Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) accounts for 85% of all primary renal cancers. The definitive diagnosis of RCC relies exclusively on the subjective pathological interpretation of the surgical specimen. In this study, we aimed to analyze renal tissue using objective Raman spectroscopy (RS). We obtained 15 pairs of RCC (T) and corresponding normal renal parenchymal tissues (N) from our biobank. There are three subtypes of RCC: clear cell RCC (ccRCC), papillary RCC (pRCC), and chromophobe RCC (cRCC). Five pairs of tissue of each subtype were enrolled. Fresh-frozen sliced tissues were used for the RS detection. The Raman spectra between T and N were compared and analyzed using partial least squares (PLS) regression. Data for a total of 55 T and 58 N analyzable RS samples were obtained. The spectra were normalized by dividing the intensity of the characteristic peak at 1003 cm−1 using phenylalanine's Raman peak. After further analysis with PLS, the sensitivity and specificity for discriminating T from N were 95% and 93%, respectively. The RCC subtypes can be discriminated at an accuracy of 72% for ccRCC, 88% for cRCC, and 86% for pRCC. This study demonstrates the feasibility of analyzing renal tissue using RS. RS, with its advantages of easy and objective tissue assessment, may be applied to aid intraoperative decision making and pathological tissue assessment. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.