Reduced graphene oxide (rGO) was prepared by reduction method using various reductants like hydrazine, sodium borohydride and ascorbic acid. XRD and Raman analysis confirmed the effective removal of functional groups in GO. SEM revealed that rGO consists of thin crumpled and disordered sheets closely associated with each other. Blue shift in UV-absorption maxima was due to weak interlayer coupling between the layers of rGO. Third order NLO properties of dispersed rGO were measured by Z-scan technique (532 nm, 50 mW). Both GO and rGO possess self defocusing, saturable absorption and optical limiting behavior. The nonlinear component of refractive index, absorption coefficient and optical susceptibility were found to be 10−8 cm2/W, 10−3 cm/W and 10−6 esu respectively. Tunability of NLO coefficients with altering functional groups upon rGO was achieved. rGO prepared using hydrazine with high NLO coefficient and excellent durability, signify the scope of utilizing them as optical limiters. © 2017 Elsevier B.V.