Fluorescence is a very promising radioactive-free technique for functional imaging in small animals and, in the future, in humans. However, most commercial near-infrared dyes display poor optical properties, such as low fluorescence quantum yields and short fluorescence lifetimes. In this paper, we explore whether the encapsulation of infrared cyanine dyes within the core of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) could improve their optical properties. Lipophilic dialkylcarbocyanines DiD and DiR are loaded very efficiently in 30-35-nm-diam lipid droplets stabilized in water by surfactants. No significant fluorescence autoquenching is observed up to 53 dyes per particle. Encapsulated in LNP, which are stable for more than one year at room temperature in HBS buffer (HEPES 0.02 M, EDTA 0.01 M, pH 5.5), DiD and DiR display far improved fluorescence quantum yields Φ (respectively, 0.38 and 0.25) and longer fluorescence lifetimes τ (respectively, 1.8 and 1.1 ns) in comparison to their hydrophilic counterparts Cy5 (Φ=0.28, τ=1.0 ns) and Cy7 (Φ=0.13, τ=0.57 ns). Moreover, dye-loaded LNPs are able to accumulate passively in various subcutaneous tumors in mice, thanks to the enhanced permeability and retention effect. These new fluorescent nanoparticles therefore appear as very promising labels for in vivo fluorescence imaging.