Abstract Surface-enhanced infrared absorption (SEIRA) difference spectroscopy can probe reactions in a protein monolayer tethered to a nanostructured gold surface. SEIRA studies of membrane proteins, however, remain challenging due to sample stability, effects of the metal surface on function, and the need for a membrane-mimicking environment. Here we demonstrate and characterize a model system for membrane receptor investigations using SEIRA spectroscopy. The system employs nanoscale apolipoprotein bound bilayer (NABB) particles, similar to discoidal high-density lipoprotein particles, as soluble carriers for the G-protein-coupled receptor rhodopsin. The His-tag of the engineered apolipoprotein allows for selective binding of the NABBs to a Ni-NTA modified surface, while the lipid environment of the particle ensures stability and protection of the embedded receptor. Using SEIRA spectroscopy, we followed specific binding of rhodopsin-loaded NABB particles to the surface and formation of a membrane protein monolayer. Functionality of the photoreceptor in the immobilized NABBs was probed by SEIRA difference spectroscopy confirming protein conformational changes associated with photoactivation. Orientation of the immobilized NABB particles was assessed by comparing SEIRA data with polarized attenuated total reflection-Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy. Thus, SEIRA difference spectroscopy supported by the NABB technology provides a promising approach for further functional studies of transmembrane receptors.