Crop yield and global food security are under constant threat from plant pathogens with the potential to cause epidemics. Traditional breeding for disease resistance can be too slow to counteract these emerging threats, resulting in the need to retool the plant immune system using bioengineered made-to-order immune receptors. Efforts to engineer immune receptors have focused primarily on nucleotide-binding domain and leucine-rich repeat (NLR) immune receptors and proof-of-principles studies. Based upon a near-exhaustive literature search of previously engineered plant immune systems we distil five emerging principles in the design of bioengineered made-to-order plant NLRs and describe approaches based on other components. These emerging principles are anticipated to assist the functional understanding of plant immune receptors, as well as bioengineering novel disease resistance specificities.