MicroRNAs are highly conserved non-coding small RNAs participating in almost all kinds of biological activities. MiR-181a has been reported to be involved in the differentiation of porcine primary preadipocytes, but the profound effect of miR-181a-5p on 3T3-L1 adipocyte differentiation and proliferation is still unclear. In this study, we found that supplementation of miR-181a-5p in 3T3-L1 cells significantly promoted the adipogenesis and inhibited cell proliferation with increased expression of adipogenic marker genes including peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (Pparγ), CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein alpha (C/ebpα), fatty acid-binding protein 4 (Fabp4), and Adiponectin, accompanied by an accumulation of lipid droplet, an increase of triglyceride content, and a decrease of cell proliferation. Furthermore, by using the luciferase assay, Smad7 and Tcf7l2, two important members of transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) and Wnt signaling pathway, were proven to be the direct target genes of miR-181a-5p. Moreover, supplementation of miR-181a-5p in 3T3-L1 cells altered the expressions of proteins involved in the TGFβ signaling pathway, such as TGFBR1, p-SMAD3, SMAD4, c-MYC, and p15. Taken together, these results indicate that miR-181a-5p promotes 3T3-L1 preadipocyte differentiation and adipogenesis through regulating TGFβ/Smad and Wnt signaling pathway by directly targeting Smad7 and Tcf7l2.