As a key indicator of childhood malnutrition, few studies have focused on stunting in relation to various socio-economic factors in which disadvantaged groups face in China. We conducted a community-based cross-sectional study incorporating forty-two rural counties in seven western provinces of China in 2011. In total, 5196 children aged 6–23 months were included. We used Poisson regression to examine risk factors for inadequate minimum dietary diversity (MDD) and stunting status, respectively. Overall, the proportion of children not meeting MDD was 44·5 %. Children aged 6–11 months (adjusted risk ratio (ARR)=1·39; 95 % CI 1·31, 1·49), with two siblings (ARR=1·09; 95 % CI 1·02, 1·17), delivered at home (ARR=1·30; 95 % CI 1·20, 1·41), within Yi (ARR=1·15; 95 % CI 1·04, 1·28) or Uighur groups (ARR=1·52; 95 % CI 1·36, 1·71), with an illiterate caregiver (ARR=2·12; 95 % CI 1·52, 2·96), receiving lowest income (ARR=1·32; 95 % CI 1·17, 1·50), and with breast-feeding in the last day (ARR=1·55; 95 % CI 1·44, 1·66) were more likely to have inadequate MDD. Moreover, inadequate MDD was positively associated with stunting (ARR=1·15; 95 % CI 1·01, 1·31). Other determinants for stunting were age, sex, place of delivery, minority group and income. The stunting prevalence and proportion of inadequate MDD remained high in Western China; to reduce stunting rates of ethnic minorities, further efforts addressing appropriate dietary feeding practices are needed, especially within these groups.