Sarcopenia is a core contributor to several health consequences, including falls, fractures, physical limitations and disability. The pathophysiological processes of sarcopenia may be counteracted with the proper diet, delaying sarcopenia onset. Dietary pattern analysis is a whole diet approach used to investigate the relationship between diet and sarcopenia. Here, we aimed to investigate this relationship in an elderly Chinese population. A cross-sectional study with 2423 participants aged more than 60 years was performed. Sarcopenia was defined based on the guidelines of the Asian Working Group for Sarcopenia, composed of low muscle mass plus low grip strength and/or low gait speed. Dietary data were collected using a FFQ that included questions on 100 food items along with their specified serving sizes. Three dietary patterns were derived by factor analysis: sweet pattern, vegetable pattern and animal food pattern. The prevalence of sarcopenia was 16·1 %. The higher vegetable pattern score and animal food pattern score were related to lower prevalence of sarcopenia (Ptrend = 0·006 and < 0·001, respectively); the multivariate-adjusted OR of the prevalence of sarcopenia in the highest v. lowest quartiles were 0·54 (95 % CI 0·34, 0·86) and 0·50 (95 % CI 0·33, 0·74), separately. The sweet pattern score was not significantly related to the prevalence of sarcopenia. The present study showed that vegetable pattern and animal food pattern were related to a lower prevalence of sarcopenia in Chinese older adults. Further studies are required to clarify these findings.