An experiment was conducted to study the effect of cereal (corn, wheat, barley and sorghum) and supplemental enzyme (a mono-component xylanase) in a 4 × 2 factorial arrangement. A 2-phase feeding program (0 to 21 and 21 to 42 d) was used and 4 iso-caloric, iso-nitrogenous diets were formulated containing corn, wheat, barley, or sorghum as the sole cereal. Diets based on each cereal were fed without or with supplemental xylanase (16,000 BXU/kg) to 8 replicate pens of 10 chicks (5 male: 5 female, Cobb 500) each. Growth performance was recorded at 21 or 42 d posthatch. Excreta was quantitatively collected from 18 to 21 and 38 to 41 d for the measurement of the total tract retention of dry matter (DM), nitrogen (N) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and apparent metabolizable energy (AME). Ileal digestible energy (IDE) was measured at the end of the study (42 d posthatch) using titanium dioxide as an indigestible marker. For the overall 42 d period, birds fed barley-based diets had lower feed intake (P < 0.05), lower body weight (P < 0.05) and converted feed into gain less efficiently (P < 0.05) compared with the diets based on corn, wheat or sorghum. Xylanase supplementation improved weight gain in diets based on corn, wheat, and sorghum with the exception of barley-based diets (cereal × xylanase interaction, P < 0.05). Xylanase improved the overall feed conversion ratio (1.885 vs. 1.939; P < 0.05) with the effect being independent of the cereal type. The N retention of barley-based diets was lower (P < 0.05) compared with the other cereals, while xylanase improved N retention (P < 0.05) regardless of the cereal type. NDF digestibility differed (P < 0.05) across cereal (barley > wheat > corn > sorghum) and was improved (P < 0.05) by xylanase supplementation. A significant cereal × xylanase interaction (P < 0.05) was observed for energy measurements, where xylanase improved IDE of the corn-based diet, and AME of corn- and wheat-based diets. Results of the current study demonstrate potential of xylanase in improving nutrient retention and growth performance of broilers fed diets based on variety of cereal grains.