Free fatty acids (FFAs) can be used as precursors for the production of biofuels or chemicals. Different composition of FFAs will be useful for further modification of the biofuel/biochemical quality. Microbial biosynthesis of even chain FFAs can be achieved by introducing an acyl-acyl carrier protein thioesterase gene into E. coli. In this study, odd straight medium chain FFAs production was investigated by using metabolic engineered E. coli carrying acyl-ACP thioesterase (TE, Ricinus communis), propionyl-CoA synthase (Salmonella enterica), and β-ketoacyl-acyl carrier protein synthase III (four different sources) with supplement of extracellular propionate. By using these metabolically engineered E. coli, significant quantity of C13 and C15 odd straight-chain FFAs could be produced from glucose and propionate. The highest concentration of total odd straight chain FFAs attained was 1205 mg/L by the strain HWK201 (pXZ18, pBHE2), and 85% of the odd straight chain FFAs was C15. However, the highest percentage of odd straight chain FFAs was achieved by the strain HWK201 (pXZ18, pBHE3) of 83.2% at 48 h. This strategy was also applied successfully in strains carrying different TE, such as the medium length acyl-ACP thioesterase gene from Umbellularia californica. C11 and C13 became the major odd straight-chain FFAs. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2014;111: 2209–2219. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.