Abstract Cassava rhizome was catalytically pyrolysed at 500 °C using analytical pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) in order to investigate the effect of catalysts on bio-oil properties. The catalysts studied were zeolite ZSM-5, two aluminosilicate mesoporous materials Al-MCM-41 and Al-MSU-F, and a proprietary commercial catalyst alumina-stabilised ceria MI-575. The influence of catalysts on pyrolysis products was observed through the yields of aromatic hydrocarbons, phenols, lignin-derived compounds, carbonyls, methanol and acetic acid. Results showed that all the catalysts produced aromatic hydrocarbons and reduced oxygenated lignin derivatives, thus indicating an improvement of bio-oil heating value and viscosity. Among the catalysts, ZSM-5 was the most active to all the changes in pyrolysis products. In addition, all the catalysts with the exception of MI-575 enhanced the formation of acetic acid. This is clearly a disadvantage with respect to the level of pH in the liquid bio-fuel.