Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

This lemon poppy seed bread can be simple enough for a weekday breakfast or can be dressed up with candied lemon slices and extra glaze for fancy afternoon tea. No matter how or when you serve it, this quick bread is moist, flavorful, and speckled with plenty of poppy seeds. 

lemon poppy seed bread

Have you ever tried this cinnamon swirl quick bread? It was a repeat favorite last fall, but after about 500 loaves (hardly an exaggeration there), I decided to put a fresh spin on the base recipe. I added fresh lemon juice and poppy seeds, plus a little baking powder since the juice weighed down the crumb. Simply put, this quick bread is sunshine in a loaf pan. It’s golden on the exterior with a bright yellow poppy seed-speckled crumb. Just beautiful! And it definitely hits the spot, especially if you enjoy lemon treats.

Tell Me About This Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

  • Flavor: The lemon flavor is perfectly balanced– not too tart, not too overpowering. The bread is definitely tasty plain, but we really enjoyed it with a little lemon glaze on top. The glaze seeped down into the bread, adding even more moisture.
  • Texture: This bread is soft and moist with a slightly tight crumb. For a point of reference, I’d say it’s not quite as dense as pound cake, but definitely heavier than fluffy white cake. Just perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Ease: Many quick breads require creaming butter and sugar together, but this base recipe uses oil for extra moisture. (With all the lemon flavor, you won’t miss the butter.) Since we aren’t creaming butter, we can skip the mixer and simply use a whisk for the batter. All the prepwork is pretty straightforward, so this recipe is great for beginners.
  • Time: This is a quick bread since it isn’t made with yeast, but the bake time isn’t particularly fast. Set aside 50-60 minutes for the bread to bake through. After glazing, you can slice and serve the bread warm or wait until it cools completely. You can cut down on bake time if you use mini loaf pans or bake the batter as lemon poppy seed muffins. See recipe notes for both options.

lemon poppy seed bread batter

Video Tutorial: How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread – 3 Extra Tips

Before you preheat your oven, let me note these 3 extra tips.

  1. Room Temperature Ingredients: Bring your cold ingredients like the egg, sour cream, and milk to room temperature before you get started. Room temperature ingredients bond together easily since they’re warmer, creating a seamless and evenly textured batter. A smooth batter means a uniformly textured baked good.
  2. Amount of Sugar: 1 cup of sugar produces a wonderfully sweet quick bread that’s reminiscent of a breakfast cake. If you’re looking for something not quite as sweet, stick with 3/4 cup– this is actually how I wrote/prefer the recipe since there’s sweet glaze on top.
  3. Extra Glaze: The amount of lemon glaze/icing written in the recipe below yields a very light layer. This glaze is mostly translucent and seeps down into the top of the bread. For a thicker layer, double the glaze ingredients.

lemon poppy seed bread loaf

sliced lemon poppy seed quick bread with candied lemons on top

The candied lemon slices are totally optional, but don’t they make a pretty finishing touch? I followed this candied lemon slice tutorial. They’re sweet, chewy, and made a lovely (and edible) decoration. Do not bake them on the bread– just garnish the finished loaf with them.

Why Is There a Large Crack On Top of my Quick Breads?

Don’t fret! A large crack down the center of your loaf/quick breads is actually a sign that your bread expanded properly. The top of the bread will naturally cook and set quicker than the center. As the center cooks, air escapes out of the top creating a defined crack either in the center or slightly off center. If your baked quick bread doesn’t really have a large crack down the center, it’s nothing to worry about either– there are so many variables at play including your oven, the oven temperature, length of time, oven rack position, recipe, etc.

lemon poppy seed bread slices

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lemon poppy seed bread

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: 1 loaf
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


Oil and sour cream make this lemon poppy seed bread uniquely moist, while lemon provides a fresh, bright flavor. The glaze recipe below yields a light layer, but feel free to double the glaze if you want extra. See recipe notes for muffins and mini loaves.


