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Marmite Yeast Extract: Why I Can't Live Without It

One of my earliest recollections of food is my mother feeding me Ryvita and Marmite during World War II, when I was about three years old.

Jar of Marmite on my kitchen counter

Jar of Marmite on my kitchen counter

What Is Marmite?

Marmite is a traditional British savoury spread that is made from yeast. It has a distinctive strong, salty flavour, and it is very popular throughout the British Isles. The man who discovered that a by-product of beer brewing could actually be used as a well-loved spread must have made a fortune.

What Is It Like?

Marmite has a sticky consistency, a dark brown in color, and it is usually spread thinly on buttered bread, toast or savory biscuits. Because of its pungent taste, it is not universally liked; hence the advertising slogan, "Marmite—Love it or Hate it".

I am among the ranks of Marmite-lovers. In fact, if I don't have it for a few days, I have cravings that must be satisfied, and only Marmite will do.

Can Vegetarians Eat It?

You might be interested to know that, unlike Bovril, which is fairly similar, Marmite does not contain any meat extract, so it is acceptable to vegetarians.

This is my favorite breakfast: boiled egg and Marmite on toast

This is my favorite breakfast: boiled egg and Marmite on toast

My Marmite Memories

One of my earliest recollections of food is my mother feeding me Ryvita and Marmite during the War, when I was about three years old. This means I've been eating Marmite for over seventy years... I wonder how many bottles I've consumed in that time.

Many other foods were in short supply during the World War II era, and Marmite was known to be good for you, as it is high in various B-Vitamins. It was even given out as part of army rations.

Everyone in our family loves it, so I don't know who the people are who hate it, but it certainly isn't us.

My favorite way of eating Marmite is to spread a little butter on to toast or very fresh bread, and then smear it with Marmite, as an accompaniment to my boiled eggs, instead of using salt. This to me is the ultimate comfort food, and I have it most days for breakfast. You might think that the strong flavour would drown the taste of the egg, but, funnily enough, it doesn't—it seems to enhance it.

Many years ago I was invited to travel to Abu Dhabi in the Middle East, before it was developed, and the friend I was visiting begged me to bring over six pots of Marmite, because he loved it so much. Of course I did so, but I had to laugh when I discovered it in a supermarket there—he'd thought it was impossible to buy out there, but I suspect that wherever you find a lot of Brits living, you'll find Marmite, because it's part of the staple diet of the British.

Marmite in My Home

I keep an extra bottle of Marmite in my store cupboard at all times, so I never run out.

Here are the ways I use Marmite:

  • I use it as an alternative to salt, so when I have boiled egg and toast, my usual breakfast, I don't use any salt at all, I just spread some Marmite on my toast
  • Occasionally I fancy some peanut butter on bread, and this is much enhanced with a smear of Marmite on top. I've recently tried it with almond and coconut peanut butter, and can solemnly pronounce it "Out of This World"
  • Marmite is delicious in tomato and chicken sandwiches - again, this is because both those foods taste better with salt, or something which tastes salty, like Marmite. So now I always, always spread Marmite on one side of the bread in my sandwich
  • When the jar is empty, and I've scraped out all the Marmite I can, I swill the jar round with very hot (not boiling) water, and use the dark brown mixture when making gravy or soup—it gives it a nice tang. I don't pour boiling water into the glass jar because the intense heat could cause it to shatter

Do try these ideas if you like Marmite. You'll be amazed and delighted.

A Marmite Tweet Heard Round the World

This tweet from August 18, 2019, was reported on in newspapers. However the tweeter confirmed he'd said it for a laugh

This tweet from August 18, 2019, was reported on in newspapers. However the tweeter confirmed he'd said it for a laugh

A Nice Big Pot of Marmite

Other Ways to Buy Marmite

There is also a Limited Edition of Matured Marmite—stronger and a lot more expensive. I was stunned to find that Marmite XO, as it is called, is now out of production, and I saw it selling on the internet in October 2016 for up to £75, and even the empty bottle was being sold for about £5. What a shame that I ate mine, and only threw away the bottle a couple of months ago!

I must have had a premonition, because I took this photo of this limited edition Marmite XO in a local London store a coupe of years ago. The value has since increased nine-fold!

I must have had a premonition, because I took this photo of this limited edition Marmite XO in a local London store a coupe of years ago. The value has since increased nine-fold!

Reduced-Salt Marmite

I am trying to cut down my salt intake, so I thought I would see how reduced-salt Marmite compares with the original. I found it slightly thicker, and a bit different, obviously, but it definitely tastes good. I have now bought it three times and have it as the standard rather than the saltier version.

