Observations of the Pluto-Charon system using the Hubble Space Telescope are soon to provide another test of the modern Laplacian theory of solar system origin. According to this theory, Pluto, Charon and Neptune’s moon Triton are condensed remnants of the gas ring which was shed by the proto-solar cloud at Neptune’s orbit, and from which Neptune formed. Each body should have the same bulk chemical composition provided that the influence of secondary events such as physical collision can be neglected. Here we report a model for the time-dependent, surface-catalysed production of CH4, solid carbon C(s) and CO2 within the outer layers of the proto-solar cloud. This model is used to determine the condensate mix which best fits the Voyager 2 spacecraft measurements of Triton’s mean density. We suggest that Triton is a chemically homogeneous structure consisting, by mass, of 44.2% anhydrous rock, 2.1% graphite, 33.0% water ice and 20.7% dry ice (i.e., solid CO2 ice, of which a fraction nearly 2/3 is present as the clathrate hydrate CO2·5.75 H2O). On the basis of this composition, the individual mean densities of Pluto and Charon are predicted to be 2.02 ± 0.02 g/cm3 and 1.94 ± 0.02 g/cm3, respectively, assuming a mean surface temperature of 35 K. The mean density of the combined system is predicted to be 2.01 ± 0.02 g/cm3.