Vegemite – An American Perspective of an Australian Specialty

Almost immediately upon arriving in Australia, I set about to locate and experience a local specialty called Vegemite. Beloved by Australians, regarded with suspicion by the uninitiated, and generally rejected by the rare few non-Aussies who dare to taste it, I knew I must experience this native treat.

This Australian food came to my attention during a recent fad in the travel blogging community. Aussie blogger Chris Richardson brought this purely Australian delicacy into the international spotlight when he mailed small packets of the native bread spread to people around the globe who had agreed to take “The Vegemite Challenge” by sampling it and blogging about their reactions.

I was not gifted Vegemite because I didn’t ask. I was able to easily locate the treat on my own, though, once I landed in Australia. On my second shopping trip I sought out the Vegemite section at the local Woolworth’s grocery chain and discovered jars of many sizes lining the shelves. The original flavor immediately had to compete for my attention with the new Vegemite Cheesybite. The catchy name and my love of cheese caused me to hold a jar of this brownish substance in my hand for quite a while. This potentially could be delectable, I thought. Or, I might have to spit it out. Ultimately, though, I set that jar back on the shelf and elected to purchase the original Vegemite so I could learn for absolute certain what it is like in its purest form. Not sure just how kindly I would take to the Vegemite taste, I bought not a jar but a smaller tube.

Holding a yellow tube of Vegemite

These are the ingredients in Vegemite, as quoted from my tube:

Yeast extract (from yeast grown on barley)
Salt (mineral salt)
Salt (500)
Malt extract (from barley)
Color (150c)
Flavors
Niacin
Thiamine
Riboflavin
Folate

All of these we are familiar with. Mix them together in just the right manner, and you’ve got a pot full of Vegemite.

Bloggers Candice Walsh and Jeannie Marks filmed videos of their Vegemite Challenge. Each had a quite strong and very distinct reaction to its unique flavor. I did not shoot a video because:

1) I didn’t have anyone to film it
2) I have a black eye
3) I’d rather write about it

I believe Vegemite has created a major strike against itself by proclaiming prominently on the label “Concentrated Yeast Extract.” This tidbit, while I’m sure true, would probably best be hidden in fine print on the back. Another downside to Vegemite is its color – black. Since this is popularly eaten on toast and most of us are accustomed to spreading rainbow colors of red, purple and yellow on our toasted bread, slathering on the color black is a real departure and somewhat of a turnoff. I have not yet extracted this Australian treat from a jar, but I can report that I found it harbored another unappealing aspect when I opened my tube and began to squirt. A thick black goo slowly emerged from the hole. Not an appetizing sight in any culture, surely.

Squeezing Vegemite onto toast

However, once the string of paste finished plopping onto my toast and I spread it around a little with a knife, the situation began looking up. I smelled the spread on the bread. Salt. I tentatively crunched into the toast. More salt. I finished eating my first bite and waited several seconds. Still salt. I can’t say it has a salty flavor or it tastes really salty. To my palate, Vegemite basically is black, goo-shaped salt.

I have fond feelings toward and positive thoughts about Vegemite. I cannot say I love it, although I genuinely like it. I even ate another piece of Vegemite toast as a snack a couple of nights after my first. More of this Australian treat is in my future, I am positive. I may even buy a small jar of the new Vegemite Cheesybite. Perhaps I’ll be one of the first non-Australians to taste the new flavor of this purely Aussie treat.

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52 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Whoa..I just connected the dots. This is what they are talking about in that song with the phrase… “I come from the land down under” some 80′s song. very catchy. But I always wondered what Vegemite sandwich was! Now, thanks to the blog, my question has been answered. :)

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    I remember that song! Yes, a Vegemite sandwich is a black salt goo sandwich.

    [Reply]

    Amelia Coxsen Reply:

    Hah, vegemite is awesome, but I noticed you had no butter on your toast in the picture, and just wanted to let you know it tastes better with butter otherwise it’s just dry. Take this from and Aussie :)

    [Reply]

  2. [...] link: Vegemite – An American Perspective of an Australian Specialty … Another Travel TipsOnline Travel Sites | 25 Money Saving WebsitesTravel Wallpaper – July 2009 [...]

  3. Rebecca says:

    Sabina, no aussies I know eat vegemite from a tube – that’s just wrong! I hope you’ll give it another go :)

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    But I liked it!

    [Reply]

  4. Mike says:

    Man, I’d have to cover the stuff up with peanut butter, or something.

