The objective of the present study was to investigate the optimal dietary n-6:n-3 PUFA ratios that regulate lipid metabolism and inflammation in pigs. A total of ninety-six cross-bred (Large White × Landrace) growing-finishing pigs (73·8 (sem 1·6) kg) were chosen and fed one of the four isoenergetic diets with n-6:n-3 PUFA ratios of 1:1, 2·5:1, 5:1 and 10:1. The growth performance of pigs fed the diet with an n-6:n-3 PUFA ratio of 5:1 was the best, but the group fed the diet with an n-6:n-3 PUFA ratio of 1:1 had the highest muscle mass and the lowest adipose tissue mass (P< 0·05). The concentrations of IL-6 and IL-1β of pigs fed the diet with an n-6:n-3 PUFA ratio of 1:1 were decreased compared with those of the other groups (P< 0·05). The concentration of adiponectin of pigs fed the diet with an n-6:n-3 PUFA ratio of 1:1 was also markedly decreased, but the concentration of leptin was increased compared with that of the groups fed the diets with n-6:n-3 PUFA ratios of 5:1 and 10:1 (P< 0·05). Additionally, the optimal dietary ratios of n-6:n-3 PUFA of 1:1 and 5:1 markedly suppressed the expression levels of lipid metabolism-related genes and proteins such as phosphoinositide-3-kinase-α, fatty acid transport protein-1 and PPARγ. They also significantly suppressed the expression levels of the inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, TNF-α and IL-6. The results indicated that the optimal n-6:n-3 PUFA ratios of 1:1 and 5:1 exerted beneficial effects on lipid metabolism and inflammatory system, leading to the availability of more energy and nutrients for high performance and homeostatic pathways.