The present study was conducted to investigate the effects of dietary yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) cell walls (YCW) from the yeast extract industry on performance and immune function of cyclosporine A (CSA)-treated, immunosuppressed broiler chickens. A total of 240 day-old male broilers were allocated randomly into four treatments: (1) non-challenged control; (2) non-challenged control+0·3 % YCW; (3) CSA-challenged group; (4) CSA-challenged+0·3 % YCW. On days 1–4 and 22–25 of age, broilers were subcutaneously injected with CSA or sterile saline. The results showed that supplementation of YCW significantly improved daily weight gain (DWG) during the starter (days 1–21, P < 0·01), finisher (days 22–42, P < 0·01) and overall (days 1–42, P < 0·05) periods compared with the control birds, but had no effect on feed conversion ratio (FCR, P>0·05). Compared with the CSA-treated birds, YCW alleviated the decrease of DWG (P < 0·01) and increase of FCR (P < 0·05) caused by CSA challenge at different periods and cumulatively. On days 21 and 42, YCW mitigated the CSA-induced decrease of peripheral blood lymphocyte blastogenic response (P < 0·01). In addition, YCW improved the relative weights of the bursa of Fabricius (P < 0·01) and thymus (P < 0·01) and up-regulated the splenic expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β (P < 0·01) and IL-6 (P < 0·01) on day 42 compared with the CSA-treated birds. These results indicate that YCW supplementation has beneficial effects in attenuating the immunosuppressive effects of CSA challenge, therefore improving growth performance of broiler chickens.