Few studies have examined dietary patterns in relation to cardiovascular risk factors in Asian populations, particularly in India. The present study was undertaken to explore dietary patterns in a general urban Bengalee population of women in West Bengal, India, and their association with cardiovascular risk factors. We performed a cross-sectional study of 701 women (aged 35 years and above) selected by cluster sampling from twelve different wards of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (Kolkata, India). The following three major dietary patterns were identified: the ‘vegetable, fruits and pulses’ pattern (characterised by higher intakes of dark-yellow and green leafy vegetables, sweets, fruits, pulses, nuts, poultry and eggs, and lower intake of mustard oil); the ‘hydrogenated and saturated fat and vegetable oil’ pattern (characterised by higher intakes of butter, hydrogenated oil, ghee, vegetable oil, mustard oil, condiments, sweets, fish, high-fat dairy and refined grain); the ‘red meat and high-fat dairy’ pattern (characterised by higher intakes of red meat, high-fat dairy products, whole grain, high-energy drinks and condiments, and lower intakes of fish, refined grain and low-fat dairy products). The vegetable, fruits and pulses pattern was inversely associated with serum total cholesterol (TC), LDL-cholesterol and non-HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) concentrations (P < 0·05 for all). The hydrogenated and saturated fat and vegetable oil pattern was positively associated with BMI, waist circumference (WC) and HDL-C concentration (P < 0·05 for all). In this Bengalee population, these three major dietary patterns were observed, and the dietary patterns were independently associated with BMI, WC and serum TC concentrations in women.