We have developed a noncontact, photothermal materials characterization method based on visible-light speckle imaging. This technique is applied to remotely measure the infrared absorption spectra of materials and to discriminate materials based on their thermal conductivities. A wavelength-tunable (7.5-8.7 um), intensity-modulated, quantum cascade pump laser and a continuous-wave 532 nm probe laser illuminate a sample surface such that the two laser spots overlap. Surface absorption of the intensity-modulated pump laser induces a time-varying thermoelastic surface deformation, resulting in a time-varying 532 nm scattering speckle field from the surface. The speckle modulation amplitude, derived from a series of visible camera images, is found to correlate with the amplitude of the surface motion. By tuning the pump laser's wavelength over a molecular absorption feature, the amplitude spectrum of the speckle modulation is found to correlate to the IR absorption spectrum. As an example, we demonstrate this technique for spectroscopic identification of thin polymeric films. Furthermore, by adjusting the rate of modulation of the pump beam and measuring the associated modulation transfer to the visible speckle pattern, information about the thermal time constants of surface and sub-surface features can be revealed. Using this approach, we demonstrate the ability to distinguish between different materials (including metals, semiconductors, and insulators) based on differences in their thermal conductivities.