Lutein and zeaxanthin are xanthophyll carotenoids present in highly pigmented vegetables and fruits. Lutein is selectively accumulated in the brain relative to other carotenoids. Recent evidence has linked lutein to cognition in older adults, but little is known about lutein in young children, despite structural brain development. We determined lutein intake using FFQ, one 24 h recall and three 24 h recalls, plasma lutein concentrations and their association with cognition in 160 children 5·6–5·9 years of age, at low risk for neurodevelopmental delay. Plasma lutein was skewed, with a median of 0·23 (2·5th to 95th percentile range 0·11–0·53) µmol/l. Plasma lutein showed a higher correlation with lutein intake estimated as the average of three 24 h recalls (r 0·479; P = 0·001), rather than one 24 h recall (r 0·242; P = 0·003) or FFQ (r 0·316; P = 0·001). The median lutein intake was 697 (2·5th to 95th percentile range 178–5287) µg/d based on three 24 h recalls. Lutein intake was inversely associated with SFA intake, but dietary fat or SFA intakes were not associated with plasma lutein. No associations were found between plasma lutein or lutein intake and any measure of cognition. While subtle independent effects of lutein on child cognition are possible, separating these effects from covariates making an impact on both child diet and cognition may be difficult.