In this work, we develop an in situ method to grow highly controllable, sensitive, three-dimensional (3D) surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) substrates via an optothermal effect within microfluidic devices. Implementing this approach, we fabricate SERS substrates composed of Ag@ZnO structures at prescribed locations inside microfluidic channels, sites within which current fabrication of SERS structures has been arduous. Conveniently, properties of the 3D Ag@ZnO nanostructures such as length, packing density, and coverage can also be adjusted by tuning laser irradiation parameters. After exploring the fabrication of the 3D nanostructures, we demonstrate a SERS enhancement factor of up to ∼2×10(6) and investigate the optical properties of the 3D Ag@ZnO structures through finite-difference time-domain simulations. To illustrate the potential value of our technique, low concentrations of biomolecules in the liquid state are detected. Moreover, an integrated cell-trapping function of the 3D Ag@ZnO structures records the surface chemical fingerprint of a living cell. Overall, our optothermal-effect-based fabrication technique offers an effective combination of microfluidics with SERS, resolving problems associated with the fabrication of SERS substrates in microfluidic channels. With its advantages in functionality, simplicity, and sensitivity, the microfluidic-SERS platform presented should be valuable in many biological, biochemical, and biomedical applications.