In the present paper, nanocrystalline hierarchical ZSM-5 zeolites were successfully synthesized by the hydrothermal method in the presence of tetrapropylammonium hydroxide as a single template with the gel composition of 58SiO2:Al2O3:20TPAOH:1,500H2O. The prepared zeolite catalysts were characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, Nitrogen adsorption–desorption (BET), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM) techniques. The formation of pure and highly crystalline ZSM-5 zeolite phase is confirmed by XRD. The IR vibration band at 550 cm−1 is assigned to the double 5-rings of MFI-type zeolites. N2 adsorption–desorption isotherms showed that the synthesized product had high BET surface area and possessed composite pore structures with both micro and mesopores. The catalytic performance of hierarchical ZSM-5 zeolite was investigated in the selective oxidation of benzyl alcohol (BzOH) with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) under mild conditions. The results showed that the conversion of BzOH and the selectivity to benzaldehyde were about 94 and about 99 % respectively, when using 0.08 g ZSM-5 catalyst with acetonitrile as the solvent and H2O2 as the oxidant at 90 °C. This catalyst can be retrieved and reprocessed for five times without a significant loss in its activity and selectivity. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.