Structural and biophysical studies as well as drug screening approaches on G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) have been largely hampered by the poor biophysical properties and low expression yields of this largest class of integral membrane proteins. Thermostabilisation of GPCRs by introduction of stabilising mutations has been a key factor to overcome these limitations. However, labelled ligands with sufficient affinity, which are required for selective binding to the correctly folded receptor, are often not available. Here we describe a novel procedure to improve receptor expression and stability in a generic way, independent of specific ligands, by means of directed evolution in E. coli. We have engineered a homogenous fluorescent reporter assay that only detects receptors which are correctly integrated into the inner cell membrane and, thus, discriminates functional from non-functional receptor species. When we combined this method with a directed evolution procedure we obtained highly expressing mutants of the neurotensin receptor 1 with greatly improved thermostability. By this procedure receptors with poor expression and/or low stability, for which no ligands or only ones with poor binding properties are available, can now be generated in quantities allowing detailed structural and biophysical analysis.