The extent and duration of postprandial lipaemia have been linked to risk of CHD but the influence of dietary variables on, and the relative contributions of, exogenous (chylomicron) and endogenous (VLDL) triacylglycerols to the total lipaemic response have not been comprehensively evaluated. In the present study the triacylglycerol, apolipoprotein (apo) B-48 and retinyl ester (RE) responses to three test meals of varying monounsaturated (MUFA) and saturated fatty acid (SFA) content were measured in the triacylglycerol-rich lipoprotein (TRL) fraction of plasma (ρ = 1·006 g/ml) for 9 h after meal consumption. Fifteen healthy normolipidaemic young men consumed, on separate occasions, three test meals which were identical apart from their MUFA and SFA contents. Expressed as a percentage of total energy the MUFA/SFA contents of the meals were: (1) 12 %/17 %; (2) 17 %/12 % and (3) 24 %/5 %. The contribution of the intestinally-derived lipoproteins (chylomicrons) to the lipaemic response was investigated by determining the time to reach peak concentration and the total and incremental areas under the time response curves (AUC and incremental AUC) for RE, apoB-48 and triacylglycerol in the TRL fraction. No significant differences in these measurements were observed for the three meals. However, visual comparison of the postprandial responses to the three meals suggested that as meal MUFA content increased there was a tendency for the triacylglycerol, apoB-48 and RE responses to become biphasic as opposed to the typical monophasic response seen with the 12 % MUFA/17 % SFA meal. Comparison of the apoB-48 and RE responses for the three test meals confirmed other workers’ findings of delayed entry of RE relative to apoB-48 in TRL. The value of the two markers in investigating dietary fat absorption and metabolism is discussed.