Adaptive laboratory evolution is a frequent method in biological studies to gain insights into the basic mechanisms of molecular evolution and adaptive changes that accumulate in microbial populations during long term selection under specified growth conditions. Although regularly performed for more than 25 years, the advent of transcript and cheap next-generation sequencing technologies has resulted in many recent studies, which successfully applied this technique in order to engineer microbial cells for biotechnological applications. Adaptive laboratory evolution has some major benefits as compared with classical genetic engineering but also some inherent limitations. However, recent studies show how some of the limitations may be overcome in order to successfully incorporate adaptive laboratory evolution in microbial cell factory design. Over the last two decades important insights into nutrient and stress metabolism of relevant model species were acquired, whereas some other aspects such as niche-specific differences of non-conventional cell factories are not completely understood. Altogether the current status and its future perspectives highlight the importance and potential of adaptive laboratory evolution as approach in biotechnological engineering.