What is Marmite?
Marmite is a thick, sticky, brown spread made from yeast extract. Yeast extract, which is a byproduct of the brewing industry is vegetarian, gluten free, and has a high nutritional content. Marmite is popular throughout the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and South Africa and is praised for its characteristically pungent flavor. Marmite is well known for evoking a love or hate reaction, which the manufacturer fully embraces and even features in its advertising campaign.
In the late 19th century the German scientist, Justus Leibig, discovered that when brewer’s yeast was concentrated, it formed a vegetarian paste that closely resembled meat extract. This extract was first commercially produced in 1902 when the Marmite Food Company Limited was formed.
Marmite did not begin to gain popularity until about ten years later when vitamins were discovered and their importance touted to the public. Yeast extract is inexpensive and a natural source of B vitamins, which lead Marmite to become a popular spread served in schools, hospitals, and to military personnel. Today, Marmite is fortified with extra B vitamins, further increasing its nutritional value.
Marmite was named after the round earthenware pots that it was originally sold in during the early 20th century. Today, marmite is sold in small glass or plastic jars that resemble the original marmite pots.
Nutritional Content of Marmite
Marmite contains a few simple ingredients: yeast extract, salt, vegetable extract, spices, and vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B9, B12). Marmite is vegetarian, gluten free, low in calories, and high in vitamins, providing nearly 50% of the RDA for folic acid per serving. Although Marmite has a high sodium content, it is usually used sparingly so the sodium content per serving is relatively normal.
How to Eat Marmite
Marmite is most popularly eaten as a spread on toast or crackers. Unlike spreading jam or peanut butter, Marmite must be spread paper thin due to its highly concentrated flavor. Some enjoy Marmite with butter on toast, which mellows the flavor just slightly.
Marmite can also be used like meat extract or soy sauce to flavor soups, stews, and sauces. Just a spoonful stirred into liquids or soup bases will provide a salty and savory element to the flavor profile.
Marmite is also popularly paired with cheese. Whether it is used as a spread on cheese sandwiches or used to make cheese crackers, Marmite and cheese are great flavor companions.
The uses for Marmite are so vast that in 2003, Paul Hartley wrote and published The Marmite Cookbook with 80 pages of unique Marmite uses.
New Zealand Marmite
Marmite is owned by Unilever but is produced by different companies throughout the world. Marmite produced in New Zealand has a slightly different recipe and flavor. With the addition of sugar and caramel, the flavor is said to be slightly sweeter and not quite as potent.
Where to Buy Marmite
Marmite is distributed widely throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and to a lesser extent throughout Southeast Asia. In the United States, Marmite can be found in European import stores and health food stores. In addition to brick and mortar establishments, Marmite is widely available through online retailers.
Marmite is sometimes also exported and sold under the name “Our Mate.” Although products like Vegemite, Promite, Bovril, and Yeast Extract are similar, their ingredients and flavor differ and they are not part of the Marmite family of products.