Oceanic crust is the largest potential habitat for life on Earth and may contain a significant fraction of Earth’s total microbial biomass; yet, empirical analysis of reaction rates in basaltic crust is lacking. Here we report the first assessment of oxygen consumption in young (~8 Ma) and cool (<25 °C) basaltic crust, which we calculate from modelling dissolved oxygen and strontium pore water gradients in basal sediments collected during Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 336 to ‘North Pond’ on the western flank of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Dissolved oxygen is completely consumed within the upper to middle section of the sediment column, with an increase in concentration towards the sediment–basement interface, indicating an upward supply from oxic fluids circulating within the crust. A parametric reaction transport model of oxygen behaviour in upper basement suggests oxygen consumption rates of 1 nmol cm−3ROCK d−1 or less in young and cool basaltic crust.