Sugarcane is one of the major agricultural crops cultivated in tropical climate regions of the world. Each tonne of raw cane production is associated with the generation of 130 kg dry weight of bagasse after juice extraction and 250 kg dry weight of cane leaf residue postharvest. The annual world production of sugarcane is ∼1.6 billion tones, generating 279 MMT tones of biomass residues (bagasse and cane leaf matter) that would be available for cellulosic ethanol production. Here, we investigated the production of cellulosic ethanol from sugar cane bagasse and sugar cane leaf residue using an alkaline pretreatment: ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX). The AFEX pretreatment improved the accessibility of cellulose and hemicelluloses to enzymes during hydrolysis by breaking down the ester linkages and other lignin carbohydrate complex (LCC) bonds and the sugar produced by this process is found to be highly fermentable. The maximum glucan conversion of AFEX pretreated bagasse and cane leaf residue by cellulases was ∼85%. Supplementation with hemicellulases during enzymatic hydrolysis improved the xylan conversion up to 95–98%. Xylanase supplementation also contributed to a marginal improvement in the glucan conversion. AFEX-treated cane leaf residue was found to have a greater enzymatic digestibility compared to AFEX-treated bagasse. Co-fermentation of glucose and xylose, produced from high solid loading (6% glucan) hydrolysis of AFEX-treated bagasse and cane leaf residue, using the recombinant Saccharomyces cerevisiae (424A LNH-ST) produced 34–36 g/L of ethanol with 92% theoretical yield. These results demonstrate that AFEX pretreatment is a viable process for conversion of bagasse and cane leaf residue into cellulosic ethanol. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2010;107: 441–450. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.