Hydrogen gas is a green energy carrier with great environmental benefits. Microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) can convert low-grade organic matter to hydrogen gas with low energy consumption and have gained a growing interest in the past decade. Cathode catalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) present a major challenge for the development and future applications of MECs. An ideal cathode catalyst should be catalytically active, simple to synthesize, durable in a complex environment, and cost-effective. A variety of noble-metal free catalysts have been developed and investigated for HER in MECs, including Nickel and its alloys, MoS2 , carbon-based catalysts and biocatalysts. MECs in turn can serve as a research platform to study the durability of the HER catalysts. This personal account has reviewed, analyzed, and discussed those catalysts with an emphasis on synthesis and modification, system performance and potential for practical applications. It is expected to provide insights into the development of HER catalysts towards MEC applications.