  • 2 cups (250gall-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 4 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150ggranulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (80gsour cream (or plain yogurt/Greek yogurt), at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest


  • 1/2 cup (60g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) lemon juice
  • optional: candied lemon slices (I followed this tutorial to make them)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, poppy seeds, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and granulated sugar together until combined. Whisk in the oil, sour cream, milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then whisk to completely combine. Avoid over-mixing; a few small lumps are OK.
  3. Pour/spread the batter evenly into prepared loaf pan. Bake the bread for 50 minutes to 1 hour, covering loosely with foil about halfway through to help the loaf bake evenly. Poke the center of the bread with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the bread is done. Oven times will vary between ovens. My bread usually takes 55 minutes.
  4. Cool bread completely in the pan set on a wire rack. *Feel free to drizzle with glaze (next step) while the bread is still warm. The glaze seeps down into the warm bread this way, adding extra moisture.*
  5. Make the glaze: *This doesn’t yield a lot of glaze– just a light layer. Feel free to double the glaze if you want more.* Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice together. Drizzle over bread while it’s still warm in the loaf pan or after it cools.
  6. Slice and serve. Cover and store leftover plain or glazed bread at room temperature for 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


  1. Freezing Instructions: For longer storage, you can freeze the glazed or unglazed bread for up to 3 months. If you’re interested in my tips for freezing quick bread, see my Make Ahead Baking post. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before glazing (if needed) and serving.
  2. Sour Cream & Milk: I recommend full fat sour cream and whole milk. You can use plain yogurt instead, but avoid fat free if you can. I don’t recommend a lower fat or nondairy milk here, though you can use it in a pinch. The bread won’t taste as rich and moist.
  3. Muffins: My favorite lemon poppy seed muffins are these soft, sweet, and cake-like blackberry lemon poppy seed muffins. For muffins with a tighter crumb (but same great flavor), you can use this quick bread batter. Grease a 12-count muffin pan or line with liners. You will need a 2nd pan for 2 additional muffins as this recipe yields around 14. (Or bake in batches.) Prepare batter as directed. Fill liners all the way to the top with batter. Bake the muffins for 5 minutes at 425°F (218°C) then, keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (177°C). Bake for an additional 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total time these muffins take in the oven is about 20-22 minutes, give or take. Cool muffins for 5 minutes in the muffin pan, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling. Makes 14 muffins.
  4. Mini Loaves: Grease a mini loaf pan. Prepare batter as directed. Fill pan all the way to the top with batter. Bake at 350°F (177°C) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake time and yield depends on the size of your mini loaf pan.
  5. Lemon: 2 medium lemons are enough for this recipe. You should get 1 Tablespoon of zest from 1 medium lemon and 2 medium lemons will provide enough juice for both the bread and glaze.
  6. Poppy Seeds: Skip the poppy seeds if desired or replace with the same amount of black sesame seeds or chia seeds.
  7. Other Citrus: Feel free to swap the lemon juice and zest with other citrus juice and zest, such as orange, blood orange, lime, or grapefruit. You can leave out the poppy seeds if desired.

Keywords: lemon poppy seed, bread, quick bread, lemon


  1. Kathleen Prudencio says:

    This was delicious! And, I was lucky enough to get fresh-picked lemons. For some reason, the bread rose, but rose flat – not domed with a crack. Any suggestions why this might have happened? I used a digital scale for the flour and sugar and used whole-fat milk and sour cream. Hmmm. Thanks in advance!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kathleen! Make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. We find they lose strength after just 3-4 months. Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try.

  2. Really enjoyed making this with my family. wonderful and delicious! Thank you so much.

  3. excellent recipe!! made exactly as written and it’s fluffy and moist and so easy to make. i love the pucker of the glaze and next time might double so that it covers a bit more of the sides. I’ve tried a few other lemon poppy seed loaf or cake recipes and most seem to be butter based. This oil based recipe was both quicker and in my opinion yielded a more moist result. I used full fat greek yogurt in place of the sour cream and it added a nice tang. Lovely loaf.

