Spectroscopic photoacoustic imaging has the potential to discriminate between normal and lipid-rich atheromatous areas of arterial tissue by exploiting the differences in the absorption spectra of lipids and normal arterial tissue in the 740 to 1400 nm wavelength range. Identification of regions of high lipid concentration would be useful to identify plaques that are likely to rupture (vulnerable plaques). To demonstrate the feasibility of visualizing lipid-rich plaques, samples of human aortas were imaged in forward mode, at wavelengths of 970 and 1210 nm. It was shown that the structure of the arterial wall and the boundaries of lipid-rich plaques obtained from the photoacoustic images were in good agreement with histology. The presence of lipids was also confirmed by comparing the photoacoustic spectra (740 to 1400 nm) obtained in a region within the plaque to the spectral signature of lipids. Furthermore, a lipid-rich plaque was successfully imaged while illuminating the sample through 2.8 mm of blood demonstrating the possibility of implementing the photoacoustic technique in vivo.