Abstract Mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase-2 (ALDH2) alleviates ethanol toxicity although the precise mechanism is unclear. This study was designed to evaluate the effect of ALDH2 on ethanol-induced myocardial damage with a focus on autophagy. Wild-type FVB and transgenic mice overexpressing ALDH2 were challenged with ethanol (3g/kg/day, ip) for 3days and cardiac mechanical function was assessed using the echocardiographic and IonOptix systems. Western blot analysis was used to evaluate essential autophagy markers, Akt and AMPK, and the downstream signal mTOR. Ethanol challenge altered cardiac geometry and function as evidenced by enlarged ventricular end systolic and diastolic diameters, decreased cell shortening and intracellular Ca2+ rise, prolonged relengthening and intracellular Ca2+ decay, as well as reduced SERCA Ca2+ uptake, which effects were mitigated by ALDH2. Ethanol challenge facilitated myocardial autophagy as evidenced by enhanced expression of Beclin, ATG7, and LC3B II, as well as mTOR dephosphorylation, which was alleviated by ALDH2. Ethanol challenge-induced cardiac defect and apoptosis were reversed by the ALDH2 agonist Alda-1, the autophagy inhibitor 3-MA, and the AMPK inhibitor compound C, whereas the autophagy inducer rapamycin and the AMPK activator AICAR mimicked or exacerbated ethanol-induced cell injury. Ethanol promoted or suppressed phosphorylation of AMPK and Akt, respectively, in FVB but not ALDH2 murine hearts. Moreover, AICAR nullified Alda-1-induced protection against ethanol-triggered autophagic and functional changes. Ethanol increased GFP–LC3 puncta in H9c2 cells, the effect of which was ablated by Alda-1 and 3-MA. Lysosomal inhibition using bafilomycin A1, E64D, and pepstatin A obliterated Alda-1- but not ethanol-induced responses in GFP–LC3 puncta. Our results suggest that ALDH2 protects against ethanol toxicity through altered Akt and AMPK signaling and regulation of autophagic flux.