The ingredients listed on any can or bottle of Coca-Cola include carbonated water, sugar, caffeine, phosphoric acid, caramel and natural flavorings. The exact content and formula and the natural flavorings has been a trade secret since Coca-Cola’s inception. There is, however, a lot of speculation about the exact natural flavorings formula, said to be known by only two Coca-Cola executives

Citric Acid

Citric acid is a key natural ingredient to most claims of the Coca-Cola recipe. The original recipe dating back to 1886, found in creator John Pemberton’s journals, uses citric acid as a main ingredient for flavoring and as a preservative. Citric acid, probably extracted from lime juice due to its high concentration of citric acid, is used as a base for many of the Coca-Cola natural flavoring recipe variations now in circulation, with up to 3 oz. being used in each batch and an additional quart of lime juice supplementing it.


The exact quantity and combination of herbs used in the original recipe of Coca-Cola is largely unknown. The recipe found in John Pemberton’s journals list the usage of orange, cinnamon, lemon, coriander, nutmeg and neroli, though he did not specify the amounts. More recent recipe accounts also include the use of vanilla and lavender oil, as well as kola nuts, a naturally caffeine-containing nut from trees indigenous to Africa. These nuts are used for flavoring and as a stimulant. Additionally, many contemporary recipes cite the use of caramel, but mostly for coloring rather than flavoring.


Cocaine is an herbal extract from the coca leaf, a common South American plant. Cocaine was introduced to John Pemberton’s original Coca-Cola recipe in 1886 and was used in small amounts for 20 years until the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, when large amounts of caffeine were substituted as the active ingredient. Some Coca-Cola recipes claim that cocaine is still used in Coca-Cola’s natural ingredients recipe, however it is the decocainized extract of the coca leaf, used exclusively for flavoring and not as a stimulant.


Sugar is one of Coca-Cola’s natural ingredients, though the use of sugar is dependent on the region in which Coca-Cola is being sold. Coca-Cola manufactured in the United States is sweetened with artificial high fructose corn syrup, a cheaper alternative to sugar sweetener. Coca-Cola manufactured outside the United States, predominately in Mexico uses a sugar syrup made with sugar cane, a natural flavoring. This sugar syrup is made from boiling water and then adding sugar cane extract to the mixture to produce a sweetener. Coca-Cola made with real sugar is sold in the United States in glass bottles imported from Mexico and also as Coca-Cola Classic.