The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the anti-hypercholesterolaemic effects of two putative probiotic bile salt hydrolase (Bsh)-producing Lactobacillusplantarum strains, i.e. Lp91 and Lp21, in rats. L. plantarum Lp91 exhibited excellent tolerance to low pH and high bile salt concentrations as well as showed potential Bsh activity, cholesterol assimilation and cholesterol co-precipitation ability along with L. plantarum Lp21 and NCDO82 strains. Furthermore, the potential effect of L. plantarum Lp91 on plasma cholesterol level was evaluated in Sprague–Dawley rats. Five treatment groups of rats (n 6) were fed experimental diets: normal diet, hypercholesterolaemic diet (HD), HD plus L. plantarum Lp91 (HD91) at ≥ 1·0 × 108 colony-forming units (cfu)/g, HD plus microencapsulated L. plantarum Lp91 (HDCap91) at ≥ 1·0 × 108 cfu/g and HD plus L. plantarum Lp21 (HD21) at ≥ 1·0 × 108 cfu/g for 3 weeks. Feed intake and feed efficiency differed significantly among the five groups. After 21 d of dietary treatment, comparative analysis revealed 23·26, 15·71 and 15·01 % reduction in total cholesterol, 21·09, 18·77 and 18·17 % reduction in TAG, 38·13, 23·22 and 21·42 % reduction in LDL-cholesterol, and the corresponding HDL-cholesterol values increased at the rate of 18·94, 10·30 and 7·78 % in treated groups HD91, HDCap91 and HD21, respectively. Faecal excretion of cholic acid and faecal lactobacilli counts were significantly higher in the probiotic treatment groups than in the control groups. In conclusion, these results suggest that the indigenous L. plantarum Lp91 strain has the potential to be explored as a probiotic in the management of hypercholesterolaemia.