Are the British and the Australian spreads actually the same? Marmite and Vegemite are both spreads made from brewer’s yeast; often used in place of butter on toast or as a sandwich filling. Given that they are both yeast extracts, surely they should taste the same, right? Wrong—apparently, there is a distinct difference between the two flavors. And whether you grew up with Marmite or Vegemite will probably determine which you like best.
The British Marmite
A British favorite, a rich, dark-brown, yeasty spread for hot toast, wafer biscuits; a sandwich filling, or even as a hot drink. Marmite lovers will tell you it is good on or in almost anything. The spread has a dense, salty flavor so it is used sparingly. Made from yeast extract (a by-product of the beer brewing industry) and is a rich source of the vitamin B complex.
Marmite was invented in the late 1800s by a German scientist named Justus von Liebig when he discovered that leftover brewers’ yeast could be concentrated and eaten. Marmite is so beloved that statistics say that 25 percent of Britons take Marmite with them when traveling out of the country. The brand also released a new spread, Marmite XO; it is an aged version of the original and said by some to taste more like the Marmite of their childhood.
The Australian Vegemite
Vegemite is from Australia (though it also available in the U.K.) and is also a thick, black yeast extract spread. The difference is that vegemite has added flavors—like vegetables and spices—as well as coloring and other additives. Like Marmite it is spread on sandwiches, crackers, and toast; but in Australia; Vegemite also used as a filling for pastries.
Vegemite created out of two necessities: one was the fact that World War I disrupted the import of Marmite to Australia, and the other was to find a use for leftover yeast that was being discarded by beer breweries. The creator of Vegemite, Cyril Percy Callister, blended the yeast with salt, onion, and celery extracts; giving it that “vegetable” characteristic.
The Taste Test
Despite the similarities in the two spreads, Marmite and Vegemite actually taste very different from each other. Whether you like one more than the other is a matter of personal taste. From an objective standpoint, each yeast spread has its own characteristics.
Marmite has a saltiness to it, which balances with a slight sweetness, and has a smooth and silky texture. (Marmite XO has a denser, richer flavor and is darker than the original. Its texture is thicker and stickier.)
Vegemite is salty as well, but also has a bitterness to it. The yeasty flavor comes through, as well as umami; (one of the five basic tastes that bring a bit of a meaty flavor to food). Because of its strong flavor, only a small amount is needed. Some might say that Vegemite smell slightly off-putting and the aftertaste is unappealing, but this is not a universal opinion.
Vegemite – An Australian Icon
The best way to describe good ol’ Vegemite is salty and malty, which makes it so unique and tasty. Think about it: what makes avo toast delicious? A bit of salt. What brings out the flavor in chocolate? A pinch of salt. What makes you feel better when you’re struck down with a stomach bug? Something salty. Vegemite a staple in most Australian households; a savory superstar if you will; yet few of us actually know what the heck this stuff is.
Vegemite is a food product you either love or hate. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground with this dark-brown savory spread invented in Australia in 1922. Most Aussies love it, making it the most iconic of Australian foods.
What’s in Vegemite?
Vegemite a thick paste used as a bread spread; made from yeast extract flavored with celery, onion, and other ingredients. It’s practically fat-free, sugar-free and vegetarian, but it is not gluten-free.
How Vegemite Tastes
Vegemite is an acquired taste and one that frankly defies description. If push comes to shove, it can best be described as having a salty taste with a subtle bitterness. The uninitiated should try it in small doses at first.
How It Is Eaten
Typically, it is lightly spread on toast or crackers with some butter. It also can be spread on toast with cheese slices or avocado or spread on toast to make Vegemite soldiers for Dippy Eggs and is sometimes used to flavor soup stocks or meat pies. And then there are those who just like to eat it by the spoonful directly from the jar.
While many New Zealanders like Vegemite, they tend to prefer Marmite which is similar in taste but slightly sweeter.
Dr. Cyril Callister, a chemist employed by the Fred Walker Company which later became Kraft Foods Limited; developed Vegemite which hit grocery shelves in 1923. But it wasn’t until 1939 when it caught on with the public; gaining official product endorsement from the British Medical Association. Doctors even started to prescribe it for its vitamin B content.
By 1942, Vegemite was so firmly fixed in Australian hearts and palates; it had to be rationed in order to meet the huge demand for it by the Armed Forces during World War II.
Kraft released the “Happy Little Vegemite” jingle on the radio in 1952; that featured children singing about the positive health benefits of eating Vegemite for “breakfast, lunch, and tea.” Two years later, the song made its way to television and continues; to be featured in Vegemite advertising to the present day.
- According to the Vegemite Company, their product is rich in the B vitamins (thiamin B1, riboflavin B2, niacin B3, and folate). A 5 g serving delivers 25% of your Recommended Daily Intake of riboflavin and niacin and 50% of the RDI of folate.
- Vegemite contains no artificial colors or flavors and is certified halal.
- Vegemite is not gluten-free.
- In a failed effort to increase sales, Vegemite briefly changed its name in 1928 to “Parwill.”
- For 80 years, the original recipe for Vegemite has remained almost unchanged.
- In 1999, Vegemite became available in plastic tubes, similar to toothpaste tubes, making it easier to transport.
- Vegemite introduced a reduced-salt version in 2014.
- In 2008, Kraft Foods produced 22 million jars of Vegemite at its Port Melbourne manufacturing facility.