Direct matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometric (MALDI-TOFMS) analysis of solutions of edible fats/oils yielded spectra useful for their rapid differentiation and classification. Results also reflected the individual fatty acid components and their degree of unsaturation. After dissolution in hexane, MALDI-MS analysis revealed spectra showing characteristic triacylglycerols (TAGs), the main fat/oil components, as sodium adduct ions. The Euclidean distances calculated using the mass and intensity values for 20 TAGs were used to evaluate and compare spectra. With cluster analysis, animal fats grouped together differently than vegetable oils and the individual oils grouped together by type. The ion abundances for the individual TAGs and their presumed compositions were used to approximate the overall fatty acid composition of canola, soybean, corn, olive and peanut oil, as well as lard. Using this approach the calculated fatty acid compositions and degree of unsaturation generally fell within about 4% of literature values. When the degree of saturation was compared with values calculated from the package labeling the differences were about 7%. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.