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. This looks super yummy! I was able to find poppy seeds and this will be a great recipe to use them in. I have 3X5 mini loaf pans and usually one regular loaf recipe makes 3 of my small ones. Will this recipe yield 3 small 3X5 loaves? Thanks and much love from Gensac!

    1. Yes, it definitely should!

  2. Wow! This looks SO good! I can’t wait to try it out! It will be such a bright pop of citrus flavor! Poppy seed and lemon are just…..a match made in heaven!

  3. This looks delicious! I am excited to bake this. Can you recommend a substitute for the oil? I’m trying to avoid industrial oils, and I know some recipes require them. Could this one work with a substitute? I’ve heard applesauce works, but I’ve never tried it. Thank you!

    1. Melted butter would be the best substitute for any cooking oil. Avoid using applesauce. Without the fat, the bread will taste dry and even a bit rubbery.

      1. Thank you!

    2. I personally was planning on trying this recipe, using grapeseed oil. It is a very neutral, light tasting oil, and remains liquid at room temperature like vegetable oil, but without all the ick that come along with vegetable or Canola oils.

      1. Thank you, Savannah! I think I’ll try that, too. I really appreciate the suggestion.

  4. Could you use almond flour in this recipe for celiac people?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joan, almond flour will drastically change the texture of this bread. We don’t suggest making the substitution. I would try a quick internet search for a lemon poppyseed bread made with almond flour instead!

  5. Susan M Dillard says:

    This is cooling on my counter right now! I can’t wait to try it. This was a very easy recipe to make, wondering if it could be made with butter instead.

    1. Hi Susan, you can use melted butter instead of oil. However, the crumb won’t be as moist. Let me know how you like your 1st loaf!

      1. Susan Dillard says:

        Loved this bread! I doubled the syrup for the topping as suggested, it was great. I heartily recommend doing this. Thanks for a great and VERY easy recipe! As soon as I saw it I knew I had to make it right away.

  6. These look so pretty!! I love the slices of lemon on top. I’ll be making them with chia seeds instead of poppy seeds~

  7. Hi sally. Made this today (as soon as it hit my phone) as lemon poppy seed anything is my husband’s favorite. This is excellent. I started with a thinner glaze on top after I put pin holes in bread and then followed with the regular glaze. Everything came out perfect. I had to substitute 5% full fat yogurt as he gets headaches from sour cream. He is on his third piece now!!! Thank you for all your delicious recipes , sandy

  8. HAHA I just made your lemon pound cake yesterday and now this! WHAT! I have so many lemons I can’t wait to try it!

  9. Oh my goodness!! I made these as a quick afternoon baking project for something to do, and they. are. amazing! We have 3×5 mini baking tins, and I was able to make 4 loaves with the batter. I love how light and fluffy they turn out! I baked them for 25 minutes, and they were perfect. Thank you so much for this lovely recipe!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So happy you loved this recipe, Ari! Thank you for your kind review.

  10. I baked the mini loaves and took them to the Hospice House my mother is in and she perked right up on the very first bite. She has always loved lemon and this was so easy to make. You’re a baking genius!

  11. This was easy to make and turned out sooooo good! We cut into it within minutes of it coming out of the oven. It’s fluffy, moist, and had lots of great lemon flavor. I only needed 50 minutes for baking, and I found the light glaze to be plenty! Not super sweet but definitely sweet enough.

  12. Rachel Sturma says:

    Looks delicious and cannot wait to try this! Can buttermilk be used in place of whole milk? In general, I’m confused as to when buttermilk can be subbed in – can you explain the rules around this? Does buttermilk react differently to baking powder/soda than regular milk? Thank you for making me a better baker!

    1. Hi Rachel, it depends on the recipe. Buttermilk is an acidic ingredient and if baking soda is the leavening agent in that recipe, you shouldn’t replace it with whole milk. (Unless you made a soured milk substitute, which is vinegar or lemon juice mixed with whole milk– the amounts depend on the recipe.) Here, however, 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. I hope this helps!

  13. Please be aware eating Poppy seeds will produce a false positive for Opiates in a workplace or roadside drug test. This can cause suspension or dismissal in some professions.

    1. Elaine Benes, is that you?

  14. Can’t wait to try this, especially since I just managed to get my hands on some poppy seeds. It’s my first time using poppy seeds so I just want to know, is there any preparation that I need to do (bake, wash, etc.) before using them? Thanks.

