We have developed a versatile strategy to prepare a series of multicoordinating and multifunctional ligands optimized for the surface-functionalization of luminescent quantum dots (QDs) and gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) alike. Our chemical design relies on the modification of l-aspartic acid precursor to controllably combine, through simple peptide coupling chemistry, one or two lipoic acid (LA) groups and poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) moieties in the same ligand. This route has provided two sets of modular ligands: (i) bis(LA)-PEG, which presents two lipoic acids (higher coordination) appended onto a single end-functionalized PEG, and (ii) LA-(PEG)2 made of two PEG moieties (higher branching, with various end reactive groups) appended onto a single lipoic acid. These ligands are combined with a new photoligation strategy to yield hydrophilic and reactive QDs that are colloidally stable over a broad range of conditions, including storage at nanomolar concentration and under ambient conditions. AuNPs capped with these ligands exhibit excellent stability in various biological conditions and improved resistance against NaCN digestion. This route also provides compact nanocrystals with tunable surface reactivity. As such, we have covalently coupled QDs capped with bis(LA)-PEG-COOH to transferrin to facilitate intracellular uptake. We have also characterized and quantified the coupling of dye-labeled peptides to QD surfaces using fluorescence resonance energy transfer interactions in QD-peptide-dye assemblies.