ZrO2 nanoparticle (NP) doped CTS-PVA-HAP composites (ZrCPH I-III) were developed and characterized by FT-IR and XRD studies to mimic human bone for bone tissue engineering applications. Interconnected porous structures of these composites were observed via SEM and the porosities were in the range of human cancellous bone. These composites also have good swelling abilities both in aqueous and SBF media. The addition of ZrO2 NPs into the CTS-PVA-HAP composites improved the tensile strength of ZrCPH I-III compared with previously reported CTS-PVA-HAP composites, and the maximum tensile strength was obtained with ZrCPH III (CTS:PVA:HAP-ZrO2 = 55:30:15 wt%), which had the highest ZrO2 content (0.3 wt%). The strongest antimicrobial effect was also observed for ZrCPH III, which had the maximum amount of nano-HAP-ZrO2. Cytocompatibility with human osteoblastic MG-63 cells was also established and the highest cell proliferation was observed with ZrCPH III. Thus, ZrCPH III should have the potential to be applied as a bone tissue engineering material. © The Royal Society of Chemistry and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 2017.