Although the concept of receiving MR signal using multiple coils simultaneously has been known for over two decades, the technique has only recently become clinically available as a result of the development of several effective parallel imaging reconstruction algorithms. Despite the success of these algorithms, it remains a challenge in many applications to rapidly and reliably reconstruct an image from partially-acquired general non-Cartesian k-space data. Such applications include, for example, three-dimensional (3D) imaging, functional MRI (fMRI), perfusion-weighted imaging, and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), in which a large number of images have to be reconstructed. In this work, a systematic k-space–based reconstruction algorithm based on k-space sparse matrices (kSPA) is introduced. This algorithm formulates the image reconstruction problem as a system of sparse linear equations in k-space. The inversion of this system of equations is achieved by computing a sparse approximate inverse matrix. The algorithm is demonstrated using both simulated and in vivo data, and the resulting image quality is comparable to that of the iterative sensitivity encoding (SENSE) algorithm. The kSPA algorithm is noniterative and the computed sparse approximate inverse can be applied repetitively to reconstruct all subsequent images. This algorithm, therefore, is particularly suitable for the aforementioned applications. Magn Reson Med, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.