Ethnic differences in the pathobiology of acute coronary syndromes (ACS) have not been systematically studied. We compared the underlying mechanisms of ACS between Asians and Whites. ACS patients with the culprit lesion imaged by optical coherence tomography were included. Patients were stratified into ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) and non-ST-elevation-ACS (NSTE-ACS), and baseline characteristics, underlying mechanisms of ACS, and culprit plaque characteristics were compared between Asians and Whites. Of 1,225 patients, 1,019 were Asian (567 STEMI and 452 NSTE-ACS) and 206 were White (71 STEMI and 135 NSTE-ACS). Asians had more diabetes and hypertension among STEMI patients; among NSTE-ACS patients, Asians had higher prevalence of diabetes and renal insufficiency, and lower prevalence of hyperlipidemia. There were no differences in the incidence of plaque rupture, plaque erosion and calcified plaque between Asians and Whites with STEMI (61.2%, 28.6%, 10.2% vs 46.5%, 38.0%, 15.5%, respectively, p = 0.055). Among NSTE-ACS patients, there was a significant difference between Asians and Whites (40.5%, 47.6%, 11.9% vs 27.4%, 48.9%, 23.7%, respectively, p = 0.001). After adjustment for clinical confounders, the risk of plaque rupture (p = 0.713), plaque erosion (p = 0.636), and calcified plaque (p = 0.986) was similar between the groups with STEMI. In NSTE-ACS patients, the only difference was an increased risk of calcified plaque in Whites (odds ratio: 2.125, 95% confidence interval: 1.213 to 3.723, p = 0.008). In conclusion, after adjustment for clinical confounders, Asian and White patients presenting with STEMI and NSTE-ACS showed similar underlying mechanisms of ACS, except for a higher risk of calcified plaque in Whites with NSTE-ACS.