We report a simple detection of protein kinase activity using Zn(II)-mediated fluorescent resonance energy transfer (FRET) between quantum dots (QDs) and dye-tethered peptides. With neither complex chemical ligands nor surface modification of QDs, Zn(II) was the only metal ion that enabled the phosphorylated peptides to be strongly attached on the carboxyl groups of the QD surface via metal coordination, thus leading to a significant FRET efficiency. As a result, protein kinase activity in intermixed solution was efficiently detected by QD-FRET via Zn(II) coordination, especially when the peptide substrate was combined with affinity-based purification. We also found that mono- and di-phosphorylation in the peptide substrate could be discriminated by the Zn(II)-mediated QD-FRET. Our approach is expected to find applications for studying physiological function and signal transduction with respect to protein kinase activity.