This Is the Real Flavor Difference Between Pepsi and Coca-Cola

No, your taste buds aren't playing tricks on you! Despite their similar qualities, there is an actual difference.

coke pepsiMejini Neskah/Shutterstock

Pepsi and Coca-Cola may be one of the most controversial drink debates of all time. A strong divide between diehard Coke drinkers and Pepsi enthusiasts has always existed. Yet, the two drinks are practically identical in every way from their caramel syrup color to their ingredients. Both sodas contain sodium, sugar, carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid, caffeine, and natural flavors.

Despite their numerous similarities, Pepsi and Coca-Cola still give people two vastly different flavor experiences, which explains why people prefer one over the other. In Blink, a book about decision making and thinking, by author and journalist, Malcolm Gladwell, he writes, “Pepsi is sweeter than Coke and is also characterized by a citrusy flavor burst, unlike the more raisiny-vanilla taste of Coke.” Don’t miss how we settled the cola taste-test debate.

In fact, a 12 ounce can of Pepsi contains one thing Coke does not—citric acid. In addition, Pepsi also has two more grams of sugar than Coke. These two subtle differences give Pepsi its sweet, citrus-like flavor that people either love or loathe. Plus, the additional 15 mg of sodium in a can of Coke may explain why it tastes more like a club soda with a toned-down sweetness. Next, find out the fascinating origins of soda you never realized.

Ashley Lewis
Ashley is an Assistant Editor at Reader’s Digest. She received her Master’s Degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in 2015. Before joining Reader’s Digest, she was a Jason Sheftell Fellow at the New York Daily News and interned at Seventeen and FOX News. When Ashley is not diligently fact-checking the magazine or writing for, she enjoys cooking (butternut squash pizza is her signature dish), binge-watching teen rom-coms on Netflix that she’s way too old for, and hiking (and falling down) mountains.