What is Malic Acid?

Malic acid is a dicarboxylic acid with the molecular formula C4H6O5 (Figure 1). It is made by all living organisms and it contributes to the pleasantly sour taste of fruits. Malic acid is used as a flavor enhancer, flavor agent and adjuvant, and pH control agent in food products.1

L- Malic acid


Malic acid was first isolated from apply juice in 1785, by the Swedish Chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, who referred to it as “acid of apples.”2


  • Malic acid has a clean, mellow, smooth, persistent sourness.
  • It has flavor enhancement and blending abilities. Malic acid aids the formulator, because it intensifies the impact of many flavors in foods or beverages, often reducing the amount of flavor needed; it blends distinct flavors resulting in a well-rounded flavor experience; it improves aftertaste by extending the impact of some flavors; it increases burst and aromaticity of some flavor notes in certain beverage applications; it boosts savory flavors like cheese and hot peppers in snack food coatings; it deepens and broadens the flavor profile of many products, resulting in a richer, more natural flavor experience.
  • It has a high solubility rate.
  • It has lower hygroscopicity than citric or tartaric acids.
  • It has a lower melting point than other acids for easier incorporation into molten confections.
  • It has good chelating properties with metal ions.

Commercial Production

Malic acid has two stereoisomeric forms (L- and D- enantiomers), and only the L-isomer exists naturally. Commercial production of malic acid is by hydration of fumaric acid or maleic acid and the product is DL-malic acid.1


  • When malic acid is used to enhance flavors, usually less flavor additives are needed. This improves economies while the overall flavor profile is broader and more natural.
  • In the non-carbonated beverages, malic acid is a preferred acidulant since it could enhance fruit flavors, and mask the aftertaste of some salts.
  • In powdered mixes, malic acid is preferred due to its rapid dissolution rate.
  • In beverage containing intense sweeteners, malic acid’s extended sourness masks sweetener aftertaste and its blending and fixative abilities give a balanced taste.
  • In calcium-fortified beverages, using malic acid in place of citric acid prevents turbidity due to precipitated calcium citrate.
  • Malic acid has a lower melting point than other food acids- this means that it can be incorporated into the molten hard candy without added water- shelf life is increased since the initial moisture level in the hard candy is lower.
  • Bakery products with fruit fillings (cookies, snack bars, pies, and cakes) have a stronger and more naturally balanced fruit flavor when the fruit filling includes malic acid. Pectin gel texture is more consistent due to Malic Acid’s buffering capacity.
  • Malic acid is the predominately active ingredient for prune juice concentrate as the natural mold inhibitor for baking products.3

FDA Regulation

Malic acid is affirmed as GRAS by FDA which is listed in the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 21 Part 184.1069)1. The ingredients are used in food, except baby food, at levels not to exceed good manufacturing practice. Current good manufacturing practice results in a maximum level, as served, of 3.4% for nonalcoholic beverages, 3.0% for chewing gum, 0.8% for gelatins, pudding, and fillings, 6.9% for hard candy, 2.6% for jams and jellies, 3.5% for processed fruits and fruit juices, 3.0% for soft candy, 0.7% for all other food categories.1


  1. “21CFR184.1069.” CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. N.p., 1 Apr. 2016.
  2. Jensen, William B. “Malic, Maleic and Malonic Acid.” Ask the Historian (2007): 1-2. Department of Chemistry, University of Cincinnati. Web. Accessed on 27 June 2016.
  3. Renee Alberts-Nelson. “Clean Label Mold Inhibitors for Baking”. Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension FAPC-173, 2010.