Fish oil n-3 fatty acids (FA) have known health benefits. Microencapsulation stabilises and protects fish oil from oxidation, enabling its incorporation into foods. The aim of the present study was to compare the bioavailability of n-3 FA delivered as two microencapsulated fish oil-formulated powders or fish oil gel capsules (FOGC) taken with a flavoured milk in healthy participants. Formulation 1 (F1) composed of a heated mixture of milk protein–sugar as an encapsulant, and formulation 2 (F2) comprised a heated mixture of milk protein–sugar–resistant starch as an encapsulant. Participants consumed 4 g fish oil (approximately 1·0 g EPA and DHA equivalent per dose). Bioavailability was assessed acutely after ingestion of a single dose by measuring total plasma FA composition over a period of 48 h (n 14) using a randomised cross-over design, and over the short term for a period of 4 weeks using an unblinded parallel design (after daily supplementation) by measuring total plasma and erythrocyte FA composition at baseline and at 2 and 4 weeks (n 47). In the acute study, F1 greatly increased (% Δ) plasma EPA and total n-3 FA levels at 2 and 4 h and DHA levels at 4 h compared with FOGC. The time to reach maximal plasma values (T
max) was shorter for F1 than for FOGC or F2. In the short-term study, increases in plasma and erythrocyte n-3 FA values were similar for all treatments and achieved an omega-3 index in the range of 5·8–6·3 % after 4 weeks. Overall, the results demonstrated human bioequivalence for microencapsulated fish oil powder compared with FOGC.