Defining dietary guidelines requires a quantitative assessment of the influence of diet on the development of diseases. The aim of the study was to investigate how dietary patterns were associated with mortality in a general population sample of Switzerland. We included 15,936 participants from two population-based studies (National Research Program 1A (NRP1A) and Monitoring of Trends and Determinants in Cardiovascular Disease (MONICA)-1977 to 1993) who fully answered a simplified 24-h dietary recall. Mortality data were available through anonymous record linkage with the Swiss National Cohort (follow-up of up to 37.9 years). Multiple correspondence analysis and hierarchical clustering were used to define data-driven qualitative dietary patterns. Mortality hazard ratios were calculated for all-cause, cancer and cardiovascular mortality using Cox regression. Two patterns were characterized by a low dietary variety ("Sausage and Vegetables", "Meat and Salad"), two by a higher variety ("Traditional", "High-fiber foods") and one by a high fish intake ("Fish"). Males with unhealthy lifestyle (smokers, low physical activity and high alcohol intake) were overrepresented in the low-variety patterns and underrepresented in the high-variety and "Fish" patterns. In multivariable-adjusted models, the "Fish" (hazard ratio = 0.82, 95% CI (0.68-0.99)) and "High-fiber foods" (0.85 (0.72-1.00)) patterns were associated with lower cancer mortality. In men, the "Fish" (0.73 (0.55-0.97)) and "Traditional" (0.76 (0.59-0.98)) patterns were associated with lower cardiovascular mortality. In summary, our results support the notion that dietary patterns affect mortality and that these patterns strongly cluster with other health determinants.