Purpose Cyclohexanone-formaldehyde resin (CFR) was in situ modified with olive pomace (OP) in the presence of sodium hydroxide. The purpose of this study is to produce eco-friendly OP modified cyclohexanone composite resins (OPCFCR) with a one-step method that has higher condensation reaction temperature than CFR. The water absorption properties, gloss value and cross-cut adhesion properties of the product were investigated. Design/methodology/approach Cyclohexanone, formalin (37% aqueous solution) and tannin were mixed and 20% aqueous NaOH solution was added to produce the resin. OP has environmentally friendly bio-based lignin, cellulose and phenolic compounds and the OP structure has been incorporated into the structure of the CFR resin during the in situ modification, such as resole resin and polysaccharide. The weights of pomace were used as 5% and 10% of the weight of cyclohexanone in cyclohexanone-formaldehyde composite resins, respectively. Findings There is an improvement in the properties of the OPCFCR produced from an agricultural waste that is very abundant in Gulf of Edremit region of Balikesir. The OPCFCRs were soluble in common organic solvents. The product OPCFCR has a dark red-brown color. Research limitations/implications The reaction mixture must be stirred continuously. Subsequently, 37% formalin was added dropwise in total while refluxing. The amount of aqueous NaOH solution is limited as the formed resin may become insoluble in common organic solvents. At the end of the reaction, a water-insoluble resin is obtained. Practical implications This study provides the application of ketonic resins. The OPCFCR containing phenolic groups may also promote the adhesive strength of a coating. Social implications These resins may be used for the preparation of adhesive. OP, with a large amount of catechol groups, was considered for reducing the formaldehyde emission level on the adhesive system. Originality/value OPCFCR has been synthesized in the presence of a base catalyst. Environmental and ecological concerns have increased the attention paid by chemical industry to renewable raw materials.