What Is Vegemite and What Does It Taste Like?
You may know Vegemite from its starring role in a (very catchy) Men at Work song. But the Australian spread is so much more than that—here’s everything you need to know about the super salty, super healthy spread:
What Is Vegemite and What Is It Made Of?
Vegemite is a thick paste made from leftover brewers' yeast extract combined with vegetable and spice additives.
Australian chemist Dr. Cyril Callister invented the spread in 1922.
Callister was challenged by his employer, Fred Walker & Co., to create a food spread from the excess brewery yeast that was going to waste post-World War I. He used a scientific process called autolysis (or self-digestion) to break down the yeast cells, which formed a clear extract that he combined with salt, celery, and onion extracts.
Vegemite—which was named by Fred Walker’s daughter, Sheila—was not an immediate success. It wasn’t until the ‘40s, after numerous effective marketing campaigns and an endorsement by the British Medical Association, that the spread was used in nine out of 10 Australian homes.
What Does Vegemite Taste Like?
Many people who try Vegemite quickly learn that the beloved spread is an acquired taste. Americans, used to spreading heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter on toast, tend to overdo it at first. Australians, meanwhile, know that a thin layer of the salty and malty spread is more than enough to pack a very flavorful punch.
Brewers’ yeast, a byproduct of beer making, is rich in glutamates, which gives the Australian staple its signature meaty umami taste (read all about umami here).
Vegemite vs. Marmite
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Vegemite is the Australian version of the British Marmite, another dark and salty paste made from yeast extract.
Here’s how to tell the difference:
- While both spreads are quite flavorful, Vegemite is even more intense.
- Vegemite’s texture is similar to peanut butter, while Marmite is more syrupy (it could be compared to molasses).
- Marmite is slightly lighter in color than Vegemite.
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Vegemite lovers, rejoice: The Australian spread is extremely nutritious.
According to Healthline, one serving (one teaspoon) of Vegemite has:
- Calories: 11
- Protein: 1.3 grams
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbs: Less than 1 gram
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 50% of the RDI (recommended daily intake)
- Vitamin B9 (folate): 50% of the RDI
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 25% of the RDI
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 25% of the RDI
- Sodium: 7% of the RDI
Incorporating Vegemite into your diet is a super easy and tasty way to up your vitamin B intake. This is important, as low levels of vitamin B have been linked to poor brain function, nerve damage, fatigue, anxiety, and heart disease.
Is Vegemite Gluten-Free?
No. Vegemite is made from yeast grown on barley and wheat, so it is not gluten-free.
Is Vegemite Vegan or Vegetarian?
Yes. Vegemite is made without animal products, so it is suitable for vegan or vegetarian diets.
Where to Buy Vegemite
Depending on where you live in the United States, Vegemite may be available in the international section of your local grocery store.
No luck? You’ll almost certainly find it on the shelves at World Market, a national retailer that specializes in imported home goods and foods (in fact, you can order a jar from WorldMarket.com for only $8.99).
Buy it! World Market, $8.99
Of course, if you don’t live near a World Market store and you need Vegemite fast, you can always select two-day shipping from Amazon Prime.
According to the manufacturer, Vegemite “is a shelf stable product and once opened can be stored in the cupboard or pantry right up until the best before date.”
How to Use Vegemite
One of the most common ways to use Vegemite is to spread a thin layer on buttered toast.
It’s also frequently used (sparingly) as an ingredient in pastas, soups, and stews that need an extra dose of umami-rich flavor.
Some creative bakers even incorporate the spread into chocolate desserts.