In this paper, a simple and proficient approach of one-pot design of Ce and Cu dual doped nanostructures was obtained via microwave assisted combustion method. A number of analytical techniques, comprising X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX) and photoluminescence spectroscopy (PL) have been employed to characterize the as prepared samples. XRD analysis revealed that the dual-doped ZnO nanostructures are of wurtzite crystal structure. The variation in lattice parameters, micro-strain and a minor shift in XRD peaks endorses the substitution of co dopants into the ZnO lattice. SEM investigations exhibited that the samples are of irregular spherical and hexagonal morphology. DRS measurements showed a decline in the bandgap with increasing dopants content, perhaps due to an increase in the lattice parameters. PL probe of the samples showed the violet, blue and green peaks for the samples. The antibacterial property test carried out via well diffusion method, revealed the higher antimicrobial activity of the samples. Thus, the as-synthesized sample showed is an economically and environmentally friendly nanostructure. © 2015 Elsevier GmbH.