As a representative transition metal oxide, cupric oxide (CuO) has attracted a lot of interest in miscellaneous fields. In the present work, the prominent third-order nonlinear optical (NLO) features of CuO nanosheets were demonstrated via the typical Z-scan technique at 1 μm. The open-aperture (OA) Z-scan measurements at different intensities clearly showed that CuO nanosheets possessed the saturable absorption (SA), reverse saturable absorption (RSA) and optical limiting behaviors. The closed-aperture (CA) Z-scan technology was implanted to investigate the nonlinear refractive index and the third-order nonlinear susceptibility. In virtue of the strong nonlinear optical absorption properties of CuO nanosheets, a stable all-solid-state mode-locked laser with the as-prepared CuO nanosheets as saturable absorber at 1.06 μm was realized for the first time. Our work confirmed that CuO nanosheets exhibited outstanding NLO properties, which might stimulate the development in ultrafast photonics and nonlinear optics.