Marmite and Vegemite are both spreads made from brewer's yeast that are 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. 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, Marmite is 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. Marmite is 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. Marmite has 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.
- Dense and salty in flavor, with slight sweetness
- Rich and dark brown in color
- Smooth in texture
The Australian Vegemite
Vegemite is from Australia (though it is 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 is also used as a filling for pastries.
Vegemite was 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.
- Thick and black in texture and color
- Added flavor from onion and celery extracts as well as spices
- Salty and slightly bitter
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's smell is slightly off-putting and the aftertaste is unappealing, but this is not a universal opinion.
“Yeast Extract.” FoodData Central, fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/375556/nutrients.