We have performed low-temperature photoluminescence (PL) to characterize the properties of heteroepitaxial ZnTe grown by MBE as a function of Zn/Te flux ratio, growth temperature, ZnTe layer thickness, and type of IIl-V substrate. In contrast to most previous studies, we consider the effects of the residual thermal strain in the material and re-assign the shallow exciton peaks. The main features of the PL spectrum of ZnTe/GaAs for Te-rich growth conditions are double acceptor-bound exciton and oxygen isoelectronic center bound exciton peaks. Zn-rich conditions result in a strong shallow acceptor bound exciton peak, excitons bound to closely spaced acceptor pairs, and donor-acceptor pair peaks due to As and possibly other shallow acceptors. High growth temperature reduces the strength of peaks due to excitons bound to closely spaced acceptor pairs, oxygen related structures and a deep level peak. Thick layers are needed to avoid deep levels (possibly Ga related) which appear in the thin layers. The PL spectra for ∼1.3 µm thick ZnTe layers on GaAs and GaSb are almost identical. ZnTe/InP yields strong deep levels, which are possibly In related. Our results show that high quality ZnTe epilayers can be obtained at moderately high growth temperature under Zn-rich conditions, if the thickness is sufficiently large.