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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
You’ll Love These Recipes Too:
- Lemon Ginger Cookies
- Orange Cranberry Bread
- Lemon Pudding Cakes
- Greek Yogurt Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes
- Lemon Poppy Seed Donuts
- Strawberry Bread
Lemon Poppy Seed Bread
- 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 (250g) all-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 (150g) granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup (80g) sour 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)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.*
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): 9×5 Inch Loaf Pan | Glass Mixing Bowls | Whisk
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Poppy Seeds: Skip the poppy seeds if desired or replace with the same amount of black sesame seeds or chia seeds.
- 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 Comments & Reviews
This bread is so moist and light! I feel like it needs more lemon flavor. Would you recommend using more zest or possibly lemon extract?
Hi Alyssa, feel free to add a bit more zest and/or lemon extract if desired. So glad you enjoyed the bread!
Are there supposed to be 2 glazes? One with white sugar and lemon juice that soaks into the cake and then a white one?
Hi Ellen, 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.
Any idea how long to bake this recipe if making in a mini bundt pan? Thank you!
Hi Pam, it will really depend on the size of your mini Bundt pans. You can use our recipe for mini Bundt cakes as a guide, but keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness.
This recipe looks amazing! Would it be possible to use some preserved lemon?
Hi Noreen, We have never used preserved lemons in this recipe so we are unsure of the results. For the best outcome, we recommend using fresh lemons as preserved lemons are usually packed with salt.
Can I replace the vegetable oil with coconut oil?
Hi Sherri, you can use melted coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil here.
Sally, I love you and your recipes!! You truly are THE best. Also your strawberry cake and chocolate chip cookies are amazing!! The poppyseed lemon loaf was sooo good!! I used avocado oil instead. It was moist and yummy but next time I plan on using melted better. We’ll see how that turns out. I also added the zest to my glaze is was fantastic!! Thank you for sharing your recipes with us, much appreciated – fan girl for life!
This was sooo good. For any non dairy people I used creamy oat milk and sour cream for subs and it was just as good. The key is really not over mixing the batter just barely mix it together.
Best poppy seed lemon loaf ever! So light and fluffy. The lemon rind really adds a lot of flavour. It’s a keeper!
A fantastic recipe! I swap Chia seeds for the poppy seeds and used greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Since I used 2 lemons I didn’t want to waste the peel of the second so I grated that into the confectioners sugar for the glaze which I doubled to dip the top of muffins in. So delicious and lemony!!
I have made many of your recipes and as always they are very good.
I tried making this recipe with the 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and it tasted tinny to me. Is it suppose to be the other way around? It just didn’t taste right to me. Can you please verify that for me, thanks? I absolutely love all of your recipes that you share with us!
Hi Rhonda, Usually the metallic or tinny taste will come from the baking powder. The amounts in the recipe are correct, but we recommend using an aluminum free baking powder.
Easy and yummy! My husband loves everything lemon and he likes this bread, a lot!!
Can this recipe work for layered cakeor is it too dense ?
Hi Judith, this recipe is too dense for a layer cake, but you might be interested in our lemon layer cake!
Can I use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream?
Hi Annie, you can use the came amount of plain Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.