Lithium-oxygen batteries have a great potential to enhance the gravimetric energy density of fully packaged batteries by two to three times that of lithium ion cells. Recent studies have focused on finding stable electrolytes to address poor cycling capability and improve practical limitations of current lithium-oxygen batteries. In this study, the catalyst electrode, where discharge products are deposited and decomposed, was investigated as it has a critical role in the operation of rechargeable lithium-oxygen batteries. Here we report the electrode design principle to improve specific capacity and cycling performance of lithium-oxygen batteries by utilizing high-efficiency nanocatalysts assembled by M13 virus with earth-abundant elements such as manganese oxides. By incorporating only 3–5 wt% of palladium nanoparticles in the electrode, this hybrid nanocatalyst achieves 13,350 mAh g−1c (7,340 mAh g−1c+catalyst) of specific capacity at 0.4 A g−1c and a stable cycle life up to 50 cycles (4,000 mAh g−1c, 400 mAh g−1c+catalyst) at 1 A g−1c.