Household has been widely considered as the top contributor to food waste generation in industrialized countries. However, the characteristics and driving factors of household food waste generation in developing countries, particularly in rural areas, remain less understood. In the present work, we reported a case study for rural households in China, where food consumption structure has been undergoing rapid transformation, to explore the scales and drivers of rural household food waste generation. A direct-weighing method was used in a field survey for 207 rural households in 21 villages of 3 prefecture-level cities in Shandong province, northern China. We determined the average rural household food waste generation as 8.74 g/cap/meal (more than 90% was plant-based food waste in which nearly half was vegetable waste), a number much lower than that in high-income countries and the Chinese urban restaurants. We also found that such a number varies considerably by household (0–126.21 g/cap/meal), and almost half of surveyed households generated almost no food waste. Among the surveyed prefectural areas, food waste in Jinan was significantly higher than that in Dezhou and Weifang (P<0.01). Moreover, village type, household size, household income, household age structure, health status, pet keeping, household dietary diversity, and perception on food edibility are identified as key driving factors of food waste generation in Chinese rural households, while increased availability of information on food waste reduction and food storage conditions have relatively small but noteworthy impact on food waste reduction.