Reactions between sugars and amino acids in the Maillard reaction produce a multitude of compounds through interconnected chemical pathways. The course of the pathways changes depending on the nature of the amino acids and sugars as well as the processing conditions (e.g. temperature, water activity). Some partial pathways have been elucidated using labelled precursors but the process is very time intensive. Here, we use rapid, non-targeted analysis with Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS) to deliver the molecular formulae and ion intensities of the compounds generated from reaction of four amino acids with ribose (10 h at 100 degrees C) to study the effect of amino acid side chains on the reaction pathways. Using van Krevelen diagrams, known chemical changes during the reaction (e.g. dehydration or decarboxylation) can be studied. Comparison of the data from the four amino acids studied, showed a common pathway, which involved 73 Maillard reaction products (MRPs) where the differences were due only to the nature of the amino acid side chain. From the more than 1400 different molecular formulae found, pathways unique to the amino acids were also identified and the order of reactivity was lysine >cysteine >isoleucine approximate to glycine. While unequivocal identification of the compounds cannot be achieved with FT-ICR-MS, applying known chemical transformations found in the Maillard reaction, not only identifies new and known pathways, but also integrates the MRPs into a general Maillard reaction scheme that better represents the totality of the Maillard reaction.