Therapeutic use of agonistic anti-CD40 antibodies is a potentially powerful approach for activation of the immune response to eradicate tumors. However, the translation of this approach to clinical practice has been substantially restricted due to the severe dose-limiting toxicities observed in multiple clinical trials. Here, we demonstrate that conventional type 1 dendritic cells are essential for triggering antitumor immunity but not the toxicity of CD40 agonists, while macrophages, platelets and monocytes lead to toxic events. Therefore, we designed bispecific antibodies that target CD40 activation preferentially to dendritic cells, by coupling the CD40 agonist arm with CD11c-, DEC-205- or CLEC9A-targeting arms. These bispecific reagents demonstrate a superior safety profile compared to their parental CD40 monospecific antibody while triggering potent antitumor activity. We suggest such cell-selective bispecific agonistic antibodies as a drug platform to bypass the dose-limiting toxicities of anti-CD40, and of additional types of agonistic antibodies used for cancer immunotherapy.