Historically the interest in the catalytic properties of transition metal carbides (TMC) has been inspired by their “Pt-like” properties in the transformation reactions of hydrocarbon molecules. Recent studies, however, have revealed that the reaction pathways of oxygen-containing molecules are significantly different between TMCs and Pt-group metals. Nonetheless, TMCs demonstrate intriguing catalytic properties toward oxygen-containing molecules, either as the catalyst or as the catalytically active substrate to support metal catalysts, in several important catalytic and electrocatalytic applications, including water electrolysis, alcohol electrooxidation, biomass conversion, and water gas shift reactions. In the current review we provide a summary of theoretical and experimental studies of the interaction of TMC surfaces with oxygen-containing molecules, including both inorganic (O2, H2O, CO and CO2) and organic (alcohols, aldehydes, acids and esters) molecules. We will discuss the general trends in the reaction pathways, as well as future research opportunities in surface science studies that would facilitate the utilization of TMCs as catalysts and electrocatalysts.