© 2020 The Authors. ChemBioChem published by Wiley-VCH GmbHO-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) is the only enzyme that catalyzes the post-translational modification of proteins at Ser/Thr with a single β-N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAcylation). Its activity has been associated with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative disease. Although numerous OGT substrates have been identified, its accepted substrate scope can still be refined. We report here an attempt to better define the peptide-recognition requirements of the OGT active site by using mRNA display, taking advantage of its extremely high throughput to assess the substrate potential of a library of all possible nonamer peptides. An antibody-based selection process is described here that is able to enrich an OGT substrate peptide from such a library, but with poor absolute recovery. Following four rounds of selection for O-GlcNAcylated peptides, sequencing revealed 14 peptides containing Ser/Thr, but these were shown by luminescence-coupled assays and peptide microarray not to be OGT substrates. By contrast, subsequent testing of an N-terminal tag approach showed exemplary recovery. Our approach demonstrates the power of genetically encoded libraries for selection of peptide substrates, even from a very low initial starting abundance and under suboptimal conditions, and emphasizes the need to consider the binding biases of antibodies and both C- and N-terminal tags in profiling peptide substrates by high-throughput display.