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Or sugar, to ease up on the salt taste.

    [Reply]

    Aiden Reply:

    Erk. As an Australian I feel I should warn you, this does not work terribly well for many people. Neither does honey or peanut butter. (Although if it does work, meh. Different taste buds.)

    I’ve never tried the cheese variant..! Must look out for that.

    [Reply]

  5. Hermitbiker says:

    …. I am waiting for Mick to get back to me on this “delicacy”…. I have my assumptions…. I better wait for my Aussie friend to give me the “heads up” before I try it !! LMFAO !!

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Really, go ahead. Try it.

    [Reply]

  6. Hermitbiker says:

    …. lmao…. sounds like a “set-up” to me, waiting on Mick to say “yea or nea” on this subject !! :-)

    [Reply]

  7. Gross… I think Vegemite is just wrong… I don’t understand it… it makes me sad just thinking about it. Good post though haha
    Brendan van Son recently posted..The Photo Vulture- 5 Steps to Avoid Becoming a Bird of PreyMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    It’s really not that bad. I had more for breakfast this morning.

    [Reply]

  8. Right on! Another point for Vegemite. Or should we consider this a half point? It’s the goo. If they just packaged it in a more appealing manner… As for the black eye, hope you won the fight! :)
    Nomadic Chick recently posted..Worst Washroom of The WeekMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Yep, I won!

    [Reply]

  9. Michael says:

    I don’t know how you were able to do it! It tasted horrible! I don’t think any other foods have ever made me want to puke the way vegemite did. Sorry Oz!
    Michael recently posted..Southeast Asia Bucket IngredientsMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Well, I like salt, so to me it wasn’t sooo bad.

    [Reply]

  10. Ana says:

    Great post! I’ve never tried Vegemite but if it’s anything like Marmite, then I’m sure I’ll love it. Try smearing some on pieces of buttered bread, add Cheddar cheese and toast the sandwich. Delish!
    Ana recently posted..Photo Friday- Mar del Plata ArgentinaMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Oh, that does sound delicious! I will try it.

    [Reply]

  11. While real Vegemite comes from a jar where you can stick your knife in and get a big old scoop of it to spread across your toast I’m glad you somewhat enjoyed it.

    Don’t forget on the jar it also advertises the fact it’s the richest sources of vitamin B in the world.

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    But this was authentic Australian-made Vegemite in a tube. I really did somewhat enjoy it.

    [Reply]

    Damion Reply:

    Yes , the stuff in the tube is a lot different texture than the jar , becaue it has to be squeezed, but vegemite texture is usually thicker hehe and it never goes off , just ignore the expiry , and i also a nice way to get rid of the hangover …..

    Yes i am australian, i also dont mind cheesybite, nice texture you can eithen use for a buscuit dip or for anything else hehe .

    [Reply]

  12. Ellen says:

    There’s a long standing war between us Brits and the Aussies over Vegemite – because we have Marmite instead and its way better. Aussies don’t agree. I find Vegemite has a weird aftertaste that marmite doesn’t. Marmite is definitely a british institution we are very proud of. I often carry a jar with me when going abroad as you just can’t get it anywhere else.
    I actually buy ‘yeast extract’ which is exactly the same but cheaper. Best on hot toast or soft white bread with loads of margarine. Or with ready salted crisps or peanut butter. Yum
    - Ellen UK

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Oh, I must try Marmite. I can’t believe yeast is such a popular treat.

    [Reply]

  13. It was interesting to read your perspective on our beloved breakfast spread. As an Aussie I was raised on Weetbix and vegemite. I gave up the weetbix years ago but still regularly enjoy vegemite on toast.

    I am surprised that it is not a hit with Japanese – it tastes very much like Miso soup if you make a cup of tea with it.

    Yes, that is correct, you can do much more with Vegemite than spread it on your toast. It can be moxed with many things and one combination I am particularly fond of is Cheese and Vegemite. I haven’t bothered with the premixed stuff that you referred to, just sliced cheese on top of vegemite on toast. Anotehr great combo is Vegemite and boiled eggs…or any type of eggs for that matter.

    Here is another favourite: get really fresh white bread, liberally spread some butter then some vegemite. Cut off the crusts and squash the bread flat. Then roll it up and squash it flat once more and eat. Yum!

    On Aussie songs, you might also like to check out the vegemite referrence in ‘Australiana’ by Austentatious. You probably won’t get most of the referrences but worth a look. It stayed at number one in the Australian music charts for many weeks running in the 80s.

