Summary. Matched case–control data analysis is often challenged by a missing covariate problem, the mishandling of which could cause bias or inefficiency. Satten and Carroll (2000, Biometrics56, 384–388) and other authors have proposed methods to handle missing covariates when the probability of missingness depends on the observed data, i.e., when data are missing at random. In this article, we propose a conditional likelihood method to handle the case when the probability of missingness depends on the unobserved covariate, i.e., when data are nonignorably missing. When the missing covariate is binary, the proposed method can be implemented using standard software. Using the Northern Manhattan Stroke Study data, we illustrate the method and discuss how sensitivity analysis can be conducted.