The current diagnostic criteria for the behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) foresee a relative sparing of long-term memory. Although bvFTD patients were thought to report secondary memory deficits associated with prefrontal dysfunctions, some studies indicated the presence of a “genuine memory deficit” related to mesial temporal lobe dysfunctions. Among various neuropsychological tests, the Free and Cue Selective Reminding Test (FCSRT) has been recommended to distinguish genuine from apparent amnesia. We conducted a systematic review and a random effect Bayesian meta-analysis to evaluate the nature and severity of memory deficit in bvFTD. Our objective was to determine whether the existing literature offers evidence of genuine or apparent amnesia in patients with bvFTD, as assessed via the FCSRT. On 06/19/2021, we conducted a search across four databases (PMC, Scopus, Web of Science, and PubMed). We included all studies that evaluated memory performance using the FCSRT in patients with bvFTD, as long as they also included either cognitively unimpaired participants or AD groups. We tested publication bias through the Funnel plot and Egger’s test. To assess the quality of studies, we used the Newcastle-Ottawa quality assessment scale adapted for cross-sectional studies. We included 16 studies in the meta-analysis. The results showed that bvFTD patients perform better than AD patients (pooled effects between 0.95 and 1.14), as their memory performance stands between AD and control groups (pooled effects between − 2.19 and − 1.25). Moreover, patients with bvFTD present both genuine and secondary memory disorders. As a major limitation of this study, due to our adoption of a rigorous methodology and stringent inclusion criteria, we ended up with just 16 studies. Nonetheless, our robust findings can contribute to the ongoing discussion on international consensus criteria for bvFTD and the selection of appropriate neuropsychological tools to facilitate the differential diagnosis between AD and bvFTD.