    Bon appetit! Or perhaps I should say, “Grubs up!”
    Vincent Brown recently posted..Update on the Father &amp Son Tomb DiscoveryMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Vincent, thank you so much for all these tips on how to eat Vegemite and enjoy. I’ve heard so much about topping it with cheese, I am definitely going to try that – probably today. No wonder they have started selling cheesy Vegemite. And I might just try it with eggs too.

    [Reply]

  14. Amanda says:

    Yuck. I tried Vegemite when I was in New Zealand. I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll ever be keeping it stocked in my home to put it on toast – or anything else. It’s definitely an acquired taste. But, it was fun to convince my unsuspecting American friends to try it when I came home…
    Amanda recently posted..Life behind China’s Great FirewallMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Hi, Amanda. I can see how it would be an acquired taste. But that rich salty flavor – it’s just so familiar.

    [Reply]

  15. Dina says:

    I tried vegemite the first time more than 10 years ago, when an Australian exchange student that we hosted in our house for several months introduced it to me. I to be honest don’t remember the taste exactly anymore, but I remember that it was really strong and I was totally repelled by it. It was so bad, until now I still haven’t given the second try! Good that you like it :) A non-Aussie friend of mine like the cheesybite, but not vegemite.
    Dina recently posted..An awe-inspiring day trip from Barcelona- the Monastery of MontserratMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    It is really, really strong. It now seems odd to me that most people are repelled by it. I continue to eat it. The Cheesybite sounds pretty good. Maybe that will be next.

    [Reply]

  16. Marta says:

    Hi! I come from Spain and I just don’t have the Vegemite/Marmite gene, I can’t appreciate that. It’s just too salty and weird for me! Anyway, my friends from Australia are crazy in love with Vegemite and even miss it when they’re abroad. :)
    Marta recently posted..Spain beyond sangríaMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Ha – “the Vegemite/Marmite gene”! Funny! It is, indeed, absolutely salty and weird. Your friends should stick a tube of it in their luggage and bring it along.

    [Reply]

  17. Jade says:

    …..coming from a true blue Aussie i have to say vegemite is thr best spread once you actually get used to it ! i applaud you for atleast trying it :)

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Hi Jade, I really liked it, actually. I almost emptied the whole tube while I was in Australia!

    [Reply]

  18. wowangel says:

    I was had been curious about the taste forever, so one day I saw some vegemite on the shelf, figured “why not” and picked it up. I am always up for “new” tastes, and food experiments.

    Everyone mentions the salty taste, but very few mention the savory (umami) taste. To me is was more like licking a beef bullion cube (yes, I have) than anything else I have tasted.

    So, with that first small taste in mind, I could easily approach it from a savory standpoint, rather that the sweets that most other americans prefer to slather on their toast/biscuits.

    I prefer savory/umami flavors to sweet so I instantly fell in love. I started with basic toast, buttered with light vegemite; then toast soldiers with egg; then sandwich with cheese and avocado.

    Next I’m thinking of adding some to Mac ‘n Cheese!

    My only fear is that once this small jar is gone I won’t find it at a local market again :(

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Thanks for writing. I tried it with egg and cheese on toast as well as just cheese on toast, in addition to Vegemite straight up on bread. It really does add a lot of flavor. I’ve never tasted a beef bullion cube, though ;)

    [Reply]

  19. RetroJetGirl says:

    The mistakes people make are:

    a) Trying it without bread/toast and

    b) Not using butter.

    Also, most non Aussies seem to spread it so thickly on the bread… it shoul be just coveirng the bread, not sitting in a thick layer on top of it.

    You can then add thinly sliced cheese and toast it under a grill, THAT is the way to do Vegemite.

    For me, Marmite is the one with the aftertaste. Somehow, marmite seems sweeter and I don’t like the mix of sweet/salty at the same time.

    If you look at the origins of Vegemite, it was intended as a type of supplement to the diet and was also used as a base for soups & stews

    http://www.vegemite.com.au/vegemite/page?siteid=vegemite-prd&locale=auen1&PagecRef=674
    RetroJetGirl recently posted..On the RoadMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Oooh, people eat it straight from the jar or tube? No way! I probably spread it on the toast too thick, and I definitely didn’t use butter, but I did eat it several times with cheese as well as cheese and egg. I think the more stuff you’ve got mixed in there, the better.

