Background The objective of this study was to compare the efficacy and safety of taxane (docetaxel or paclitaxel), cisplatin, and fluorouracil (Tax-PF) with cisplatin plus fluorouracil (PF) regimen by a meta-analysis of data retrieved from the literature. Methods Seven randomized clinical trials were identified, which included patients with advanced head and neck cancer who underwent induction chemotherapy with either a Tax-PF or PF protocol. The outcomes included the 3-year and 5-year overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS), overall response rate (ORR) and different types of adverse events. Results The 3-year OS rate (HR: 1.14; 95% CI: 1.03 to 1.25; P = 0.008), 3-year PFS rate (HR: 1.24; 95% CI: 1.08 to 1.43; P = 0.002), 5-year OS rate (HR: 1.30; 95% CI, 1.09 to 1.55;P = 0.003), 5-year PFS rate (HR: 1.39; 95% CI, 1.14 to 1.70; P = 0.001) and ORR to chemotherapy (OR 1.66; 95% CI, 1.35 to 2.05; P < 0.001) of the patients in the Tax-PF group were statistically superior to those in the PF group. In terms of toxicities, the incidence of febrile neutropenia (OR 2.36; 95% CI, 1.62 to 3.46; P < 0.001), alopecia (OR 8.22; 95% CI, 3.99 to 16.92; P < 0.001), diarrhea (OR 1.57; 95% CI, 1.05 to 2.36; P = 0.03) and leukopenia (OR 2.79; 95% CI, 1.86 to 4.21; P < 0.001) was higher in the Tax-PF group. Conclusion The Tax-PF induction chemotherapy improved PFS and OS, and the ORR was better as compared to PF- based therapy regimens at the cost of a higher incidence of adverse events.