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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 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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

Glaze

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I only use 1/4 cup of sugar but double the lemon glaze. It turned out so good I can eat half a loaf at once!!! Thanks for the recipe! Your website is me and my friends’ baking wikipedia! We always check your recipes first because we know they would always turn out great❤

  2. I make this in mini loaves for family breakfast, stored in the refrigerator. This recipe is moist and full of lemon flavor. I skip the candied lemon & the glaze (since it’s breakfast, not dessert), but it’s still delicious. I did learn not to fill them “all the way to the top,” though — I did 3 mini loaves the first time and they overflowed once they were in the oven for a bit. Next time I’ll do 4 slightly smaller loaves to avoid overspill.

  3. Question for you. My lemon poppy seed is baking flat on the top, with a crease in the middle. The dates on my baking powder is 8/22 and my baking soda is 2023. I wish I could send you a picture. Any ideas on why? Thank you. It still tastes great!

    1. Hi Cathy! How long have your baking powder and baking soda been opened? Even if they’re not expired, we find they can lose their effectiveness after about 3 months and recommend replacing them then. If you’d like, feel free to send us a photo to [email protected] and we can help troubleshoot further. Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try!

  4. Thanks for this great recipe.. My husband loves this delicious bread!!

    1. I love this recipe and have made it 3 times now I think. So delicious every time. I add a little extra zest for more lemony flavor without sourness being added.

  5. The flavor of this is fantastic. However, instructions for mini loaves says to fill batter to the top. I did this and all of them overflowed, creating a huge mess (even on the baking pan I had them on) and made them unpresentable for gifts. I suggest NOT filling them to the top but only 2/3 or 3/4 full. I will try that next time anyway.

  6. Delicious as always! I used closer to the full amount of sugar, added an extra tablespoon of flower and of lemon juice and it was perfect. Could definitely add extra zest if you like a really lemony flavour.

  7. Are you certain 4 teaspoons is correct on the poppy seeds? I whisked in that amount, and the seeds didn’t look nearly as dense as the pictures.

  8. I’ve made this more than a dozen times this year. I started out tenting it for the last ten minutes, but I forgot one time and found it didn’t make a difference. For some reason the glaze comes out different every time. Obviously it’s become a favorite. Great for breakfast with tea and lemon.

  9. Delightful! I used melted coconut oil instead of vegetable oil as it’s what I had on-hand. The flavour and texture were perfect. Thank you for the recipe!

  10. The lemon. Curd sinks to the bottom..the batter seems to soft…any idea what is going on? Pretty new to baking..

    1. Hi Tim, there’s no lemon curd in this recipe. Could you be thinking of a different one?

  11. For how long would I bake mini muffins? I have an event for which they would be perfect?

    1. Hi Katherine! Mini muffins would bake at 350 degrees for about 12-13 minutes. Keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  12. I followed the recipe but substituted vegetable oil with coconut oil and sour cream with plain greek yogurt (because that’s what I had at home) and it was perfect!

    1. Hi Steph, correct — we place the candied lemons on the finished loaf.

  13. This is a great recipe! I’ve made it twice – the second time, I substituted the egg with 1/4 cup (~55g) of additional sour cream. Great results! I also added lemon paste and vanilla extract.

  14. Let me say the smells in my kitchen after making this bread was incredible. Not only that but the taste was amazing. I recommend adding some glaze to the bread about 8m before taking it out of the oven to make a crispy exterior shell.

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