We report a one-pot and eco-friendly synthesis of carbon-supported cobalt nanoparticles, achieved by carbonization of waste biomass (rice bran) with a cobalt source. The functionalized biomass provides carbon microspheres as excellent catalyst support, forming a unique interface between hydrophobic and hydrophilic groups. The latter, involving hydroxyl and amino groups, can catch much more active cobalt nanoparticles on surface for Fischer–Tropsch synthesis than chemical carbon. The loading amount of cobalt on the final catalyst is much higher than that prepared with a chemical carbon source, such as glucose. The proposed concept of using a functionalized natural carbon source shows great potential compared with conventional carbon sources, and will be meaningful for other fields concerning carbon support, such as heterogeneous catalysis or electrochemical fields.