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If you didn't grow up with Marmite or Vegemite, you might think it is useful only as the butt of a British or Aussie joke. This thick dark paste of brewer's yeast is deeply salty and funky, and while an acquired nostalgic taste for many, for a lot of us, it is food you might only eat on a dare or receive as a joke gift.
But I am here to say that you should absolutely have this umami powerhouse in your pantry at all times. No, not so you can smear it on buttered bread or toast (the traditional way most folks use it), but as an ingredient in other recipes.
Taking Marmite and Vegemite beyond toast
First, a clarification: While both Marmite and Vegemite are made from brewer's yeast, they're slightly different in texture and intensity (Vegemite is thicker and has a more intense flavor). While I don't love either product smeared on toast, I love the complex rich notes they bring to all sorts of dishes. Much like a heady fish sauce or a dark miso paste, a little goes a long way, but it really does make for some wonderful grounding base notes that punch up many of my favorite recipes.
Now, a note about quantity: If you are going to use Marmite or Vegemite in a dish, start small. A mere quarter teaspoon in a salad dressing is likely plenty; a half tablespoon might be enough in a pot of pasta sauce. Start with a little, add more as needed to your personal taste. Secondly, if you're planning to try Marmite or Vegemite in recipes, be sure to under-salt your dish before adding these boosters. Because they're super salty, you want to adjust once they're blended (think of the intense saltiness of dark soy sauce).
Creative ways to use Marmite and Vegemite in recipes
Now, it's time to explore the many ways you can use Marmite and Vegemite to delicious results. I tend to use Marmite, but you can use Vegemite as well.
1. In stews, chilis, and pasta ragus
Any meaty slow-cooked dish can benefit from a hit of rich umami. If your dish stars beef, lamb, or pork, the dark spread can add a wonderful rich flavor that is a substitute for a concentrated stock like a demiglace and can help bring in some of the flavors you get from a good browning on meats.
2. On roasts
I blend Marmite into butter or oil and smear over a whole chicken or on a large format roast like a leg of lamb or prime rib to bring both seasoning and great browning to the party.
3. In meatloaf or meatballs
Ground meats get a great little boost when you use a little Marmite in your seasoning mix. It adds richness and salt, but also the stickiness can help bind your blend.
4. In cheesy snacks
If you love to make cheese straws or homemade cheese crackers, Marmite can be a terrific addition. I put a thin smear on puff pastry before adding my shredded cheese to make cheese straws and add a half teaspoon to the dough for my cheese crackers. You can also add to your mix if you are making fromage fort, or other cheese spread or ball.
5. As a compound butter
Blending Marmite into softened unsalted butter, either alone or with chopped herbs, gives you a compound butter that is wonderful melted on top of a grilled steak or to punch up steamed potatoes or vegetables.
6. In my Chex mix or spiced nuts
If your snack mix includes a savory seasoning, you can add some Marmite for extra zip; just be careful to back down on the salt.
7. As a sub for Worcestershire Sauce
If you are out of Worcestershire sauce, mix a 1:1 blend of Marmite with water to dilute, then use in your recipe.
8. In my caramel and other sweets
If you have ever had a salted caramel or miso caramel, you know that sometimes this surprising pairing can be magic. I have added to caramel sauce, caramel ice cream, even blondies. Eliminate the usual "pinch of salt" usually found in dessert recipes.