Parasitic plants of the genus Cuscuta penetrate shoots of host plants with haustoria and build a connection to the host vasculature to exhaust water, solutes and carbohydrates. Such infections usually stay unrecognized by the host and lead to harmful host plant damage. Here, we show a molecular mechanism of how plants can sense parasitic Cuscuta. We isolated an 11 kDa protein of the parasite cell wall and identified it as a glycine-rich protein (GRP). This GRP, as well as its minimal peptide epitope Crip21, serve as a pathogen-associated molecular pattern and specifically bind and activate a membrane-bound immune receptor of tomato, the Cuscuta Receptor 1 (CuRe1), leading to defense responses in resistant hosts. These findings provide the initial steps to understand the resistance mechanisms against parasitic plants and further offer great potential for protecting crops by engineering resistance against parasitic plants.