Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) patients have a high mortality rate; thus, new clinical biomarkers and therapeutic options are needed. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding RNAs that regulate posttranscriptional gene expression and are commonly deregulated in OSCC and other cancers. MicroRNA-21 (miR-21) is the most consistently overexpressed miRNA in several types of cancer, and it might be a useful clinical biomarker and therapeutic target. To better understand the role of miR-21 in OSCC, paraffin-embedded tumor tissue samples from 86 patients with primary OSCC were analyzed by in situ hybridization. We found that miR-21 was primarily expressed in the tumor stroma and in some tumor-associated blood vessels with no expression in the adjacent normal epithelia or stroma. Using image analysis, we quantitatively estimated miR-21 expression levels specifically in the stroma of a cohort of OSCC samples. These miR-21 levels significantly correlated with disease free survival with the highest levels being located in the stroma. Stromal miR-21 expression was independently associated with a poorer prognosis, even after adjusting for clinical parameters (perineural invasion and N-stage) in a multivariate analysis. In summary, we have shown that miR-21 is located in the carcinoma cells, stroma and blood vessels of tumors, and its expression specifically in the stromal compartment has a negative prognostic value in OSCC.