Marmite Peanut Butter

When I discovered Marmite peanut butter, I had to try it. Of course, it's delicious. I used it on toast to accompany boiled egg, which I have most days for breakfast. You can get it crunchy or smooth.

Nut spreads seem to be all the rage at present, and I don't know why they weren't brought out decades ago as a popular range. I must confess that, having tried the Marmite peanut butter version, I actually prefer low-salt Marmite spread over coconut or almond peanut butter on my toast, so I do hope the producers of Marmite follow the trend, and produce their own brand, as it's a nuisance having to spread two items on one piece of toast, instead of having it done for you at the factory!

Marmite: Why Would You Eat That?

Love it or hate it. It's difficult to be neutral!

© 2013 Diana Grant

I welcome your comments, below. (I'm particularly interested to hear from anyone trying Marmite for the first time after reading about it here!)

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 12, 2019:

It does have a very strong flavour, but if spread very thinly you might find you like it - it's very easy to put too concentrated an amount on the accompanying bread or biscuit

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on September 12, 2019:

Fish and chips is a typically English dish, and nowdays Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Turkish food are standard very popular stalwarts

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on September 02, 2019:

I have tried Marmite once when we were in England. I didn't like it. Maybe if I will try it again, I might like it. Thanks for the information about marmite.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on August 25, 2019:

I've never had Marmite, but I'm going to be back in England in a few weeks and it's on my too do list. It does not sound too tasty to me, but I'm going to try it--while in England. I know I can get it on Amazon, but it doesn't seem the same.

Any other suggestions of things I should try while in England?

Bill Kasman on October 28, 2016:

I can easily live without it - it's the most awful stuff I've ever tasted!

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on October 30, 2014:

How can you live without it for 364 days?

Buildreps from Europe on October 29, 2014:

I thought it was typically Dutch. I only like it once a year on cheese :)

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on October 04, 2014:

Hi gloriousconfusion, thanks for the follow. Being an Australian I am not a Marmite fan (though I don't hate it) but I love Vegemite. The two are very similar and I think your preference stems from the one you have grown up with. Most people who aren't familiar with these spreads smear too much on their bread or toast and henceforth, hate the stuff. I also feel they need to be eaten with butter and not margarine for best effect. Vegemite was born as a use for yeast extract from the making of beer in Australia and the inventor was impressed by Marmite and wanted an Aussie version. He called it Parwill at first, a play on the name Marmite, but it didn't take off. Changed the name and the formula slightly and Vegemite quickly became Australia's favourite spread. I love it on fruit buns and scones. I agree both these would be a good salt replacement with certain foods that need it. Interesting hub, voted up.

Thomas F. Wuthrich from Michigan on September 19, 2014:

My sister and her family spent several years in Australia and brought back something called Vegemite...which sounds a whole lot like Marmite. Are they pretty much the same? I used to spread a thin coat of butter on a piece of toast, followed by a thin coat of Vegemite, topped with a poached egg...which someone must've told me was one way the Aussies consumed it. Pretty tasty...as long as you didn't overdo the Vegemite. Aha! I only just now (after posting my comment) viewed the video...which sort of answers my question.

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on September 11, 2014:

well, now I want to take a lick and try the darn stuff just to see if I'm in the love or hate category!

Ann Hinds from So Cal on September 11, 2014:

Tried it, not a favorite but if I had to eat it again, I could probably choke it down. We will eat just about anything.

Jill Hart from Weston, Idaho on January 23, 2014:

Love Marmite, still remember the first time I tried it - a sandwich from my Aussie friends while camping at the beach in Japan.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on January 23, 2014:

@Adventuretravels: Yes, we English must teach the foreign visitors what we eat at home - that is, when we're not eating chicken tikka marsala, pizza, kebabs, choritzo, won ton, pain-au-chocolat, Danish pastry and all the other delicacies we have adopted from abroad

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on January 23, 2014:

@SusannaDuffy: To each his own, but Marmite is the one that sits on MY toast!

Giovanna from UK on January 23, 2014:

Mmmmmm - Marmite - I love it! I am the UK Contributor on Squidoo, I specialize in travel and I think visitors to the UK should certainly brave some Marmite on toast at their B&Bs! So I shall promote this lens in my FB page and Pinterest Boards and give it a thumbs up too! Thanks for sharing.

Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on January 22, 2014:

Never would I dream of touching Marmite - even with a 40ft barge pole! I was raised on Vegemite (see how sturdy I am?) Vegemite is on my toast every morning

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on November 07, 2013:

Sorry, I hate it! Although we do always have it in the pantry. We use it instead of bullion to make a vegetable stock base for vegetarian soups. I don't mind it in soup, but don't give it to me in a sandwich.