The aim of the present study was to assess the effects of dietary supplementation with epidermal growth factor (EGF)-expressing Saccharomyces cerevisiae on duodenal development in weaned piglets. In total, forty piglets weaned at 21–26 d of age were assigned to one of the five groups that were provided basic diet (control group) or diet supplemented with S. cerevisiae expressing either empty-vector (INVSc1(EV) group), tagged EGF (T-EGF) (INVSc1-TE(−) group), extracellular EGF (EE-EGF) (INVSc1-EE(+) group) or intracellular EGF (IE-EGF) (INVSc1-IE(+) group). All treatments were delivered as 60·00 μg/kg body weight EGF/d. On 0, 7, 14 and 21 d, eight piglets per treatment were sacrificed to analyse the morphology, activities and mRNA expressions of digestive enzymes, as well as Ig levels (IgA, IgM, IgG) in duodenal mucosa. The results showed significant improvement on 7, 14 and 21 d, with respect to average daily gain (P<0·05), mucosa morphology (villus height and crypt depth) (P<0·05), Ig levels (P<0·01), activities and mRNA expressions of digestive enzymes (creatine kinase, alkaline phosphatase, lactate dehydrogenase and sucrase) (P<0·05) and the mRNA expression of EGF-receptor (P<0·01) in NVSc1-TE(−), INVSc1-EE(+) and INVSc1-IE(+) groups compared with control and INVSc1(EV) groups. In addition, a trend was observed in which the INVSc1-IE(+) group showed an improvement in Ig levels (0·05<P<0·10), mRNA expressions of digestive enzymes and EGF-receptor (P<0·05) compared with NVSc1-TE(−) and INVSc1-EE(+) groups. These results indicate that supplementing recombinant EGF-expressing S. cerevisiae to the diet of weaned piglets enhanced duodenal development. Moreover, biological activity (Ig levels, mRNA expressions of digestive enzymes and EGF-receptor) of IE-EGF was better than either EE-EGF or T-EGF.