A carbohydrate-rich diet results in hyperglycaemia and hyperinsulinaemia; it may further induce the carcinogenesis of colorectal cancer. However, epidemiological evidence among Chinese population is quite limited. The aim of this study was to investigate total carbohydrate, non-fibre carbohydrate, total fibre, starch, dietary glycaemic index (GI) and glycaemic load (GL) in relation to colorectal cancer risk in Chinese population. A case–control study was conducted from July 2010 to April 2017, recruiting 1944 eligible colorectal cancer cases and 2027 age (5-year interval) and sex frequency-matched controls. Dietary information was collected by using a validated FFQ. The OR and 95 % CI of colorectal cancer risk were assessed by multivariable logistic regression models. There was no clear association between total carbohydrate intake and colorectal cancer risk. The adjusted OR was 0·85 (95 % CI 0·70, 1·03, Ptrend=0·08) comparing the highest with the lowest quartile. Total fibre was related to a 53 % reduction in colorectal cancer risk (adjusted ORquartile 4 v. 1 0·47; 95 % CI 0·39, 0·58). However, dietary GI was positively associated with colorectal cancer risk, with an adjusted ORquartile 4 v. 1 of 3·10 (95 % CI 2·51, 3·85). No significant association was found between the intakes of non-fibre carbohydrate, starch and dietary GL and colorectal cancer risk. This study indicated that dietary GI was positively associated with colorectal cancer risk, but no evidence supported that total carbohydrate, non-fibre carbohydrate, starch or high dietary GL intake were related to an increased risk of colorectal cancer in a Chinese population.