  4. This turned out so lovely! I used olive oil and a tiny bit more sugar – about 175g – since I don’t particularly care for glazes. The texture and flavor are both spot-on, with a nice crackly “crust” on the outside.

  5. This is such a great recipe! I love how easy and quick it is to make (this is coming from a 12-year-old with no prior experience in baking). It tastes delicious and looks great!

  6. I made it with a flax egg (1tbs flax, 3tbs water) and it turned out beautifully! Also halved the sugar called for in both bread and glaze and it was perfectly sweet for the whole family. Thank you!

  7. Hi Sally! I adore your blog, but I had a question.
    So I used to live on the East Coast and then we moved but on the East Coast there was this amazing place called Wegmans and they had the best jumbo muffins and one of my favs was their lemon poppyseed muffin and I was wondering if I could do these in a jumbo muffin pan and how would that work?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Emma! Those sound delicious. You can follow the baking directions for these Jumbo Muffins, though this lemon poppy seed bread produces less batter. You may also love these Blackberry Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins for a more cake-like muffin.

    2. Hi Sally,
      I love trying all your loaf recipes. They come out great. Can I use 1 cup of buttermilk instead of whole milk and sour cream? Let me know, please.

  8. Can I substitute applesauce for the oil? If so, is it a 1 to 1 swap?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donna, Melted butter would be the best substitute for any cooking oil. We’d recommend to avoid using applesauce. Without the fat, the bread will taste dry and even a bit rubbery.

  9. Great recipe! Tastes delicious and has good lemon flavor. My oven runs hot so it was done around 35 minutes. The glaze was the perfect amount for me.

  10. Hi Sally,
    Long-time fan. first time commenter. Just made this lovely bread, and it turned out stunning. I did use butter instead of oil, but otherwise I followd this to the T and gram. Also used the linked recipe for the candied lemon slices. It really is a top-notch presentation all together! I hate to admit that it’s been more than a decade since I have had lemon poppyseed bread. Next time I cook this (very soon) I might try adding a little lemon cheesecake filling.

    I also made your super-chunk white chocolate macadamia cookies today. Followed the recipe to the letter. Great cookie!! I could not find toasted macs, so I toasted my own with a dash of pink salt. You’re right, it really does make a difference.


    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re so glad you enjoyed this lemon poppy seed bread and the macadamia nut cookies, Maddy! Thank you so much for your kind review.

      1. I just made this for the second time. My lemons were a little old, making the peels a little difficult to zest, so I settled for about a teaspoon’s worth. Take a tip from me – DO NOT skimp on the recipe’s call for 1 tablespoon. Much of the lemon flavor and punch comes from the zest, not the juice. So I learned the hard way! Still great, but I could really tell the difference. I’ll make sure I have FRESH lemons my next round.

  11. Hi Sally! I would like to convert this recipe to be baked in two 8×4 loaf pans. Should I make 1.5x the recipe? Any idea how long to bake for? Thank you for your help?

    1. Hi Rebecca, that would be my best guess– 1.5x the recipe for two 8×4 inch loaf pans. The bake time will likely be the same or close to it.

  12. 50minutes was wayyy too long in the oven! My loaf was dark brown on the outside and started to burn. If you want to try this recipe I would check it at 35-40minutes to assess the browning.

  13. Hi there, turns out that my family accidentally put salt in our sugar jar. Just wanted to stop by and clarify. I made a second batch with sugar from a bag, and both the texture and flavour were perfect. Thank you for all your fail-proof recipes!

  14. Salina Laow says:

    Can I use half and half instead of whole milk?

