The interaction of genetic and dietary factors, as an area of CVD research, has been explored poorly. The aim of the present study was to examine the interaction of dietary patterns and three genetic variants of APOA1 and APOC3, both independently and in combination, relative to the risk of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) in Tehranian adults. In the present matched, nested case–control study, 414 subjects with the MetS and 414 controls were selected from the participants of the Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study. Dietary patterns were determined by factor analysis. APOC3 (rs5128 3238C>G) and APOA1 (rs670, − 75G>A and rs5069,+83C>T) SNP were genotyped by the conventional PCR followed by the restriction fragment length polymorphism technique. Overall, three major dietary patterns were extracted: healthy dietary pattern (HDP); Western dietary pattern (WDP); fat–sweet dietary pattern (FSDP). The A and T allele carriers of the APOA1 SNP had a greater risk of developing the MetS in the highest quartile of WDP scores (OR 3·22, 95 % CI 1·21, 8·58, Pinteraction= 0·03). Compared with other genotype combinations, the combined effect of APOC3/APOA1 (CC/GA+AA/CT+TT) genotypes showed a further increase in the risk of the MetS in the highest quartile of WDP scores (OR 1, 2·49, 8·73, 6·32, Ptrend< 0·001, Pinteraction= 0·003). A significant interaction was found between the quartiles of FSDP scores and the APOA1 diplotype (GA+AA/CT+TT). OR for these genotype carriers were 1, 0·65, 0·57 and 0·22 (Ptrend= 0·006) in the lowest to the highest quartile of FSDP scores when compared with the other combined genotypes (Pinteraction= 0·03). Our findings suggest that the WDP and FSDP are associated with APOA1 and APOC3 SNP in relation to the risk of the MetS.