Low protein intake may accelerate age-related loss of lean mass and physical function. We investigated the prevalence of low protein intake (<1·0 g/kg/day) and the associations between dietary patterns, modifiable risk factors and low protein intake in self-reliant community-dwelling adults ≥ 80 years. This cross-sectional study consisted of two home visits. Data collection consisted of physical measurements (e.g. physical function, physical activity) and self-report of nutritional intake (4-d food records), appetite, eating symptoms and medical conditions. Binary analyses were performed to compare participants with low and normal protein intake. Multiple logistic regression analyses were performed to investigate associations between low protein intake, dietary patterns and modifiable risk factors adjusted for age, sex, BMI categories and diseases. One hundred twenty-six were included in the study. Prevalence of low protein intake was 54 %. A greater day-to-day variation in protein intake was associated with low protein intake (adjusted OR 2·5; 95 % CI 1·14, 5·48). Participants with low protein intake had a higher prevalence of nausea, diarrhoea and mouth dryness. Reduced appetite, mouth dryness and pain increased odds of low protein intake (adjusted OR 3·06, 95 % CI 1·23, 7·63; OR 3·41, 95 % CI 1·51, 7·7; OR 1·54, 95 % CI 1·00, 2·36, respectively). There was a high prevalence of low protein intake in community-dwelling adults aged ≥ 80 years. Day-to-day variability, appetite, mouth dryness and pain may be potentially modifiable risk factors. Targeting dietary patterns and risk factors in primary prevention strategies may potentially improve intake of protein and minimise risk of physical frailty.