Objective To survey the prevalence of diabetes mellitus (DM) and pre-diabetes mellitus (PDM) in the Muslim population in northwest China, and discuss the risk factor. Materials and methods According to the income and the population, we randomly selected 3 villages with stratified and cluster sampling. The subjects were residents ≥ 20 years of age, and were from families which have been local for > 3 generations. The questionnaire and oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) were completed and analyzed for 660 subjects. Results The prevalence of DM and PDM between the Han and Muslim populations were different (P = 0.041). And the prevalence were also different with respect to age in the Han (P < 0.001) and Muslim population (P < 0.001) respectively. Except for the 20-year-old age group the prevalence of DM and PDM within the Muslim population was higher than the Han (P = 0.013), we did not find any significant difference for other age groups (P > 0.05). The intake of salt (P < 0.001) and edible oil (P < 0.001) in the Muslim population was higher than the Han, while cigarette smoking (P < 0.001) and alcohol consumption (P < 0.001) was lower. BMI (P < 0.001), age (P = 0.025), and smoking cigarettes (P = 0.011) were risk factors for DM and PDM, but alcohol consumption (P < 0.001) was a protective factor. Conclusions In northwest China, the prevalence of DM was higher in the Muslim population, and it was special higher on the 20-year-old age compared to the Han. This might be explained by the potential genetic differences and poor dietary habits.