High-porosity silicon nitride ceramics with excellent mechanical properties were fabricated by the carbothermal reduction of SiO2. The influences of sintering conditions on microstructure and mechanical properties were studied. The results showed that microstructure and mechanical properties of porous silicon nitride ceramics were dependent mostly on the sintering conditions. The sintered porous silicon nitride ceramics exhibited the formation of fibrous microstructure with submicrometer-sized, high-aspect ratio b-Si3N4 grains, and uniform pore structure. Porous Si3N4 ceramics with a porosity of about 70%, and a flexural strength of about 70 MPa were obtained by sintering at 1750°C, with lower rate of temperature rise and no retaining time. The high strength was attributed to fine, high-aspect ratio b-Si3N4 grains and uniform pores between grains.