Providing a controllable and definable three-dimensional (3D) microenvironment for chondrogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) remains a great challenge for cartilage tissue engineering. In this work, poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAAm) polymers with the degrees of polymerization of 100 and 400 (NI100 and NI400) were prepared and the polymer solutions were introduced into the preprepared chitosan porous scaffolds (CS) to form hybrids (CSNI100 and CSNI400, respectively). SEM images indicated that the PNIPAAm gel partially occupied chitosan pores while the interconnected porous structure of chitosan was preserved. MSCs were incorporated within the hybrid and cell proliferation and chondrogenic differentiation were monitored. After 7-day incubation of the cell-laden constructs in a growth medium, the cell viability in CSNI100 and CSNI400 were 54 and 108% higher than that in CS alone, respectively. Glycosaminoglycan and total collagen contents increased 2.6- and 2.5-fold after 28-day culture of cell-laden CSNI400 in the chondrogenic medium. These results suggest that the hybrid structure composed of the chitosan porous scaffold and the well-defined PNIPAAm hydrogel, in particular CSNI400, is suitable for 3D stem cell culture and cartilage tissue engineering. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 104A: 2764-2774, 2016.