The Secret Ingredients For Umami-Packed Chili

Chili is the one flexible meal that can offer comfort to both vegetarians and devoted meat-eaters. Whether you opt for beans, beef, chicken, sausage, or a mix of all of them, chili is defined not by its protein but by its rich aromatic flavor. Spicy chiles, umami-packed tomatoes, and plenty of hearty spices form the backbone of a good stew, but there are a lot of secret ingredients that can help take it to the next level, from a bit of beer to a touch of dark chocolate. But there's another ingredient you should use to pump up its savory flavor — Marmite from the United Kingdom or Vegemite from Australia.  

What exactly is Marmite and how does it make chili taste better? Marmite is a concentrated yeast extract spread that's also packing a few other ingredients like salt, vegetable extract, vitamins, and celery flavor. It has many similarities to chicken boullion but is vegan and yeast-forward in flavor. Vegemite is the slightly more bitter and veggie-filled version that Australians prefer (which contains onion, malt, and celery) but for our stew-flavoring purposes, they work interchangeably. Adding a spoonful of these savory and umami-rich condiments creates a complex depth to your chili's flavor. 

How to incorporate Marmite and Vegemite into your chili

To bring a touch of Marmite or Vegemite to your favorite chili recipe, consider what type of stew you're working with. We recommend you start with a classic red version, as white chili (the creamy, chicken-forward kind) is intended to have a more delicate flavor. Red chilis, with their strong spices and tomatoes, can balance out the intensity of the Marmite and Vegemite flavor. From there, it doesn't really matter what protein stars in your mix, as long as it's red. In fact, Both of these condiments are particularly good ingredients to add beefy flavor to a vegan chili recipe, as the products themselves are vegan.

Second, start with a conservative one tablespoonful before adding more. Their salty nature can mess with the seasoning of your overall chili, so you need to taste as you go. If you're adding Marmite or Vegemite to a chili recipe that doesn't initially call for it, consider compensating by dialing back on other salty ingredients, like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or even the salt itself. If you follow these steps, you'll be rewarded with a pot of chili packing a little extra kick of savory goodness.