Bamboo shoots, a promising renewable biomass, mainly consist of carbohydrates and other nitrogen-related compounds, such as proteins, amino acids and nucleotides. In this work, nitrogen self-doped activated carbons derived from bamboo shoots were prepared via a simultaneous carbonization and activation process. The adsorption properties of the prepared samples were evaluated by removing methylene blue from waste water. The factors that affect the adsorption process were examined, including initial concentration, contact time and pH of methylene blue solution. The resulting that BSNC-800-4 performed better in methylene blue removal from waste water, due to its high specific surface area (2270.9 m2 g−1), proper pore size (2.19 nm) and relatively high nitrogen content (1.06%). Its equilibrium data were well fitted to Langmuir isotherm model with a maximum monolayer adsorption capacity of 458 mg g−1 and a removal efficiency of 91.7% at methylene blue concentration of 500 mg L−1. The pseudo-second-order kinetic model could be used to accurately estimate the carbon material’s (BSNC-800-4) adsorption process. The adsorption mechanism between methylene blue solution and BSNC-800-4 was controlled by film diffusion. This study provides an alternative way to develop nitrogen self-doped activated carbons to better meet the needs of the adsorption applications.