The high cost of the catalyst material used for the oxygen reduction reaction in microbial fuel cell (MFC) cathodes is one of the factors limiting practical applications of this technology. Mesoporous nitrogen-rich carbon (MNC), prepared at different temperatures, was examined as an oxygen reduction catalyst, and compared in performance to Pt in MFCs and electrochemical cells. MNC calcined at 800 °C produced a maximum power density of 979 ± 131 mW m-2 in MFCs, which was 37% higher than that produced using MNC calined at 600 °C (715 ± 152 mW m-2), and only 14% lower than that obtained with Pt (1143 ± 54 mW m-2). The extent of COD removal and coulombic efficiencies were the same for all cathode materials. These results show that MNC could be used as an alternative to Pt in MFCs. © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.