Abstract Synthesis of triethylamine capped ZnSe nanostructures with bean-like morphology distribution by a simple and inexpensive wet chemical method has been investigated. The main advantage of this method is the use of non-toxic precursors. The synthesized nanostructures have been characterized by powder X-ray diffraction, ultraviolet visible spectrometry, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, photoluminescence and atomic force microscopy. The absorption features obtained in the UV absorption spectrum reveal the formation of nanostructures. A significant blue shift from the bulk material was observed from UV absorption and photoluminescence spectra.