The alcoholysis of cyclic meso-anhydrides catalyzed by β-amino alcohols has been investigated with DFT quantum mechanics to determine the mechanism of this reaction. Both nucleophilic catalysis and general base catalysis pathways are explored for methanol-induced ring opening of an anhydride catalyzed by a chiral amino alcohol. The nucleophilic pathway involves a late transition state with a high energy barrier. In this mechanism, methanolysis is expected to take place following the amine-induced ring opening of the anhydride. In the base-catalyzed mechanism, methanol attack on one carbonyl group of the meso-anhydride is assisted by the β-amino alcohol; the amine functionality abstracts the methanol proton. The chiral amino alcohol also catalyzes the reaction by stabilizing the oxyanion that forms upon ring opening of the anhydride by hydrogen bonding with its alcoholic moiety. Both stepwise and concerted pathways have been studied for the general base catalysis route. Transition structures for both are found to be lower in energy than in the nucleophilic mechanism. Overall this study has shed light on the mechanism of the β-amino alcohol-catalyzed alcoholysis of cyclic meso-anhydrides, showing that the nucleophilic pathway is approximately 100 kJ mol−1 higher in energy than the general base pathway.