The consumer preference for clean-label products is requiring the food industry to reformulate their products by replacing artificial additives with natural alternatives. Essential oils are natural antimicrobials isolated from plant sources that have the potential to combat many foodborne pathogens and spoilage organisms. This review begins by discussing the antimicrobial properties of essential oils, the relationships between their chemical structure and antimicrobial efficacy, and their potential limitations for commercial applications (such as strong flavor, volatility, and chemical instability). We then review the commonly used methods for screening the antimicrobial efficacy of essential oils and elucidating their mechanisms of action. Finally, potential applications of essential oils as antimicrobials in foods are reviewed and the major types of food-grade delivery systems available for improving their efficacy are discussed.