We examined esophageal cancer patients who received enteral nutrition (EN) to evaluate the validity of early EN compared to delayed EN, and to determine the appropriate time to start EN. A total of 208 esophagectomy patients who received EN postoperatively were divided into three groups (Group 1, 2 and 3) based on whether they received EN within 48 h, 48 h–72 h or more than 72 h, respectively. The postoperative complications, length of hospital stay (LOH), days for first fecal passage, cost of hospitalization, and the difference in serum albumin values between pre-operation and post-operation were all recorded. The statistical analyses were performed using the t-test, the Mann-Whitney U test and the chi square test. Statistical significance was defined as p < 0.05. Group 1 had the lowest thoracic drainage volume, the earliest first fecal passage, and the lowest LOH and hospitalization expenses of the three groups. The incidence of pneumonia was by far the highest in Group 3 ( p = 0.019). Finally, all the postoperative outcomes of nutritional conditions were the worst by a significant margin in Group 3. It is therefore safe and valid to start early enteral nutrition within 48 h for postoperative esophageal cancer patients.