Abstract In this paper we develop a theory of slice regular functions on a real alternative algebra A. Our approach is based on a well-known Fueter's construction. Two recent function theories can be included in our general theory: the one of slice regular functions of a quaternionic or octonionic variable and the theory of slice monogenic functions of a Clifford variable. Our approach permits to extend the range of these function theories and to obtain new results. In particular, we get a strong form of the fundamental theorem of algebra for an ample class of polynomials with coefficients in A and we prove a Cauchy integral formula for slice functions of class C 1 .