I first heard of Vegemite from the 1981 song “Down Under” by Men at Work: “He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”
The song is about an Australian man traveling the world, proud of where he comes from, and how he interacts with the people he comes across who are interested in Australia.
Not surprisingly then, Vegemite comes from Australia; Marmite is originally from Britain.
Interestingly, most of the information I came across on the two food items was primarily by average folk who conducted an unscientific-but-still-valid taste test.
At first glance, it appears that Vegemite and Marmite would be extremely similar – almost identical, even. But from those who have tried it, there is a distinct, if hard to describe, difference between the two.
- Are yeast extracts.
- Are byproducts of beer-making.
- Are acquired tastes.
- Are used as a spreads on bread or toast.
- Fall under the “less is more” category of foods.
Author of the blog Hungry In Houston explains his parents had been living in Australia for over a decade, prompting him to try Vegemite. Upon only being able to find Marmite in Houston, he asked people if he could try Marmite and get the same experience. Thus, a “turf war began.”
In my research, I found most people find both yeast extract spreads to be incredibly salty, with a harsh, indescribable flavor – although they disagreed on which was more salty, and which was more, well, unpleasant.
Hungry in Houston says he finally found a correlation to relate the unusual taste of Vegemite and Marmite:
“The robustness of these can be likened to an American IPA. IPA is an Indian pale ale that has a very robust flavor. If you were to take a double IPA and reduce that to the consistency of Philadelphia cream cheese, and add a bunch of salt, you might get close to what these two flavors are all about.”
That description makes sense, as both products are from brewers’ leftover yeast extract during the beer production process.
- Was founded in Australia in the early 1920s.
- Has a thicker texture than Marmite.
- Has artificial coloring, flavoring, and additives that Marmite doesn’t.
- Contains: yeast extract, salt, malt extract, color (caramel), vegetable flavors, selection of vitamins.
Taste-testers comments on Vegemite:
- Almost a fish sauce.
- Tastes like a thick soy sauce.
- Tastes like fake meat.
- Savory in a bad way.
- Was discovered in Britain in the 1800s by German scientists.
- Has a smoother texture than Vegemite.
- Is a strong source of vitamin B complex.
- Contains: yeast extract, salt, vegetable extract, niacin, thiamin, spice extracts, ribolavin, folic acid, celery extract, vitamin B12.
Taste-testers comments on Marmite:
- This is not food.
- Tastes like molasses gone bad.
- Slightly milder than Vegemite.
- Meaty-umami and smoky flavor.
- Saltiness balanced with sweetness.
Hungry in Houston prefers Vegemite if he had to pick a favorite, because “it’s more balanced and falls from the palate more quickly, allowing you to savor the taste instead of being kicked in the face constantly like Marmite.”
Chow.com user “Coolbean98” prefers Marmite after his (or her?) blind taste test. It had a “more rounded flavor than Vegemite, and [was] pleasantly reminiscent of beef bouillon.”
Indeed, as far as preference goes, it’s right down the middle. Although it appears here that favoritism is based on a which-one-is-the-lesser-evil sort of mentality, there are hardcore fans out there who swear by these products. If you’re one of them, let us know why!
As far the actual difference between the two: Vegemite is thicker, and has added flavorings. Marmite is smoother and more nutritious.