Marmite versus Bovril- I put the test to a stew

Marmite & Bovril Slow Cooked Lamb Stew

Marmite Bovril Peasant stew. Bowl by Emile Henry

Marmite versus Bovril. There are staunch supporters in both camps, many of whom wouldn’t dare cross from one to the other and extoll the virtues of their chosen spread with the fervour of a mega-phone carrying picketer. Chances are, if you’ve grown up in South Africa, and are in the 22- 90 age demographic, one of the sandwich spreads you ate (and loved or maybe even loathed) was Marmite or Bovril or perhaps even both.

An Ode to Marmite

 The Joy of Marmite

 I spread my Marmite sparingly, upon my buttered toast,

Of all the things to put on bread, it’s what I like the most

                                                                A.R.D. Pepper, March 1993



Marmite vs Bovril


Do you have a favourite?

My family did not indulge in Marmite, Bovril or Pecks Anchovette spread, another South African classic. I think it’s fair to say that my parents bought the spreads and baby brother and I took a whiff and turned our little noses up. We found more comfort in Melrose cheese spread (who could forget “Oh Boy! Mum remembered Melrose”?) and Black Cat peanut butter sandwiches – used separately of course. 

I tweeted a picture whilst still at the stores, asking which one of the two spreads I should purchase, but that didn’t come to any good. “Bovril”, said the one camp.” Marmite”, said the other .

And so, in a flurry of indecision, I purchased both jars and both failed in my taste test. I found myself becoming the young child again turning her nose up as the spoon approached mouth. I thought the rich saltiness (both these are concentrated umami sources, most certainly) would work well in a peasant style stew. I intended using the leftover pieces of a lamb pack I had bought (stewing pieces, two chops and ribs) in a simple stew with carrots, potatoes and herbs and the both the Marmite and Bovril were flavourful stock bases for it which mellowed during the time in the oven.

slow cooked lamb stew


Serves 4

1 medium onion, sliced

2 bay leaves, fresh if possible

2 t olive oil

4 cloves garlic, chopped

900g lamb, cut into bite sized pieces

1 T Oded’s roasted garlic and ginger paste (or ordinary ginger and garlic paste)

1 tsp paprika (optional)

4 medium-large potatoes, cut into eighths

350g carrots, diced (use sweet potato, butternut or pumpkin and cut into chunks if preferred)

500ml lamb/beef or vegetable stock (I used fresh that I had stored in the freezer)

1T Bovril

1T Marmite (add Marmite and Bovril to 350 ml hot water and mix)

4 sprigs thyme


Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius with rack on lowest level.

Fry onions and bay leaves in olive oil for 3 minutes on medium heat until onion are translucent. Add garlic and stir- taking care not to burn the garlic.

Add lamb,  garlic paste and paprika if using and turn to coat. Cook for 5 minutes, turning up the heat.

Add carrots, potatoes, thyme  and both stocks.

Lower heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes uncovered.

Add 1/3 cup of water, if necessary and remove pot from the heat.

Cover the pot tightly with heavy foil, making a small gash in the centre.

Place pot in centre of the oven and cook for 1.5 hours.

Remove, adjust seasoning and serve with a dollop of sour cream and crusty bread or rice.

Marmite Bovril Peasant stew

battle of the spreads

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By |2017-05-08T13:06:10+00:00March 22nd, 2011|Food, Mains, Meat, Recipe Index, Recipes|12 Comments


  1. Linda March 23, 2011 at 9:43 am - Reply

    What a great post! I grew up as a strict vegetarian so it was always Marmite for us (no beef extract). When I started eating meat again, Bovril just did it for me. Marmite tastes far too salty for my liking nowadays. What a beautiful looking result with your stew!

  2. Jane-Anne Hobbs March 23, 2011 at 10:17 am - Reply

    A fantastic post in every way, Ishay. My goodness, but your photographs are lovely. Beautifully written too. And I haven’t got started on the stew yet. (If I did get started, I would sink my whole face into the bowl and suck it up like a vacuum cleaner). Jane-Anne. PS Marmite. Marmite. Marmite.

  3. nina March 23, 2011 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Marmite, Bovril, Oxo – I love them all, bring it on. I enjoyed reading this post, very interesting!

  4. pinkpolkadot March 23, 2011 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    I don’t enjoy bovril as a spread on bread,but I like marmite. I do however enjoy using bovril in food and this sounds wonderful!!

  5. Abby March 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    You make that looks so good Ishay, and I’m vegetarian…!

  6. Thuli March 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    This is a lovely post Ishay. Keep up the good work!

  7. Ishay March 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Thank you all for your wonderful feedback. It has been brought to my attention on Twitter that I didn’t actually hand out a judgment about which is the superior spread. I plan to test both again, with a smidgen (as opposed to a an entire teaspoonful) on warm toast with cold butter. In the mean while, and though it may seem like I’m fence sitting, I do think both Marmite and Bovril add incredible depth of flavour to stews (and hearty soups) and I’m sure I will use them in my Winter cooking.

  8. Ingrid Biesheuvel March 24, 2011 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Tks Ishay – I’m going to try this and poss go a bit rogue and add some mushroomy happiness in some way.
    But no Bovril will dare enter my kitchen!!! 😀
    PS. Marmite is also great on baked potatoes with some butter, and a salad on the side.

  9. Cathy Marston March 24, 2011 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    My husband has an entire cook book devoted to Marmite!! But for me, both spreads are ‘sleep in the spare room if you eat them’ stuff. Now Oxo cubes – that’s another matter entirely!!!

  10. Max Lund April 4, 2011 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Reminds me of my Gogo who used to drink a teaspoon of Bovril with hot water before bed! Bless her soul 🙂 Great article Ishay!

  11. andy February 12, 2014 at 10:35 am - Reply

    The thing I find interesting about the 2 products, is that they taste and look similar, but are 2 completely different things, Bovril being beef extract, and the other being yeast extract, Marmite is actually a by-product of the brewing industry. I have to agree with pinkpolkadot, Marmite for spreading and Bovril as a stock, if you don’t like Marmite, the secret to using it as a spread is using it sparingly, I find it’s best using slightly soft butter, and kind of blending the Marmite with the butter, but as I say less is definitely more here. I actually wrote to Marmite suggesting that they might want to bring some kind if spread wit butter and Marmite mixed in the correct quantities, never heard back from them thou, if they ever bring the product out remember it was me that thought of it.

  12. Zoe Jackson February 16, 2018 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    We are Bovril fans nearly my sister and family she lives in Germany

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