    1. Hi Salina, half and half is too heavy for this batter. Stick with milk.

  15. Hi Sally,
    Can I use Lacto free milk???
    Oat or almondmilk????

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lucrecia, you can use a non-dairy milk in a pinch, but the bread won’t taste as rich and moist.

  16. Want to try this recipe this weekend. Do you have to use whole milk or will 1% or 2% work as well?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alex, 1% or 2% milk will work in a pinch, but the bread won’t be as rich and moist.

  17. I only have vanilla yogurt. Would that be ok to use?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Wendy, that will work in a pinch. The bread may be a bit sweeter — but still delicious for sure!

  18. I have made this multiple times to rave reviews. I usually use either lemon or vanilla Greek yogurt, and add in a bit of lemon extract. I have never bothered with the glaze, but recently I spread cranberry sauce on a slice of the bread, and it was FANTASTIC

  19. I’ve made many of her recipes that turned out good. I always follow recipe as written and do not play with original recipe ingredients or method. If it says scrap down sides, I scrape down sides. If it says use sour cream, I use sour cream.

    This was not a recipe I’d make again. This is not a taste I cared for and lemon poppy seed is my favorite cake and muffins. But not as a bread!

  20. I’ve tried this a few times and love it. My favorite variation on the recipe is:
    Add 3/4 tsp almond extract to batter
    Add 1/4 almond extract to glaze

    The almond flavor is a perfect complement to the sweet lemon!

  21. If making muffins is it ok to still use the glaze? And would you recommend glazing then putting candied lemons on? Or candied lemons then glaze? TY!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Absolutely! You can still use the glaze with muffins. We recommend topping with the glaze and then the candied lemons. Hope you enjoy these!

  22. Is the purpose of the baking soda+ powder for leavening? I’m egg-free so I’m planning to use a flax egg for this but I wonder if it would affect the rise since it really only acts as a binding agent unlike eggs which can do both binding and leavening

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shyamaly! Yes, the baking powder and soda are for leavening. The egg also provides structure for the bread. We haven’t tested this recipe with a flax-egg replacement, but let us know how it goes if you do!

  23. Can I use buttermilk?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Monica, you can replace both the sour cream AND milk with 1 cup of buttermilk– this is usually the case if a recipe calls for sour cream and regular milk. Happy baking!

  24. Thank you Sally for another yummy recipe! We only had 2 % milk, so that was what I used. I reduced the amount of sugar a bit because I don’t like overly sweet dessert. The lemon poppy seed bread turned out very moist and flavorful. Like another reviewer, I made 4 small mini loaves and baked them for ~ 25 minutes. I will definitely be making this recipe again.

  25. This recipe was so yummy! I used plain yogurt, oat milk and reduced the sugar by half – the loaf still turned out so light and moist. Added the glaze and it gave the perfect amount of extra lemon flavour.

  26. This lemon poppy seed bread beats my local, trendy bakery’s lemon poppy seed bread by a landslide! Do you develop your own recipes?

    1. I’m just seeing your comment now and I’m so glad to read that you love this bread! Yes, I develop my own recipes. It’s come with over 15-20 years of experience, with most of it being in the past 10 years since I started this blog. I’ve also authored 3 cookbooks! Recipe testing is my favorite part of the job. Thank you for asking!!

  27. Does it matter what oil I use? I only have olive and soybean oil.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nora, we prefer a neutral oil like canola or vegetable. Olive oil can have a strong taste in baked goods, and we don’t have much experience baking with soybean oil but let us know if you give it a try!

  28. I love this recipe!! What’s a good egg sub for those with allergies?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We haven’t tested this recipe with egg substitutes, so can’t give any advice. Let us know if you try any! Here are all of our egg free baking recipes if you are interested in browsing there.

  29. Came out perfect. I was really pleased. Previous recipes were not light and moist.

  30. I’d like to make this in a Bundt pan. Should I double the recipe and how long would I bake it for? Thanks.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michele, we’d recommend using our Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake instead. Let us know if you give it a try!

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