Photothermal desorption of molecules from plasmonic nanoparticles is an example of a light-triggered molecular release due to heating of the system. However, this phenomenon ought to work only if the molecule–nanoparticle interaction is exothermic in nature. In this study, we compare protein adsorption behavior onto gold nanoparticles for both endothermic and exothermic complexation reactions, and demonstrate that Le Chatelier’s principle can be applied to predict protein adsorption or desorption on nanomaterial surfaces. Polyelectrolyte-wrapped gold nanorods were used as adsorption platforms for two different proteins, which we were able to adsorb/desorb from the nanorod surface depending on the thermodynamics of their interactions. Furthermore, we show that the behaviors hold up under more complex biological environments such as fetal bovine serum.