Current disease burden estimates do not provide evidence across different ethnic groups. This study aims to assess the disease burden as measured by the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) for six ethnic groups in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for 2011 and 2030. The DALYs were calculated by combining three components: disease-/sex-/age-specific DALYs per person; disease-specific relative risks (RRs) by ethnicity; and sex-/age-specific population sizes by ethnicity in Amsterdam in 2011 and 2030. Disease-specific DALYs were derived from the National Institute of Public Health. The RRs were obtained through a systematic review of studies published in 1997-2008. The population figures were gathered from the Statistics Netherlands and municipality of Amsterdam. The findings suggest that cardiovascular diseases and anxiety and depressive disorders dominate disease burden in all ethnic groups in 2011 and 2030. In most of the non-Western ethnic minorities, diabetes mellitus is the strongest contributor to the disease burden. The total disease burden will increase more strongly in non-Western ethnic minorities than ethnic Dutch. The 2030 disease burden is estimated to be highest among Surinamese and Antilleans. In ethnic minorities, diabetes plays an important role in the disease burden, and the total disease burden will grow stronger than ethnic Dutch, resulting in a higher total disease burden for some ethnic groups in 2030. We encourage researchers to estimate the disease burden by ethnicity so that health priorities can be set in the fields of policy, health care and research. © The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved.