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[en] Highlights: • A single-stage and two two-stage anaerobic systems were synchronously operated. • Similar methane production 0.44 L/g VS_a_d_d_e_d from oily food waste was achieved. • The first stage of the two-stage process became inefficient due to serious pH drop. • Recycle favored the hythan production in the two-stage digestion. • The conversion of unsaturated fatty acids was enhanced by recycle introduction. - Abstract: Anaerobic digestion is an effective technology to recover energy from oily food waste. A single-stage system and temperature-phased two-stage systems with and without recycle for anaerobic digestion of oily food waste were constructed to compare the operation performances. The synchronous operation indicated the similar ability to produce methane in the three systems, with a methane yield of 0.44 L/g VS_a_d_d_e_d. The pH drop to less than 4.0 in the first stage of two-stage system without recycle resulted in poor hydrolysis, and methane or hydrogen was not produced in this stage. Alkalinity supplement from the second stage of two-stage system with recycle improved pH in the first stage to 5.4. Consequently, 35.3% of the particulate COD in the influent was reduced in the first stage of two-stage system with recycle according to a COD mass balance, and hydrogen was produced with a percentage of 31.7%, accordingly. Similar solids and organic matter were removed in the single-stage system and two-stage system without recycle. More lipid degradation and the conversion of long-chain fatty acids were achieved in the single-stage system. Recycling was proved to be effective in promoting the conversion of unsaturated long-chain fatty acids into saturated fatty acids in the two-stage system.