Higher-educated people often have healthier diets, but it is unclear whether specific dietary patterns exist within educational groups. We therefore aimed to derive dietary patterns in the total population and by educational level and to investigate whether these patterns differed in their composition and associations with the incidence of fatal and non-fatal CHD and stroke. Patterns were derived using principal components analysis in 36 418 participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition-Netherlands cohort. Self-reported educational level was used to create three educational groups. Dietary intake was estimated using a validated semi-quantitative FFQ. Hazard ratios were estimated using Cox Proportional Hazard analysis after a mean follow-up of 16 years. In the three educational groups, similar 'Western', 'prudent' and 'traditional' patterns were derived as in the total population. However, with higher educational level a lower population-derived score for the 'Western' and 'traditional' patterns and a higher score on the 'prudent' pattern were observed. These differences in distribution of the factor scores illustrate the association between education and food consumption. After adjustments, no differences in associations between population-derived dietary patterns and the incidence of CHD or stroke were found between the educational groups (P interaction between 0·21 and 0·98). In conclusion, although in general population and educational groups-derived dietary patterns did not differ, small differences between educational groups existed in the consumption of food groups in participants considered adherent to the population-derived patterns (Q4). This did not result in different associations with incident CHD or stroke between educational groups.