List of Foods That Contain Citric Acid In Their Natural State
This list is growing all the time as I do more research!
- Citrus fruits: all of 'em. It's strongest in lemons and
limes, which are up to 8% citric acid by weight and can even be used to
extract the chemical from; sour oranges can also be used, so we assume
that the more sour the fruit the higher the citric acid content.
- Berries and soft fruit: Almost all berries with the
possible exception of blueberries. Certainly found in: strawberry,
raspberry, gooseberry, cranberry, redcurrant,
blackcurrant. Redcurrants are one of the worst offenders - redcurrant
juice can be used to replace lemon juice in jam recipes!
- Exotic fruits: Pineapple, tamarind
- Stone fruits: Cherries (apparently only a small amount)
- Vegetables: Tomatoes, cayenne peppers (not the same as
sweet peppers), Jerusalem artichoke,
- Wine - as a by-product of fermentation, and to improve clarity
- Cheese - Citric acid is used in the manufacturing process
to help clot the milk faster. It may be an integral part of making
certain cheeses, especially mass-produced mozzarella, but appears to
be a by-product of industrialisation for most British cheeses: the
traditional method of adding bacterial culture to the milk and
allowing it to act slowly does not use added citric acid as far as I
know. I don't, however, know whether citric acid also appears
naturally in cheese as a by-product of the bacterial
reactions. Conclusion: traditional (read: expensive) cheeses are
likely to be safer, but the jury's out overall.
- Sourdough breads eg. rye bread - as a by-product of fermentation.
- Stock cubes and concentrates, especially chicken. Check
carefully as some brands are fine and others aren't.
- Soft drinks - almost all of them, especially any
fruit-flavoured ones. The only citric-free canned soft drinks I've
discovered are Rubicon brand, which come in flavours like mango and guava.
- Jams and fruit preserves - including fruit yoghurts and
desserts. Chutneys and pickles are much less likely to contain it as
they use vinegar (acetic acid) to preserve and acidify intead.
- Canned tomatoes (NB tomatoes also contain a small amount
of citric acid naturally). If you want to use canned tomatoes try organic varieties, which may be
- Canned fruit
- Fruit flavour sweets - especially fizzy or sour ones. Citric acid
is a major ingredient in sherbet!
- Some ice creams - Only some brands contain it, and
they're often the cheaper ones which use vegetable fats. Citric
acid in ice cream acts as an emulsifier to keep the globules of fat
separate - this isn't necessary with "real" ice cream since the milk
and cream are emulsified in and of themselves. As a rule, the more
expensive the ice cream the less likely it is to contain citric acid;
it's such a terrible hardship to only be able to eat very nice
expensive ice cream ;-)
- Convenience foods: especially tomato-based sauces.
- Crisps: Only certain flavours, but often the more "complex"
ones such as prawn cocktail and cheese and onion. Check the packet as
- Mayonnaise - Can be made with vinegar alone, but is most often made with lemon juice.
- Thai food: Shop-bought Thai food often contains lime
juice, but Thai restaurant food is usually citric-free since they
use Kaffir lime leaves to give an aromatic lime flavour.
- Indian food: Many Indian dishes contain lemon juice and/or
tomato. Some Indian food also uses tamarind, which is an exotic fruit
containing citric acid. Lime pickle is obviously a no-go area and
mango chutney is likely to contain citric acid or lemon juice as a
preservative. Tandoori grilled meats are usually fine, as are rice
dishes (other than lime pilau, obviously!), breads and some side
dishes such as sag aloo and probably most bhajis. Tarka dall (lentil
dhal) does contain lemon juice, though I'm not sure about other side
- Chinese food: Restaurant and takeaway Chinese food is
generally OK apart from lemon chicken, sweet and sour dishes, and
dishes containing pineapple.
- Mediterranean food (Italian, Greek): Mediterranean food
very often contains tomatoes or lemon juice, so investigate menus
carefully if you want to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant.
- Middle Eastern food: Middle Eastern restaurants usually
have some dishes which are free from citric acid, particularly the
charcoal-grilled meat. Some Middle Eastern restaurants also make
hummus without lemon juice. However tomatoes turn up in dishes like
kisir so check with the waiter before ordering.
- American food: Burger relishes, mustards and commercially
made apple pies and desserts often contain citric acid as a
preservative. Mayonnaise is almost invariably made with lemon juice
although it is possible to make it with only vinegar.
- Traditional English food: Not usually a huge problem except
in desserts where berries, lemon and orange are popular and lime is
becoming more so. A traditional cooked breakfast barely needs to be
altered at all unless you're a fan of baked beans or fried tomato, and
a roast dinner should be completely free of citric acid, especially if
you make the gravy yourself (some gravy powders are fine however,
including Bisto). Lactose intolerants have a far tougher time with