Abstract Virus-like particles (VLPs) are particles that consist of viral capsid proteins and are structurally similar to authentic virus. To express VLPs of the porcine encephalomyocarditis virus (EMCV) and investigate their efficacy and immuno response in vivo, a plasmid (P12A3C-pCI) containing the P12A and 3C genes of the EMCV-K3 viral strain was constructed. The VLPs of EMCV-K3 were successfully assembled in 293FT cells on 3 days after transfection with P12A3C-pCI and were identified as particles of about 30–40 nm using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). In an in vivo experiment, the murine cytokines induced by VLPs of naked DNA vaccine showed that the Th1 indicators IL-2, TNF-α and GM-CSF, and the Th2 indicators IL-4 and IL-10 were increased. The immunization of mice with the P12A3C-pCI plasmid induced high levels of neutralizing antibody from 128- to 256-fold and led to a significant protection ratio (90%) after challenge with EMCV-K3 (wild-type strain). These VLPs may represent a novel vaccine strategy for the control of EMCV infection on pig farms.