The composition of secondary metabolites and the nutritional value of a plant both determine herbivore preference and performance. The genetically determined glucosinolate pattern of Barbarea vulgaris can be dominated by either glucobarbarin (BAR-type) or by gluconasturtiin (NAS-type). Because of the structural differences, these glucosinolates may have different effects on herbivores. We compared the two Barbarea chemotypes with regards to the preference and performance of two lepidopteran herbivores, using Mamestra brassicae as a generalist and Pieris rapae as a specialist. The generalist and specialist herbivores did not prefer either chemotype for oviposition. However, larvae of the generalist M. brassicae preferred to feed and performed best on NAS-type plants. On NAS-type plants, 100% of the M. brassicae larvae survived while growing exponentially, whereas on BAR-type plants, M. brassicae larvae showed little growth and a mortality of 37.5%. In contrast to M. brassicae, the larval preference and performance of the specialist P. rapae was unaffected by plant chemotype. Total levels of glucosinolates, water soluble sugars, and amino acids of B. vulgaris could not explain the poor preference and performance of M. brassicae on BAR-type plants. Our results suggest that difference in glucosinolate chemical structure is responsible for the differential effects of the B. vulgaris chemotypes on the generalist herbivore.