Dietary lignans, quercetin and resveratrol have oestrogenic properties, and animal studies suggest that they synergistically decrease cancer risk. A protective effect of lignans on the development of oesophageal cancer in humans has recently been demonstrated, and the present study aimed to test whether these three phytochemicals synergistically decrease the risk of oesophageal cancer. Data from a Swedish nationwide population-based case–control study that recruited 181 cases of oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC), 158 cases of oesophageal squamous-cell carcinoma (OSCC), 255 cases of gastro-oesophageal junctional adenocarcinoma (JAC) and 806 controls were analysed. Exposure data were collected through face-to-face interviews and questionnaires. The intake of lignans, quercetin and resveratrol was assessed using a sixty-three-item FFQ. Reduced-rank regression was used to assess a dietary pattern, and a simplified dietary pattern score was categorised into quintiles on the basis of the distribution among the control subjects. Unconditional multivariable logistic regression provided OR with 95 % CI, adjusted for all the potential risk factors. A dietary pattern rich in lignans, quercetin and resveratrol was mainly characterised by a high intake of tea, wine, lettuce, mixed vegetables, tomatoes, and whole-grain bread and a low intake of milk. There were dose-dependent associations between simplified dietary pattern scores and all types of oesophageal cancer (all P for trend < 0·05). On comparing the highest quintiles with the lowest, the adjusted OR were found to be 0·24 (95 % CI 0·12, 0·49) for OAC, 0·31 (95 % CI 0·15, 0·65) for OSCC, and 0·49 (95 % CI 0·28, 0·84) for JAC. The results of the present study indicate that a dietary pattern characterised by the intake of lignans, quercetin and resveratrol may play a protective role in the development of oesophageal cancer in the Swedish population.