Infants developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) have a different metabolomic profile compared to controls. The potential of specific metabolomics, i.e. amino acids and amino alcohols (AAA), as early diagnostic biomarkers for NEC is largely unexplored. In this multicenter prospective case–control study, longitudinally collected fecal samples from preterm infants (born <30 weeks of gestation) from 1–3 days before diagnosis of severe NEC (Bell’s stage IIIA/IIIB), were analyzed by targeted high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Control samples were collected from gestational and postnatal age-matched infants. Thirty-one NEC cases (15 NEC IIIA;16 NEC IIIB) with 1:1 matched controls were included. Preclinical samples of infants with NEC were characterized by five increased essential amino acids—isoleucine, leucine, methionine, phenylalanine and valine. Lysine and ethanolamine ratios were lower prior to NEC, compared to control samples. A multivariate model was rendered based on isoleucine, lysine, ethanolamine, tryptophan and ornithine, modestly discriminating cases from controls (AUC 0.67; p < 0.001). Targeted HPLC pointed to several specific AAA alterations in samples collected 1–3 days before NEC onset, compared to controls. Whether this reflects metabolic alterations and has a role in early biomarker development for NEC, has yet to be elucidated.