Mitochondrial diseases are a group of inherited diseases with highly varied and complex clinical presentations. Here, we report four individuals, including two siblings, affected by a progressive mitochondrial encephalopathy with biallelic variants in the cardiolipin biosynthesis gene CRLS1. Three affected individuals had a similar infantile presentation comprising progressive encephalopathy, bull's eye maculopathy, auditory neuropathy, diabetes insipidus, autonomic instability, cardiac defects and early death. The fourth affected individual presented with chronic encephalopathy with neurodevelopmental regression, congenital nystagmus with decreased vision, sensorineural hearing loss, failure to thrive and acquired microcephaly. Using patient-derived fibroblasts, we characterized cardiolipin synthase 1 (CRLS1) dysfunction that impaired mitochondrial morphology and biogenesis, providing functional evidence that the CRLS1 variants cause mitochondrial disease. Lipid profiling in fibroblasts from two patients further confirmed the functional defect demonstrating reduced cardiolipin levels, altered acyl-chain composition and significantly increased levels of phosphatidylglycerol, the substrate of CRLS1. Proteomic profiling of patient cells and mouse Crls1 knockout cell lines identified both endoplasmic reticular and mitochondrial stress responses, and key features that distinguish between varying degrees of cardiolipin insufficiency. These findings support that deleterious variants in CRLS1 cause an autosomal recessive mitochondrial disease, presenting as a severe encephalopathy with multi-systemic involvement. Furthermore, we identify key signatures in cardiolipin and proteome profiles across various degrees of cardiolipin loss, facilitating the use of omics technologies to guide future diagnosis of mitochondrial diseases.