Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is a complex metabolic disorder with various contributing factors including genetics, epigenetics, environment and lifestyle such as diet. The hallmarks of T2DM are insulin deficiency (also referred to as β-cell dysfunction) and insulin resistance. Robust evidence suggests that the major mechanism driving impaired β-cell function and insulin signalling is through the action of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS)-induced stress. Chronic high blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) and hyperlipidaemia appear to be the primary activators of these pathways. Reactive oxygen species can disrupt intracellular signalling pathways, thereby dysregulating the expression of genes associated with insulin secretion and signalling. Plant-based diets, containing phenolic compounds, have been shown to exhibit remedial benefits by ameliorating insulin secretion and insulin resistance. The literature also provides evidence that polyphenol-rich diets can modulate the expression of genes involved in insulin secretion, insulin signalling, and liver gluconeogenesis pathways. However, whether various polyphenols and phenolic compounds can target specific cellular signalling pathways involved in the pathogenesis of T2DM has not been elucidated. This review aims to evaluate the modulating effects of various polyphenols and phenolic compounds on genes involved in cellular signalling pathways (both in vitro and in vivo from human, animal and cell models) leading to the pathogenesis of T2DM.