Water-soluble cupric oxide nanoparticles are fabricated via a quick-precipitation method and used as peroxidase mimetics for ultrasensitive detection of hydrogen peroxide and glucose. The water-soluble CuO nanoparticles show much higher catalytic activity than that of commercial CuO nanoparticles due to their higher affinity to hydrogen peroxide. In addition, the as-prepared CuO nanoparticles are stable over a wide range of pH and temperature. This excellent stability in the form of aqueous colloidal suspensions makes the application of the water-soluble CuO nanoparticles easier in aqueous systems. A colorimetric assay for hydrogen peroxide and glucose has been established based on the catalytic oxidation of phenol coupled with 4-amino-atipyrine by the action of hydrogen peroxide. This analytical platform not only confirms the intrinsic peroxidase-like activity of the water-soluble cupric oxide nanoparticles, but also shows its great potential applications in environmental chemistry, biotechnology and medicine.