In this study, a novel scaffold fabrication method was developed by combining microwave irradiation and gas foaming. Chitosan superporous hydrogels (SPHs) and chitosan-hydroxyapatite (HA) superporous hydrogel composites (SPHCs) were prepared by using this method in the presence of crosslinking agent, glyoxal, and a gas-blowing agent, NaHCO3. In order to examine the effect of HA on composite structure and cellular behaviour, two types of HA particles, i.e. spherical beads in 45-80 mu m diameter and powder form, were used. While rapid heating with microwave irradiation enhances gas blowing, pH increment, which is accelerated by NaHCO3 decomposition, provides better crosslinking. Thus, interconnected and well-established macroporous hydrogels/hydrogel composites were produced easily and rapidly (similar to 1min). Cell culture studies, which were carried out under static and dynamic conditions with MC3T3-E1 pre-osteoblastic cells, indicated that chitosan-HA bead SPHCs supported cellular proliferation and osteoblastic differentiation better than chitosan SPHs and chitosan-HA powder SPHCs. In conclusion, simultaneous gas foaming and microwave crosslinking can be evaluated for the preparation of composite scaffolds which have superior properties for bone tissue engineering. Copyright (C) 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.