Essential fatty acids (EFA) such as α-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA) are needed for healthy growth and development of children. Worldwide, reliable intake data of EFA are often lacking. The objective of this study was to investigate dietary intake of EFA in Indonesian children. Dietary intake data of 4–12-year-old children (n 45 821) from a nationally representative Indonesian survey were used to estimate median intake and distribution of population fatty acid intake. Missing data on individual fatty acids in the Indonesian food composition table were complemented through chemical analyses of national representative food samples and imputation of data from the US nutrient database. Nutrient adequacy ratios were calculated as a percentage of FAO/WHO intake recommendations. The medians of total fat intake of the children was 26·7 (10th–90th percentile 11·2–40·0) percentage of total daily energy (%E). Intakes of fatty acids were 4·05 (10th–90th percentile 1·83–7·22) %E for total PUFA, 3·36 (10th–90th percentile 1·14–6·29) %E for LA and 0·20 (10th–90th percentile 0·07–0·66) %E for ALA. Median intake of PUFA was 67 % and that of ALA 40 % of the minimum amounts recommended by FAO/WHO. These data indicate that a majority of Indonesian children has intakes of PUFA and specifically ALA that are lower than recommended intake levels. Total fat and LA intakes may be suboptimal for a smaller yet considerable proportion of children. Public health initiatives should provide practical guidelines to promote consumption of PUFA-rich foods.