ZTE traces its roots back to 1912, at the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its first match was a 4–2 defeat to a team from Vasvár. The team was first composed of members of a literary and debating society. ZTE flourished under coach József Vadász, but World War I halted its progress. In 1920, Zalaegerszegi TE, or "Gymanistics Club of Zalaegerszeg," was born. They were defeated in their debut match, losing 2–1 to AK Szombathely on August 21, 1920, but were motivated by a crowd of over 2,000 fans.
ZTE's league history began in 1924, when they joined the Hungarian second division. The club won the title a decade later and entered the top flight in 1934. However, the start of World War II under the regime of Admiral Miklós Horthy saw ZTE's field and equipment confiscated. After the war, in 1957, ZTE merged with two other local teams, signalling the rebirth of the club.
From then on to the 1990s, however, ZTE did not really challenge the Hungarian title much. The league was dominated by Budapest club Ferencvárosi TC. In 1994, ZTE managed to gain a solid foothold on the Hungarian first division.
In 2001-2002 the club reached their zenith by winning the Hungarian League for the first time in the club history.
In the 2002–03 UEFA Champions League qualifying phase Zalaegerszeg defeated Croatian champions NK Zagreb on away goals. The first match was played in Zalaegerszeg and the club won it by 1–0. In the second leg Zagreb was winning by 2–0 when in the 87th minute Zalaegerszeg was awarded a penalty which was scored by Flórián Urbán. ZTE beat Zagreb on away goals. In the third qualifying round Zalaegerszeg faced with the English giant club Manchester United. In the first leg, ZTE provided a stunning shock by winning 1–0 in Hungary with a last minute goal from Béla Koplárovics. However, in the return leg at Old Trafford, Man United won a convincing 5–0 victory. In the 2006–07 season after nine rounds Zalaegerszeg was on the top of the league table. At the end of the season the club finished third securing a place in the European competitions of the Intertoto Cup 2007.
In the 2010–11 season Zalaegerszeg was competing for the Europa League position with Budapest rivals Ferencváros but ZTE finished fourth and could not secure a place for the qualifiers. In the 2011–12 season Zalaegerszeg started the season with five consecutive defeats which resulted the dismissal of János Csank. He was replaced by former Ferencváros coach László Prukner. The first half of the 2011–12 Hungarian League season was a nightmare for the club since they finished last gaining only 6 points without any victories. On April 21, 2012 Zalaegerszeg were relegated to the second division of the Hungarian League.
The colurs of the club are blue and white.
Zalaegerszeg play their matches in the ZTE Arena. The stadium is able to host 14000 people. On 26 March 2017 the renovated stadium was inaugurated. All the stands of the stadium became covered. Gábor Végh, owner of the Zalaegerszegi TE, said that after 15 years the renovation of the stadium was finished. The club house, the ZTE shop, and the VIP sector was also completely renovated.