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poppy seed bread

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. 

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.

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.
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

  •  Prep Time: 15 minutes
  •  Cook Time: 55 minutes
  •  Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  •  Yield: 1 loaf


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)


  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.
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