Polyketide synthases construct polyketides with diverse structures and biological activities via the condensation of extender units and acyl thioesters. Although a growing body of evidence suggests that polyketide synthases might be tolerant to non-natural extender units, in vitro and in vivo studies aimed at probing and utilizing polyketide synthase specificity are severely limited to only a small number of extender units, owing to the lack of synthetic routes to a broad variety of acyl-CoA extender units. Here, we report the construction of promiscuous malonyl-CoA synthetase variants that can be used to synthesize a broad range of malonyl-CoA extender units substituted at the C2-position, several of which contain handles for chemoselective ligation and are not found in natural biosynthetic systems. We highlighted utility of these enzymes by probing the acyl-CoA specificity of several trans-acyltransferases, leading to the unprecedented discovery of poly specificity toward non-natural extender units, several of which are not found in naturally occurring biosynthetic pathways. These results reveal that polyketide biosynthetic machinery might be more tolerant to non-natural substrates than previously established, and that mutant synthetases are valuable tools for probing the specificity of biosynthetic machinery. Our data suggest new synthetic biology strategies for harnessing this promiscuity and enabling the regioselective modification of polyketides.