The lignin-derived phenolic compounds present in lignocellulosic hydrolysate might have an adverse impact on acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) production by Clostridium beijerinckii ZL01. In this study six model phenolic compounds including 4-hydroxybenzaldehyde, 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, vanillin, vanillic acid, syringaldehyde, and syringic acid were evaluated as the potential inhibitors to investigate their effects on the cell growth and ABE production by C. beijerinckii ZL01. The results showed that these compounds could lead to a decrease in cell growth and ABE production. Moreover, the aldehydes inhibited ABE production to a greater extent than the corresponding acids. Vanillin was found to be the most toxic inhibitor, with 0.2 g/L of vanillin producing only 2.347 g/L butanol and 3.521 g/L total solvents, compared to 12.908 g/L butanol and 17.615 g/L total solvents for the control. Meanwhile, more-toxic aldehydes could be converted to less-toxic compounds to a greater extent than acids by C. beijerinckii ZL01 for cell's survival.