The present invention involves a new synthesis route for the formation of lactylates. The method comprises reacting a dilactide with a compound comprising a hydroxy group. This reaction is preferably carried out in the presence of a cation or other source or alkalinity. Preferred compounds comprising a hydroxy group include any fatty acid and fatty acid alcohol (particularly C1-C26 fatty acid chains). Preferred cations include cations of Group 1 and II metals, with sodium, calcium, and potassium cations being particularly preferred. The inventive reactions proceed much more rapidly than prior art lactylate synthesis reactions, and can be used to form 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-lactylates.