The effect of vegetarian diets on faecal microbiota has been explored largely through culture-based techniques. The present study compared the faecal microbiota of vegetarian and omnivorous young women in southern India. Faecal samples were obtained from thirty-two lacto-vegetarian and twenty-four omnivorous young adult women from a similar social and economic background. Macronutrient intake and anthropometric data were collected. Faecal microbiota of interest was quantified by real-time PCR with SYBR Green using primers targeting 16S rRNA genes of groups, including: Clostridium coccoides group (Clostridium cluster XIVa), Roseburia spp.–Eubacterium rectale, Bacteroides–Prevotella group, Bifidobacterium genus, Lactobacillus group, Clostridium leptum group (Clostridium cluster IV), Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Ruminococcus productus–C. coccoides, Butyrivibrio, Enterococcus species and Enterobacteriaceae. The groups were matched for age, socio-economic score and anthropometric indices. Intake of energy, complex carbohydrates and Ca were significantly higher in the omnivorous group. The faecal microbiota of the omnivorous group was enriched with Clostridium cluster XIVa bacteria, specifically Roseburia–E. rectale. The relative proportions of other microbial communities were similar in both groups. The butyryl-CoA CoA-transferase gene, associated with microbial butyrate production, was present in greater amounts in the faeces of omnivores, and the levels were highly correlated with Clostridium cluster XIVa and Roseburia–E. rectale abundance and to a lesser extent with Clostridium leptum and F. prausnitzii abundance and with crude fibre intake. Omnivores had an increased relative abundance of Clostridium cluster XIVa bacteria and butyryl-CoA CoA-transferase gene compared with vegetarians, but we were unable to identify the components of the diet responsible for this difference.