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)

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.

52 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Sabina says:

    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!

  2. Amelia Coxsen says:

    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.

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