Catalytic transfer hydrogenation/hydrogenolysis is economically and environmentally benign synthetic strategies to valorize renewable compounds derived from biomass. Simple and easily accessible organic molecules such as, e.g. alcohols, formic acid/formate salts and hydrosilane can provide the hydrogen for the reaction thereby avoiding the use of hazardous gaseous hydrogen. This review provides the status and insight into the recent progress made in catalytic transfer hydrogenation/hydrogenolysis on two important carbohydrate-derived furanic platform chemicals, furfural and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, with focus on catalyst developments and mechanism explanations. Many of the devised metal and catalyst reactivity features are generally applicable for alternative renewable compounds, and a detailed understanding of these features may therefore guide the selection of suitable catalysts for a specific transformation and improve the selectivity and yield of the products.