This study describes the preparation and characterization of a biodegradable 3D hydrogel constructed from hydroxypropyl cellulose (HPC), modified with bifunctional methacrylic anhydride (MA) to form hydroxypropyl cellulose methacrylate (HPC-MA), for adipose tissue engineering applications. The hydrogels were prepared from three different concentrations (10 wt%, 15 wt% and 20 wt%) of HPC-MA with 0.35 degree of substitution. HPC-MA hydrogel scaffolds with open biphasic features were prepared by exploiting the thermal responsive phase behavior of HPC and temperature mediated phase separation of HPC-MA. The resulting scaffolds exhibited pore sizes ranging from 30 to 300 μm and an interconnected porosity of ∼90%. The swelling ratio (SR) and storage modulus of HPC-MA scaffolds were in the range of 12.94 to 35.83 and 0.75 to 4.28 kPa, respectively. The swelling ratio and storage modulus suggested that the scaffold exhibits high water retention, allowing medium exchange during cell culturing and that it is suitable for adipose tissue regeneration. The HPC-MA scaffolds were found to be biocompatible to human adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs). ASCs were successfully differentiated into the adipocytes inside the scaffolds, and therefore demonstrated the potential application of these HPC-MA scaffolds for adipose tissue engineering. This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2013.