A systematic two-step procedure for the structural identification of bioprocesses is followed in order to establish a mechanistic model for vanillin production by Pycnoporus cinnabarinus. The first step is devoted to the identification of the underlying reaction structure and the development of a validated mass balance model for the growth of P. cinnabarinus and the biotransformation of vanillic acid into vanillin. The second step is devoted to the kinetic modeling, namely, the estimation of the reaction rates and the calibration of the kinetic parameters. The whole procedure leads to the final set up of a simulation model of the process. The results are supported by the data from five cultures of P. cinnabarinus in bioreactors. © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Biotechnol Bioeng 65: 558–571, 1999.