Xanthan gum samples were irradiated in aqueous solution at different doses (0-120 kGy) of 60Co γ-rays. The changes of molecular weight and structures of irradiated xanthan gum samples were investigated and characterized by using gel permeation chromatography(GPC), X-ray diffraction (XRD), fourier-transform infrared spectra (FTIR), ultraviolet–visible spectral (UV–vis) analysis and rheometer. Results showed the molecular weight decreased gradually with increasing irradiation dose. The radiation chemical yields G(d) of xanthan gum was 26.55. FTIR spectra and XRD indicated that γ-irradiation introduced no significant changes into the structure and crystal texture, but UV spectra showed a distinct absorption peak at about 265 nm, increasing with irradiation dose, which was attributed to the formation of carbonyl groups or double bond. Apparent viscosity of xanthan gum solution decreased with increasing irradiation dose and remain basically constant with the prolonging of shear time after irradiation.