Many species of microalgae produce greatly enhanced amounts of triacylglycerides (TAGs), the key product for biodiesel production, in response to specific environmental stresses. Improvement of TAG production by microalgae through optimization of growth regimes is of great interest. This relies on understanding microalgal lipid metabolism in relation to stress response in particular the deprivation of nutrients that can induce enhanced TAG synthesis. In this study, a detailed investigation of changes in lipid composition in Chlorella sp. and Nannochloropsis sp. in response to nitrogen deprivation (N-deprivation) was performed to provide novel mechanistic insights into the lipidome during stress. As expected, an increase in TAGs and an overall decrease in polar lipids were observed. However, while most membrane lipid classes (phosphoglycerolipids and glycolipids) were found to decrease, the non-nitrogen containing phosphatidylglycerol levels increased considerably in both algae from initially low levels. Of particular significance, it was observed that the acyl composition of TAGs in Nannochloropsis sp. remain relatively constant, whereas Chlorella sp. showed greater variability following N-deprivation. In both algae the overall fatty acid profiles of the polar lipid classes were largely unaffected by N-deprivation, suggesting a specific FA profile for each compartment is maintained to enable continued function despite considerable reductions in the amount of these lipids. The changes observed in the overall fatty acid profile were due primarily to the decrease in proportion of polar lipids to TAGs. This study provides the most detailed lipidomic information on two different microalgae with utility in biodiesel production and nutraceutical industries and proposes the mechanisms for this rearrangement. This research also highlights the usefulness of the latest MS-based approaches for microalgae lipid research.