Carotenoids are found in abundance in fruit and vegetables, and may be involved in the positive association of these foods with bone health. This study aimed to explore the associations of dietary carotenoid intakes and plasma concentrations with bone density status and osteoporotic fracture risk in a European population. Cross-sectional analyses (n 14 803) of bone density status, using calcaneal broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA) and longitudinal analyses (n 25 439) of fracture cases were conducted on data from the prospective European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Norfolk cohort of middle-aged and older men and women. Health and lifestyle questionnaires were completed, and dietary nutrient intakes were derived from 7-d food diaries. Multiple regression demonstrated significant positive trends in BUA for women across quintiles of dietary α-carotene intake (P=0·029), β-carotene intake (P=0·003), β-cryptoxanthin intake (P=0·031), combined lutein and zeaxanthin intake (P=0·010) and lycopene intake (P=0·005). No significant trends across plasma carotenoid concentration quintiles were apparent (n 4570). The Prentice-weighted Cox regression showed no trends in fracture risk across dietary carotenoid intake quintiles (mean follow-up time 12·5 years), except for a lower risk for wrist fracture in women with higher lutein and zeaxanthin intake (P=0·022); nevertheless, inter-quintile differences in fracture risk were found for both sexes. Analysis of plasma carotenoid data (mean follow-up time 11·9 years) showed lower hip fracture risk in men across higher plasma α-carotene (P=0·026) and β-carotene (P=0·027) quintiles. This study provides novel evidence that dietary carotenoid intake is relevant to bone health in men and women, demonstrating that associations with bone density status and fracture risk exist for dietary intake of specific carotenoids and their plasma concentrations.