Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress plays an important role in the decline in pancreatic β cell function and mass observed in type 2 diabetes. Here, we developed a novel β cell-based high-throughput screening assay to identify small molecules that protect β cells against ER stress-induced cell death. Mouse βTC6 cells were treated with the ER stressor tunicamycin to induce ER stress, and cell death was measured as a reduction in cellular ATP. A collection of 17600 compounds was screened for molecules that promote β cell survival. Of the approximately 80 positive hits, two selected compounds were able to increase the survival of human primary β cells and rodent β cell lines subjected to ER stressors including palmitate, a free fatty acid of pathological relevance to diabetes. These compounds also restored ER stress-impaired glucose-stimulated insulin secretion responses. We show that the compounds promote β cell survival by reducing the expression of key genes of the unfolded protein response and apoptosis, thus alleviating ER stress. Identification of small molecules that prevent ER stress-induced β cell dysfunction and death may provide a new modality for the treatment of diabetes.