Biomaterials form the basis of current and future biomedical technologies. They are routinely used to design therapeutic carriers, such as nanoparticles, for applications in drug delivery. Current strategies for synthesizing drug delivery carriers are based either on discovery of materials or development of fabrication methods. While synthetic carriers have brought upon numerous advances in drug delivery, they fail to match the sophistication exhibited by innate biological entities. In particular, red blood cells (RBCs), the most ubiquitous cell type in the human blood, constitute highly specialized entities with unique shape, size, mechanical flexibility, and material composition, all of which are optimized for extraordinary biological performance. Inspired by this natural example, we synthesized particles that mimic the key structural and functional features of RBCs. Similar to their natural counterparts, RBC-mimicking particles described here possess the ability to carry oxygen and flow through capillaries smaller than their own diameter. Further, they can also encapsulate drugs and imaging agents. These particles provide a paradigm for the design of drug delivery and imaging carriers, because they combine the functionality of natural RBCs with the broad applicability and versatility of synthetic drug delivery particles.