A microwave photonic mixer basedon a single electro-optic Mach-Zehnder intensity modulator operating in both directions is presented. In this mixer structure, the light from the optical source travels in opposite directions inside the modulator and is modulated by both the RF signal and the local oscillator (LO). The output optical spectrum comprises the RF signal and LO sidebands without the optical carrier. This enables a high conversion efficiency mixing operation to be obtained. The mixer has a simple structure, and its performance is insensitive to the modulator bias voltage; hence no DC bias voltage and no modulator bias controller are required to obtain robust high conversion efficiency mixing operation. Experimental results are presented showing large conversion efficiency improvement of 25.7 dB compared to the conventional dual Mach-Zehnder modulator-based microwave photonic mixer and a modulator bias insensitive mixing performance. © 2014 Optical Society of America.