Vegemite Is The Secret Ingredient For Ultra Rich Mac And Cheese

Mac and cheese is one of the world's most popular comfort foods. This combination of chewy pasta and creamy, salty cheese sauce is so successful that we purchase one million boxes of Kraft mac and cheese every single day. This versatile dish, which can be served as a main course or as a side, is a staple of both home kitchens and restaurant menus. Whether dressed up with pieces of lobster or eaten plain with a squirt of your favorite hot sauce, mac and cheese will never fail to satisfy both body and soul. 

However, like many simple recipes, there are always means to improve the humble mac and cheese, from adding different varieties of cheeses to the mix to incorporating additional ingredients, like proteins and vegetables. But let's think outside the (mac and cheese) box for a moment. By using a little bit of Vegemite, a condiment that is nearly synonymous with Australia, you can add more umami and deliciousness to your mac and cheese.

Vegemite with mac and cheese

Vegemite is a thick, deep-brown spread made from yeast extract — a by-product of beer production — combined with vegetables and spices. This uniquely Australian culinary invention was created during the First World War when shipments of Marmite, a similar spread made in Britain, became scarce. Although it struggled to gain traction in the market when Marmite imports resumed, a fortuitous partnership with Kraft brought additional capital. This allowed the company to aggressively market the product by giving away Vegemite with the purchase of Kraft cheese. Eventually, Vegemite became the preferred yeast spread for Australians, who are said to carry some when they travel just in case they cannot find it overseas.

The taste of Vegemite is said to be very salty and full of umami, but slightly bitter. It is commonly spread on buttered toast, but it can also be used as a secret ingredient to boost flavor, similar to other glutamate-rich substances (think soy or fish sauce). If you are making béchamel for your mac and cheese, add some Vegemite to your sauce just before you add the cheese and pasta for an umami enhancement. If you are using a boxed mix, add a small spoonful of Vegemite just before serving and combine well for the same effect. No matter which method you choose, start with a tiny amount, since Vegemite is very strong and will overwhelm a dish if not used sparingly.

Good and good for you too

With its deep umami flavors, Vegemite can be used in many places where you wish to provide a flavor bump when cooking. Since it is very concentrated by nature, you only need a small amount to season sauces, gravies, stews, and soups. Vegemite can also be used as part of a coating for roasted vegetables — especially root vegetables, such as carrots. It can also add extra flavor to sauces, grilled cheese, and even pizzas. After mixing a little in your mac and cheese, you may notice that its savory notes pair very well with cheese specifically. In fact, Vegemite even makes a Vegemite-cheese spread that's perfect for sandwiches.

Another reason to use Vegemite to season your food is its high nutritional value. Although high in sodium, Vegemite is a rich source of many types of Vitamin B, including Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), and Folate (Vitamin B9). According to WebMD, it is so rich in Vitamin B that doctors have prescribed the spread as a dietary supplement since a single teaspoon of Vegemite will provide 25-50% of the daily recommended intake of the micro-nutrient.