Evidence linking fasting plasma total homocysteine (tHcy) and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) 677C>T genotype with hypertension is inconsistent. Differences in B vitamin status, other lifestyle factors or their consideration in analyses might explain this. We investigated these associations in the absence of mandatory fortification with folic acid and B vitamin supplement use. A cross-sectional study was conducted in 788 adults, aged 18–75 years, randomly selected from three Catalonian town population registers. Fasting plasma folate, cobalamin, tHcy, erythrocyte folate, erythrocyte glutathione reductase activation coefficient (EGRAC, functional riboflavin status indicator; increasing EGRAC indicates worsening riboflavin status), MTHFR 677C>T and solute carrier family 1 (SLC19A1) 80 G>A genotypes were determined. Medical history and lifestyle habits were recorded. Principal tHcy determinants differed between women (age, plasma folate, plasma cobalamin, cigarettes/d) and men (MTHFR 677TT genotype, plasma folate, plasma cobalamin and CT genotype). The MTHFR 677C>T polymorphism–tHcy association (β standardised regression coefficients) was stronger in male smokers (0·52, P < 0·001) compared with non-smokers (0·21, P = 0·001) and weaker in participants aged >50 years (0·19, P = 0·007) compared with ≤50 years (0·31, P < 0·001). Hypertension was more probable in the third tHcy tertile compared with other tertiles (OR 1·9; 95 % CI 1·2, 3·0), and in participants aged ≤50 years, for the MTHFR 677TT genotype compared with the CC genotype (OR 4·1; 95 % CI 1·0, 16·9). EGRAC was associated with increased probability of hypertension in participants aged >50 years (OR 6·2; 95 % CI 1·0, 38·7). In conclusion, moderately elevated tHcy and the MTHFR 677CT genotype were associated with hypertension. The MTHFR 677C>T genotype–hypertension association was confined to adults aged ≤50 years.