We demonstrate the use of Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIRS) to make quantitative measures of total organic carbon (TOC), total inorganic carbon (TIC) and biogenic silica (BSi) concentrations in sediment. FTIRS is a fast and cost-effective technique and only small sediment samples are needed (0.01 g). Statistically significant models were developed using sediment samples from northern Sweden and were applied to sediment records from Sweden, northeast Siberia and Macedonia. The correlation between FTIRS-inferred values and amounts of biogeochemical constituents assessed conventionally varied between r = 0.84–0.99 for TOC, r = 0.85–0.99 for TIC, and r = 0.68–0.94 for BSi. Because FTIR spectra contain information on a large number of both inorganic and organic components, there is great potential for FTIRS to become an important tool in paleolimnology.