The role of oxidative stress in skeletal health is unclear. The present study investigated whether a high dietary intake of antioxidant nutrients (vitamins C and E, β-carotene, animal-derived vitamin A, retinol equivalents, Zn and Se) is associated with a reduced risk of hip fracture in elderly Chinese. This 1:1 matched case–control study involved 726 elderly Chinese with hip fracture and 726 control subjects, recruited between June 2009 and May 2013. Face-to-face interviews were conducted to determine habitual dietary intakes of the above-mentioned seven nutrients based on a seventy-nine-item FFQ and information on various covariates, and an antioxidant score was calculated. After adjustment for potential covariates, dose-dependent inverse associations were observed between the dietary intake of vitamin C, vitamin E, β-carotene, and Se and antioxidant score and the risk of hip fracture (P for trend ≤ 0·005). The OR of hip fracture for the highest (v. lowest) quartile of intake were 0·39 (95 % CI 0·28, 0·56) for vitamin C, 0·23 (95 % CI 0·16, 0·33) for vitamin E, 0·51 (95 % CI 0·36, 0·73) for β-carotene, 0·43 (95 % CI 0·26, 0·70) for Se and 0·24 (95 % CI 0·17, 0·36) for the antioxidant score. A moderate-to-high dietary intake of retinol equivalents in quartiles 2–4 (v. 1) was found to be associated with a lower risk of hip fracture (OR range: 0·51–0·63, P< 0·05). No significant association was observed between dietary Zn or animal-derived vitamin A intake and hip fracture risk (P for trend >0·20). In conclusion, a higher dietary intake of vitamins C and E, β-carotene, and Se and a moderate-to-high dietary intake of retinol equivalents are associated with a lower risk of hip fracture in elderly Chinese.