Gel-like carrier materials were introduced into cell therapy of cartilage lesions to improve chondrocyte retention and distribution in the defect. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are now discussed as an alternative cell source for repair. We here asked whether distinct gel-like carriers can support chondrogenesis of MSC in vitro and lead to stable cartilage-like transplants in vivo. Chondrogenesis of MSC embedded in collagen type I gel, fibrin glue, Matrigel and PuraMatrix peptide hydrogel was assessed and gene expression analysis, proteoglycan content, and collagen synthesis were quantified. Differentiated constructs were transplanted subcutaneously into SCID mice. All carriers supported chondrogenesis in vitro, but displayed material-dependent differences on COL2A1 gene expression, total collagen synthesis and proteoglycan deposition. The undesired calcification and microossicle formation in ectopic transplants in vivo was consistently suppressed by Matrigel. In sum, gel-like biomaterials were suitable carriers for MSC and promoted chondrogenesis. Suppression of calcification by particular gel-like materials makes their use even more attractive for MSC-based tissue engineering approaches in cartilage repair.