In this study, we investigated a new method for the preparation of gelatin–oleic conjugate (GOC) as an amphiphilic biomaterial to load model anti-cancer drugs into self-assembled nanoparticles (NPs). Oleic acid (OA) was covalently bound to gelatin via carbodiimide/N-hydroxysuccinimide (EDC/NHS) reaction in water–ethanol cosolvent to form a GOC. Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy and proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) clearly indicated the successful synthesis of GOC. The percentage of gelatin amino groups reacted with OA was up to 50% as determined using the 2,4,6-trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS) method. Subsequently, gelatin–oleic nanoparticles (GONs) were prepared using a desolvation method with glutaraldehyde or genipin used as a crosslinker for comparison. Irinotecan hydrochloride (IRT) was used as a model drug to load into GONs using incubation or an in-process adding method for comparison. Dynamic light scattering (DLS) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) data showed that the sizes of GONs and IRT-loaded GONs (IRT-GONs) were below 250 nm. The zeta potentials of the GONs and irinotecan-loaded IRT-GONs were below −20 mV, which was found to be stable in suspension against the aggregation process. The incubation method was more suitable for drug loading because it did not affect the process of GON formation and thus did not increase their size much compared to the change in size with the in-process adding method. The lipophilic property of the oleic moiety in the GOC increased the affinity between GOC molecules, thus reducing the amount of crosslinking agents needed to stabilize GONs compared to gelatin nanoparticles (GNs). As novel approaches for the synthesis of protein-fatty acid complexes, chemical reaction has been suggested for the synthesis of GOC. The above results show that GOC synthesized via new method is a promising biomaterial based upon preparation of nanoparticles.