Factors including climate change and increased global exchange are set to escalate the prevalence of plant diseases, posing an unprecedented threat to global food security and making it more challenging to meet the demands of an ever-growing population. As such, new methods of pathogen control are essential to help with the growing danger of crop losses to plant diseases. The intracellular immune system of plants utilises nucleotide-binding leucine rich repeat (NLR) receptors to recognise and activate defence responses to pathogen virulence proteins (effectors) delivered to the host. Engineering the recognition properties of plant NLRs towards pathogen effectors is a genetic solution to plant diseases with high specificity, and is more sustainable than several current methods for pathogen control that frequently rely on agrochemicals. Here, we highlight the pioneering approaches toward enhancing effector recognition in plant NLRs and discuss the barriers and solutions in engineering the plant intracellular immune system.