Malbranque was axed from the squad for the recent goalless draw with Fulham after a breach of club discipline in a nightclub.
The Belgian's days as a Sunderland player had looked to be numbered, but with his options limited because of injury, Black Cats boss Steve Bruce has opted to restore him to the squad.
Malbranque replaces Kieran Richardson in the only change to the side that drew with the Cottagers nine days ago.
Lee Cattermole had been an injury doubt because of a hamstring injury, but the Stockton-born midfielder has been passed fit to partner Lorik Cana at the heart of midfield.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Gordon; Hutton, Turner, Mensah, Ferdinand; Campbell, Cana, Cattermole, Malbranque; Jones, Bent.
Subs: Carson (gk), Bardsley, McCartney, Zenden, Da Silva, Kilgallon, Benjani.
BOLTON (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Ricketts, Knight, Robinson; Lee, Wilshere, Muamba, Gardner; Elmander, Davies.
Subs: Al Habsi (gk), Samuel, Taylor, Riga, Klasnic, O'Brien, Weiss.