Pickering emulsion polymerization was used to synthesize molecularly imprinted polymer beads for the selective recognition of 17-β-estradiol under aqueous conditions. Scanning electron microscopy analysis indicated that the imprinted polymer beads had a small diameter with a narrow size distribution (18.9 ± 2.3 μm). The reduction in particle size achieved in this study was attributed to the altered polarity of the stabilizing nanoparticles used in the Pickering emulsion. The imprinted polymer beads could be used directly in water and showed a high binding affinity for the template molecule, 17-β-estradiol, and its structural analogs. These water-compatible polymer beads could be used as affinity adsorbents for the extraction and analysis of low-abundance steroid compounds in aqueous samples. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 39606.