The major innate immune cell types involved in tuberculosis (TB) infection are macrophages, dendritic cells (DCs), neutrophils and natural killer (NK) cells. These immune cells recognize the TB-causing pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) through various pattern recognition receptors (PRRs), including but not limited to Toll-like receptors (TLRs), Nod-like receptors (NLRs) and C-type lectin receptors (CLRs). Upon infection by Mtb, the host orchestrates multiple signaling cascades via the PRRs to launch a variety of innate immune defense functions such as phagocytosis, autophagy, apoptosis and inflammasome activation. In contrast, Mtb utilizes numerous exquisite strategies to evade or circumvent host innate immunity. Here we discuss recent research on major host innate immune cells, PRR signaling, and the cellular functions involved in Mtb infection, with a specific focus on the host's innate immune defense and Mtb immune evasion. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying host-pathogen interactions could provide a rational basis for the development of effective anti-TB therapeutics.