    [Reply]

    RetroJetGirl Reply:

    Yep! I still recall seeing a tv show where these Americans went around a them park giving out Vegemite on a spoon like it was Nutella. No wonder people hated it!
    RetroJetGirl recently posted..The Future is in DubaiMy Profile

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    Hahahaha! Yep, that would have been the end of it for me.

    Amelia Coxsen Reply:

    I’m an aussie, so I was born to love vegemite, and I love eating it from a spoon, of course though you americans wouldnt, maybe if you were from here you would love it too, and you need to have vegemite with butter, it tastes better, and if you add cheese, that tastes awesome, for me, the marmite is disgusting, I tried iit once and it was gross, vegemite is definitely the one.

  20. wowangel says:

    Look up the “newly discovered” taste umami. I remember. as a kid, discribing tastes as colors, “yellow” was citrus/tart, “red” was berry/sweet, “white” was bland/starch etc .. and everyone would get it .. but when I said I wanted something “brown” ppl would look at me as if I was nuts. “there is no “brown” taste.

    “Brown” to me was umami, and vegemite is very very “brown”.

    [Reply]

    Sabina Lohr Reply:

    You had a really interesting way of describing tastes. Vegemite is indeed brown, perhaps even black. What does black taste like?

    [Reply]

  21. heey says:

    elll vegemite is discasting
    yak

    [Reply]

    Sabina Reply:

    I thought it was pretty great ;)

    [Reply]

  22. Allan Doak says:

    As 65 year old Australian male I consider myself a bit of an authority on the subject of Vegemite. Firstly the name is commonly mispronounced as Vegeemite. Think of the Vege as in Vegetable so it should sound like Vegermite. In the English language if we had Vegeemite then we would have to have Vegeetables, which we don’t. Case closed.

    Now the important bits. Vegemite is extremely high in the vitamin B group. I have read that Americans take vitamin B supplements during the mosquito season to keep the little beggars at bay. Till the age of 45 I had never been bitten by a mosquito but at that age I started putting on weight so I cut out eating bread to help in the weight loss. No bread meant nowhere to spread the Vegemite so it dropped out of the diet. Lo & behold the mozzies had a field day with me. Supplementing with vitamin B fixed the problem.

    If you make a stew, casserole or gravy and the flavour is a bit bland stick a teaspoon of Vegemite in and taste the difference.

    Vegemite on toast without butter? Never … who told you that?

    Vegemite and cheese are perfect flavour partners but not blended together into a paste … Sacrilege!

    Vegemite in a tube … What on earth were they thinking?

    Beginners should only have the thinnest smear of Vegemite … old seasoned campaigners like me can’t spread it thick enough.

    Vegemite is not for the faint hearted … particularly for those whose staple diet is sugar based as in most Western nations. Australian children are generally exposed to Vegemite very early on and thus begins a very healthy life long love affair with the magic paste.

    Real Australians don’t even consider that there are any substitutes or alternatives to Vegemite … that is well left to others.

    Enjoy!

    [Reply]

    Sabina Reply:

    Hi Allan, thanks a lot for commenting. :) You certainly feel strongly about Vegemite. This product seems to stir up more emotion in Australians than anything else. I know that can’t be and isn’t really true, but I was only there for three months, don’t know any Australians so don’t know what else creates such passionate debate.

    I spread it on bread without butter just to save the calories that the butter would have added. And I liked it! I can believe that your suggestion of adding it to a bland casserole or gravy – or perhaps stew? – would spice it up beautifully. And I’m surprised so many people have an issue with me having bought it in a tube rather than a jar. How can that change the flavor of it? I really liked Vegemite, honestly. I know it’s sold in other parts of the world (in the UAE, for example, I saw it). I might just buy it and eat it again some day.

    [Reply]

  23. Donna says:

    I actually LIKE vegemite with peanut butter on toast.
    but if I had to choose one or the other, its vegemite no contest.

    [Reply]

    Sabina Reply:

    Hi, Donna – I wish I’d thought to try it with peanut butter!

    [Reply]

  24. Donna Clare says:

    Americans need to be taught how to use there Vegemite properly!!!! DO NOT spread it on like jam… use heaps of butter or Marge first then mix your Vegemite in so its creamy looking… slap a piece of cheese on there and its pure heaven… trust me

    Hey whats your thoughts on Tim Tams then lol

    [Reply]

    Sabina Reply:

    Hi, Donna – yes, I’ve been told before I didn’t do this properly :) I did, however, try Vegemite later many times with cheese – and it was wonderful!

    [Reply]

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