Young adults with diabetes in Asia represent a heterogeneous group. Using traditional clinical criteria to preselect individuals for testing for maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) may exclude a large proportion from testing. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) has shown promise as a biomarker to differentiate hepatic nuclear factor 1 alpha (HNF1A)-MODY from type 2 diabetes. We aimed to compare the use of hs-CRP as a biomarker versus traditional criteria, to guide testing for HNF1A-MODY among a cohort of young adults with diabetes in Singapore. A total of 252 adults (age of onset ⩽45 years) and 20 children with diabetes were recruited. Using traditional criteria (family history of diabetes and onset of diabetes ⩽25 years) and an hs-CRP cut off of ⩽0.5 mg/l, 125 and 37 adults, respectively, were identified for HNF1A gene testing. All children underwent HNF1A gene testing. Five adults (5/143, 3.5%) with HNF1A-MODY were identified. There were no HNF1A gene mutations among the children. Traditional criteria correctly identified all five HNF1A-MODY individuals (5/125, 4%), while applying an hs-CRP level of ⩽0.5 mg/l selected just 1 of these 5 for HNF1A gene testing (1/37, 2.7%). None of those with a positive GAD antibody or undetectable C-peptide level had HNF1A-MODY. The use of hs-CRP to guide screening for HNF1A-MODY among Asian young adults with diabetes did not improve the diagnostic yield. Applying a combination of age of onset of diabetes under 25 years and a family history of diabetes alone could guide targeted HNF1A-MODY screening in Asians, with an expected yield of 4% diagnosed with HNF1A-MODY among those screened.