Dietary lifestyle intervention is key in treating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We aimed to examine the longitudinal relation between well-established dietary patterns as well as population-specific dietary patterns and NAFLD. Participants from two subsequent visits of the Rotterdam Study were included. All underwent serial abdominal ultrasonography (median follow-up: 4.4 years) and filled in a food frequency questionnaire. Secondary causes of steatosis were excluded. Dietary data from 389 items were collapsed into 28 food groups and a posteriori dietary patterns were identified using factor analysis. Additionally, we scored three a priori dietary patterns (Mediterranean Diet Score, Dutch Dietary Guidelines and WHO-score). Logistic mixed regression models were used to examine the relation between dietary patterns and NAFLD. Analyses were adjusted for demographic, lifestyle and metabolic factors. We included 963 participants of whom 343 had NAFLD. Follow-up data was available in 737 participants. Incident NAFLD was 5% and regressed NAFLD was 30%. We identified five a posteriori dietary patterns (cumulative explained variation [R2] = 20%). The patterns were characterised as: vegetable and fish, red meat and alcohol, traditional, salty snacks and sauces, high fat dairy & refined grains pattern. Adherence to the traditional pattern (i.e. high intake of vegetable oils/stanols, margarines/butters, potatoes, whole grains and sweets/desserts) was associated with regression of NAFLD per SD increase in Z-score (0.40, 95% CI 0.15–1.00). Adherence to the three a priori patterns all showed regression of NAFLD, but only the WHO-score showed a distinct association (0.73, 95% CI 0.53–1.00). Hence, in this large elderly population, adherence to a plant-based, high-fibre and low-fat diet was related to regression of NAFLD.