We present chitosan hydrogel microfluidic devices with self-assembled complex microcapillary patterns, conveniently formed by a diffusion-reaction process. These patterns in chitosan hydrogels are formed by a single-step procedure involving diffusion of a gelation agent into the polymer solution inside a microfluidic channel. By changing the channel geometry, it is demonstrated how to control capillary length, trajectory and branching. Diffusion of nanoparticles (NPs) in the capillary network is used as a model to effectively mimic the transport of nano-objects in vascularized tissues. Gold NPs diffusion is measured locally in the hydrogel chips, and during their two-step transport through the capillaries to the gel matrix and eventually to embedded cell clusters in the gel. In addition, the quantitative analyses reported in this study provide novel opportunities for theoretical investigation of capillary formation and propagation during diffusive gelation of biopolymers.