The unicellular marine alga Dunaliella salina is a most interesting green cell factory for the production of carotenes and lipids under extreme environment conditions. However, the culture conditions and their productivity are the major challenges faced by researchers which still need to be addressed. In this study, we investigated the effect of bicarbonate amendment on biomass, photosynthetic activity, biochemical constituents, nutrient uptake and antioxidant response of D. salina during macronutrient deficit conditions (N-, P- and S-). Under nutrient deficit conditions, addition of sodium bicarbonate (100 mM) significantly increased the biomass, carotenoids including β-carotene and lutein, lipid, and fatty acid content with concurrent enhancement of the activities of nutrient assimilatory and carbonic anhydrase enzymes. Maximum accumulation of carotenoid especially β-carotene (192.8 ± 2.11 μg/100 mg) and lipids (53.9%) was observed on addition of bicarbonate during nitrate deficiency compared to phosphate and sulphate deficiency. Supplementation of bicarbonate reduced the oxidative stress caused by ROS, lowered lipid peroxidation damage and improved the activities of antioxidant enzymes (SOD, CAT and APX) in D. salina cultures under nutrient stress. © 2018 The Author(s).