The aim of the present study was to determine whether under-reporting rates vary between dietary pattern clusters. Subjects were sixty-five Brazilian women. During 3 weeks, anthropometric data were collected, total energy expenditure (TEE) was determined by the doubly labelled water method and diet was measured. Energy intake (EI) and the daily frequency of consumption per 1000 kJ of twenty-two food groups were obtained from a FFQ. These frequencies were entered into a cluster analysis procedure in order to obtain dietary patterns. Under-reporters were defined as those who did not lose more than 1 kg of body weight during the study and presented EI:TEE less than 0·82. Three dietary pattern clusters were identified and named according to their most recurrent food groups: sweet foods (SW), starchy foods (ST) and healthy (H). Subjects from the healthy cluster had the lowest mean EI:TEE (SW = 0·86, ST = 0·71 and H = 0·58; P = 0·003) and EI − TEE (SW = − 0·49 MJ, ST = − 3·20 MJ and H = − 5·08 MJ; P = 0·008). The proportion of under-reporters was 45·2 (95 % CI 35·5, 55·0) % in the SW cluster; 58·3 (95 % CI 48·6, 68·0) % in the ST cluster and 70·0 (95 % CI 61·0, 79) % in the H cluster (P = 0·34). Thus, in Brazilian women, under-reporting of EI is not uniformly distributed among dietary pattern clusters and tends to be more severe among subjects from the healthy cluster. This cluster is more consistent with both dietary guidelines and with what lay individuals usually consider ‘healthy eating’.