A condensed phase process for the preparation of purified 2,3-pentanedione from lactic acid and an alkali metal lactate is described. The process uses elevated temperatures between about 200.degree. to 360.degree. C. for heating a reaction mixture of lactic acid and an alkali metal lactate to produce the 2,3-pentanedione in a reaction vessel. The 2,3-pentanedione produced is vaporized from the reaction vessel and condensed with water.