What Is Marmite, and Why Is It So Good?

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(Image credit: Christopher Martin)

Ah, Marmite. When I think of that little glass pot of yeasty goodness, with its familiar yellow lid and iconic label, I can’t help but ask myself one simple question: How do I love thee?

How indeed? I was first introduced to Marmite when I was a little girl, growing up in India; it arrived on our breakfast table one morning on a golden-brown piece of buttered toast. One taste of that savory spread and I was in heaven. It was salty and yeasty and strong.

I can see why some people consider it an acquired taste; the company’s own advertising campaign acknowledges that you either love it or hate it. I am firmly in the “love it” camp. I have waxed poetic about Marmite ever since that first bite.

What Is Marmite?

But what is this strange and smelly brown spread that inspires such strong feelings? Well, it’s yeasty because it’s made from yeast extract, along with a top-secret combination of other vegetable and spice extracts.

It’s British, although it was invented by a German: Chemist Baron Justus von Liebig discovered that the yeast leftover from brewing beer could be converted into a gooey high-protein byproduct. It was first sold by the Marmite Extract Company in England in 1902.

How Should You Eat Marmite?

Marmite spread on buttered toast is one of my ultimate comfort foods. People who love me have learned to tell when it’s been a trying day. I am likely sitting down to Marmite in some form or fashion and a large cup of tea (the larger the better). One of my favorite lunches consists of Marmite toasties: bread spread with butter and Marmite and topped with cheese that is grilled until the cheese melts.

But over the years I’ve also learned to use Marmite in my cooking. It gives basically anything a hit of umami. I add it to mushrooms; I spoon it into soup; I mix it with vegetarian casseroles for that meaty savoriness my taste buds sometimes crave (I’ve been mostly vegetarian since my teens). I add it to fritter dough and then toss caramelized onions into it and fry it off for a quick snack. Marmite plays very well with onions!

But it’s not just for savory things; Marmite also works in desserts. It goes particularly well with chocolate and I’ve added it to brownie batter and peanut butter-chocolate chunk cookies.

Get more ideas:

7 Recipes with Marmite

(Image credit: Marmite)

Have I convinced you? Luckily, Marmite comes in tiny jars (see above — isn’t it cute?), so once you’ve discovered the wonder that is this thick and salty umami bomb, you’ll never have to be without.

Have you tried Marmite? Do you love it, too?