fix for too much oregano is simply not possible. If you try to scrape oregano off a slice of pizza or from the cheesy sauce of an enchilada, you might just end up mangling the whole dish. since the herb is typically mixed in with the cheese and the sauce. If that’s the case, savor the oregano and vow to add the herb more sparingly next time.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.