The Bold Herb You Should Be Pairing With Onions

Onions are a foundational ingredient in global cuisine. They offer a complex combination of sugars and aromatics that are as important to French coq au vin as they are to Indian onion chutney. Onions are pivotal to the construction of good stocks, broths, and sauces. But when they become the center of the dish, their intense flavor needs to be balanced by something equally bold. For that, there is no better herb for this than oregano.

Oregano, an herb in the mint family, is prized for its earthy, peppery bite, and sweet, almost licorice-like undertones. It's one of the most popular cooking herbs in the entire world, right up there with the likes of tarragon, basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. There are multiple varieties of oregano, some strong and others subtle, but all with the same herbaceous flavor notes. Though most commonly purchased dry, fresh oregano can be bought or very easily grown as part of your herb garden.

The strength of flavor in both onions and oregano performs a unique balancing act. They are each able to soften the flavor of the other, while still maintaining their own individual characteristics. This makes for a perfect pairing, one whose applications are varied, and extremely tasty.

Adding oregano to onion-forward dishes

Though onions and oregano make a handsome couple, you don't want to overdo it on the oregano. Too much will easily overpower the onions, which should act as the star of the dish. With caramelized onions, for instance, a flourish of oregano pares down the intense, savory sweetness of the onions to a more manageable level. A little oregano can add great subtlety and earthiness, working in everything from a caramelized onion tart to an onion garnish on steaks.

Liver and onions could also do with a dash of oregano. Though not a super popular dish in the United States, liver, particularly beef liver, can be both bold and delicate at the same time. Much like the balance between oregano and onions, liver and onions balance out the other bold flavors, bringing out the sweeter, more tender side of each. Oregano provides the liver and onions with a peppery bite while managing not to be overpowering. 

More popular meat sources, like beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and duck, are all great options to pair with onions and oregano. Even adding a touch of oregano to savory onion preserves can be the difference between good and fantastic. Anytime you're using onions for anything, especially if they are going to be front and center, add a touch of oregano for added fragrance and flavor. You won't be disappointed.