Ahmad Shabery was born in Kijal, Kemaman, Terengganu, on 10 December 1958, and received his early education at the Sekolah Sungai Lembing and Sekolah Datuk Abdul Razak in Seremban.
In 1983, he pursued a course in economics at the Universiti Malaya. During this period, he was also elected as the president of the university's Muslim Students Association. In 1986, he obtained his Bachelor's degree from the University of Leeds and in 1989 he obtained a postgraduate diploma in International Relations from the Uppsala University in Sweden. That same year, he was appointed the Secretary of the Malaysian Social Science Association (PSSM).
In 1990, he became a lecturer in the University Malaya's Faculty of Economics and Administration. He has also served as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
Ahmad Shabery left UMNO in 1989 to join other members rebelling against the then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the newly formed breakaway Parti Melayu Semangat 46 (S46), until its dissolution in 1996 where he rejoined UMNO again.
In 2004, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Kemaman, defeating Abd Rahman Yusof of the People's Justice Party (PKR) by 15,882 votes. In 2008, he retained the seat after beating PKR's Fariz Musa by 12,682 votes, and won again in 2013, defeating Kamaaruddin Chik (PKR) by 12,306 votes.
After the 2008 general election, which saw the incumbent Information Minister Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin lose his parliamentary seat, the then-Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi appointed Ahmad as Zainuddin's replacement.
On 15 July 2008, Ahmad Shabery Cheek participated in a historic debate on the national fuel price with the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, which was televised live.
In April 2009, the newly installed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak appointed him as the Minister for Youth and Sports. After the 13th General Election, he was appointed as Minister of Communication and Multimedia.
In 2015, he was appointed as the Minister of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry in a cabinet reshuffle.