Linoleic acid (LA), an essential n-6 fatty acid (FA), is critical for fetal development. We investigated the effects of maternal high LA (HLA) diet on offspring cardiac development and its relationship to circulating FA and cardiovascular function in adolescent offspring, and the ability of the postnatal diet to reverse any adverse effects. Female Wistar Kyoto rats were fed low LA (LLA; 1·44 % energy from LA) or high LA (HLA; 6·21 % energy from LA) diets for 10 weeks before pregnancy and during gestation/lactation. Offspring, weaned at postnatal day 25, were fed LLA or HLA diets and euthanised at postnatal day 40 (n 6–8). Maternal HLA diet decreased circulating total cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol in females and decreased total plasma n-3 FA in males, while maternal and postnatal HLA diets decreased total plasma n-3 FA in females. α-Linolenic acid (ALA) and EPA were decreased by postnatal but not maternal HLA diets in both sexes. Maternal and postnatal HLA diets increased total plasma n-6 and LA, and a maternal HLA diet increased circulating leptin, in both male and female offspring. Maternal HLA decreased slopes of systolic and diastolic pressure–volume relationship (PVR), and increased cardiac Col1a1, Col3a1, Atp2a1 and Notch1 in males. Maternal and postnatal HLA diets left-shifted the diastolic PVR in female offspring. Coronary reactivity was altered in females, with differential effects on flow repayment after occlusion. Thus, maternal HLA diets impact lipids, FA and cardiac function in offspring, with postnatal diet modifying FA and cardiac function in the female offspring.