Mexican Americans have a high prevalence of gallbladder disease. We examined the contribution of ethnic preferences in food intake to the risk of gallbladder disease in Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic whites. Participants in a population-based health survey were questioned about any history of gallbladder disease, and were interviewed to determine their dietary intake. After adjusting for age, body mass index, and ethnic group, we found that women with the highest intake of total fat and linoleic acid had reduced risks of gallbladder disease, although an opposite trend was observed in men. High levels of sucrose intake and low levels of cholesterol intake were associated with an increased risk for both sexes, but the odds ratios were not statistically significant. Although Mexican Americans and non-Hispanics differed in their intake of several nutrients, the elevated risk of gallbladder disease in Mexican American women was unchanged after ethnic differences in food intake were taken into account. Although the dietary preferences of Mexican Americans as reflected in 24-h diet recall interviews do not appear to explain their high prevalence of gallbladder disease, this finding should be interpreted with caution because of methodologic limitations in measuring habitual food intake.