An Expert Weighs In On How To Add Vegemite To Everyday Dishes

Vegemite, the Aussie cousin to British Marmite, is known for its intensely savory flavor. It was originally developed in 1923 to use up excess brewer's yeast; but, after struggling to sell units at first, it became popular when the manufacturers highlighted its vitamin B content. It didn't hurt that they also ran a promotion where grocery stores gave it away with blocks of cheese. Since then, the ingredient has become so ubiquitous in Australian culture that it's been noted to be present in nine out of 10 homes and even gets a shout out in Men at Work's song "Down Under".

The salty spread is a well-known ingredient in Vegemite toast; for such a simple dish, it can be easy to mess up. The biggest mistake you can make, though, is slathering it on toast like it's Nutella. As Thomas Lim, Culinary Director & Partner of Aussie-based Wish You Were Here restaurant group, explained to Food Republic, you need to go light on the spread. Lim compares it to other sodium-rich ingredients that can overpower a dish if too much is added. "It's all about ratio, [so] use it sparingly like you would with sea salt or soy sauce," he says.

Instead, just spread a thin layer of Vegemite on your toast. Its intense flavor means that a little bit will go a very long way. Just ask Tom Hanks, who sparked good-natured Australian outrage when he posted a picture of toast that was absolutely laden with the stuff in 2020.

Boost a dish's umami notes with Vegemite

Spreading Vegemite on toast is just the beginning of what you can do with this versatile ingredient. Expert Thomas Lim highlights its ability to amp up ultra-savory dishes, telling Food Republic, "Vegemite is a great addition to your bolognese or any braised meat dish." This is because Vegemite is extremely rich in glutamates, the amino acid that triggers the taste of umami. Glutamates are naturally found in foods such as Parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and seaweed. By adding a pinch of Vegemite to a dish, you will make it taste more savory without throwing off the flavor. Lim also points to other braised meat dishes as a great place to add Vegemite. 

Another great use of the animal product-free paste is in vegetarian or vegan dishes that need to taste more meaty. Try mixing it into the patty of a black bean burger, for example, to mimic the umami punch of beef. You can also turn to it for ultra-rich mac and cheese. Similarly, the paste can add a kick to savory baked goods. You can even mix it with water to form a quick broth. Just keep in mind that standard Vegemite is not gluten-free because it is made from yeast extract. Fortunately, there is a version on the market made without gluten, so reach for that if you have a sensitivity.