    1. Hi Jillian, if you purchased the poppy seeds at a grocery store, they should be ready to use. I would double check your packaging though. Let me know how you like this bread!

  15. I made this and it’s delicious! Substituted apple sauce for egg due to an allergy. It came out great.

  16. I live in Mexico and can’t ever find fresh lemons but they do sell those little bottles of lemon juice. Could I use this and if so what should I do about the lemon zest? Is there a sub for that?

    1. Hi Rebekah, you can use bottled lemon juice. Skip the zest. Feel free to add a little more lemon juice since you won’t have the zest in the batter, but make sure you take out some milk. For example if you added another 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, remove 1 Tablespoon of milk.

  17. I made this with Grapefruit because that was all I had on hand. It is very good! I love the texture of this bread, and the grapefruit is very subtle. Not too sweet. Perfect afternoon treat on a cold January day! Thank you Sally! As usual, you have provided another great recipe.

  18. This was probably the best lemon loaf I’ve ever been able to make! It was moist and had a good texture. The glaze is essential… double it for sure. Maybe this is taboo, but I actually think I’ll add some lemon flavoring next time. Just a personal preference. Start checking it early, mine was slightly over baked at 50 minutes.

  19. This was probably the best lemon loaf I’ve ever been able to make! It was moist and had a good texture. The glaze is essential… double it for sure. Maybe this is taboo, but I actually think I’ll add some lemon flavoring next time. Just a personal preference. Start checking it early, mine was slightly over baked at 50 minutes (apparently my oven runs hot)

  20. Hi Sally!
    As USUAL this was delicious! Two smaller loaves and substituted buttermilk and I must say, the second day it was better than the first! So delicious and Springtimey had Meyer lemons which made it extra delicious! Keep up the fabulous recipes!!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re thrilled you enjoyed this new recipe, Marie — thank you for all the positive feedback!

  21. Hi i will be making your lemon poppy seed bread soon and wondered when do you put the candied lemon slices on the bread? Before or after baking the bread? TIA

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dave, you can place the candied lemon slices on after the loaf is baked. We hope you enjoy this recipe!

  22. This was really good and quite easy but I’d prefer a more intense lemon flavor so I’ll add more zest next time and lemon juice on top after baking. Yum thank you for the recipe!

  23. Just made this, and it turned out amazing!! I used oat milk instead of whole milk and kept everything else the same. So fluffy, not overly sweet, and the lemon flavor is perfect. Thank you so much for sharing!

  24. This bread was so good! My mom is a BIG fan of lemon poppy seed anything and even my younger sister liked it (which is pretty rare since she is super picky). The glaze enhanced the lemon flavor even more and it was delicious. Thank you so much!

  25. Hi I’m wondering if the batter can be prepared at night, left in the refrigerator, and then baked in the morning? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We don’t recommend it, Mickel. The leaveners (baking soda and baking powder) are activated once the batter is mixed together so it’s best to bake it right away.

  26. I made this today, I have been craving something lemony. I used chia seeds and it turned out great! Many thanks.

  27. Can fresh blueberries or raspberries be added?

    1. I can’t see why not!

  28. Hi Sally! I just made this loaf and while it smells incredible, the loaf did not rise too much. Is that expected with this bread? It did rise, but not over the top of the loaf pan. I just want to make sure I didn’t have a baking issue here! The center is definitely baked. Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Veronica, this bread should rise in the oven. Make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. We find they lose strength after just 3-4 months. Also be very careful to just mix the batter until combined – over-mixing will yield a dense bread. Hope these tips help!

      1. Thanks for the reply! It did rise, but I just wasn’t sure how tall it should be. Regardless, the bread is really so delicious and this recipe was fantastic! It has such great flavor and doubling the glaze really made it. Thank you for another amazing recipe! This will be a new staple in our house.

  29. Excellent, easy and just right . My boyfriend’s son ate almost all of it in 1 day .

  30. Haven’t made this recipe yet but your other recipes are always fantastic.
    In this recipe, can I substitute olive oil for vegetable oil ? I’ve heard oil olive and lemon goes well together.

    1. Hi Karen, thank you! Olive oil would be great as a substitution for the vegetable oil.

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