Abstract Background High glycemic variability (GV) is common in critically ill patients; however, the prevalence and mortality association with early GV in patients with sepsis remains unclear. Methods This retrospective cohort study was conducted in a medical intensive care unit (ICU) in central Taiwan. Patients in the ICU with sepsis between January 2014 and December 2015 were included for analysis. All of these patients received protocol-based management, including blood sugar monitoring every 2 h for the first 24 h of ICU admission. Mean amplitude of glycemic excursions (MAGE) and coefficient of variation (CoV) were used to assess GV. Results A total of 452 patients (mean age 71.4 ± 14.7 years; 76.7% men) were enrolled for analysis. They were divided into high GV (43.4%, 196/452) and low GV (56.6%, 256/512) groups using MAGE 65 mg/dL as the cut-off point. Patients with high GV tended to have higher HbA1c (6.7 ± 1.8% vs. 5.9 ± 0.9%, p 65 mg/dL. Higher GV within 24 h of ICU admission was independently associated with increased 30-day mortality. These findings highlight the need to monitor GV in septic patients early during an ICU admission.