Citric acid is a naturally occurring acid in crystalline form found in certain fruits and vegetables with preservative and antioxidant properties. Used often in the preservation or fermenting process of many different types of prepared food items and for flavoring cooked dishes, sweets and sodas this additive can be difficult for some to digest properly. Knowledge of which foods use citric acid as a preservative and which contain the highest levels is an absolute necessity in order to manage a citric acid sensitivity properly.


Lemon, a citrus fruit, contains naturally occurring citric acid and produces the highest levels of this acid naturally out of all foods. The more sour the lemon is the higher the level of naturally occurring citric acid that is being produced.

Sourdough Bread

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Accomplished bakers of sourdough bread know that "feeding" your live sourdough starter culture an added shot of citric acid will give the bread an extra high level of soured bite. The citric acid is best incorporated during the fermentation process 1.

Mozzarella Cheese

Citric acid will help cultured milks clot better and faster and therefore is used in mozzarella cheese making processes. Those making mozzarella cheese at home can purchase citric acid powder to emulsify the product and to give the finished mozzarella product a longer shelf life with the additive's preservative properties.

Cooking Stock

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Citric acid, sometimes referred to as sour salt in cooking terms, is a common addition to cooking stock as a preservative. Prepackaged prepared chicken stock that is purchased at the local supermarket often will have this common preservative listed in its ingredient list.


Beating pasteurized egg yolks with salt and lemon juice and then slowly adding oil smoothly into the mixture prepare mayonnaise. Levels of the acid are often high in both prepared and homemade versions of this dressing and spread and its levels effect such condiments as ranch dressing or sauces such as Hollandaise sauce because mayonnaise is a base ingredient within them.

Gummy Soft Candies

Gummy soft candies are flavored with fruit juice containing citric acid. The addition of the citric acid is key in providing the fruit flavor of these popular candies and to help preserve the soft texture of the candy.

Lemon Flavored Soft Drinks

Lemon-flavored soft drinks contain citric acid as a preservative ingredient. The citric acid also serves as an agent to provide the distinguishable lemon flavor of the lemon flavored soft drink.


Tomatoes, considered members of both the vegetable plant group as well as a member of the fruit group, contain substantial levels of naturally occurring citric acid. Common usages for tomatoes for those sensitive to citric acid should watch for are in ethnic cuisines, pizza sauces and soups.