How to Make the Best Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

updated May 11, 2020
How to Make the Best Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

A step-by-step guide to making the very best classic lemon poppy seed muffins.

Makes12 muffins

Prep20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Lemon poppy seed muffins freshly baked in muffin tins.
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

I think we can all agree that biting into a freshly-baked lemon poppy seed muffin is pure and utter joy. The contrast between the crisp sugar topping and the moist, tender muffin is simply unbeatable. Then there’s the fact that each bite is packed with tart lemon flavor and studded with crunchy poppy seeds. These may be the perfect muffins and, while I enjoy baking them all year long, I crave them most at this time of year; their vibrant flavor reminds me that warmer days are just around the corner.

If you, too, are itching for lemon poppy seed muffins — and not just any lemon poppy seed muffins, but the lemon poppy seed muffins — read on for the absolute best way to make them. My tips and tricks (acquired from many years of muffin-baking) will set you up for success.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Finding the Perfect Balance Between Tart and Sweet

The best lemon poppy seed muffins aren’t overly sweet. After all, you don’t want to feel like you’re eating a cupcake for breakfast (and if you do, well, just make a cupcake). To strike just the right balance between tart and sweet, we went light on the sugar and heavy on the lemon, using the zest and juice of two lemons in the batter.

Many lemon poppyseed muffins are topped with a powdered sugar glaze, which, in my opinion, throws that balance way out of whack. Here, we’re sprinkling the tops with a little granulated sugar instead, which makes for a crunchy, crackly top and just the right amount of extra sweetness.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

3 Tips For the Absolute Best Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

A few small upgrades make all the difference between a dry, flavorless muffin and one packed with intense lemon flavor. Here are the three most important things to remember.

1. Flavor the sugar with lemon zest: Rubbing the sugar and zest together causes the zest to release its fragrant oils into the sugar, resulting in a lemony sugar that makes the muffins brighter and more flavorful.

2. Don’t skimp on poppy seeds. The very best lemon poppy seed muffins should be well-scattered with seeds. This recipe calls for a full three tablespoons.

3. Add moisture in the form of yogurt: Adding plain yogurt (regular, not Greek, which is too thick) to the muffin batter keeps the crumb tender and prevents it from drying out, while also lending a pleasant tang.

5 More Muffin Recipes We Love

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot
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Here's how to make the best lemon poppyseed muffins.

How to Make the Best Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

A step-by-step guide to making the very best classic lemon poppy seed muffins.

Prep time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Makes 12 muffins

Nutritional Info


  • Paper muffin liners or cooking spray

  • 1 stick

    (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

  • 2/3 cup

    plus 6 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided

  • 2

    medium lemons

  • 3 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 3 tablespoons

    poppy seeds

  • 1 tablespoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 1/4 cups

    whole- or low-fat plain yogurt (not Greek)

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract


  • 1

    standard (12-well) muffin tin

  • Medium microwave-safe glass bowl

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Large bowl

  • Whisk

  • Wooden spoon or rubber spatula

  • Toothpick or cake tester


  1. Heat the oven to 375ºF and prepare a muffin pan. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F. Line a standard 12-well muffin pan with paper liners or coat the wells with cooking spray.

  2. Melt the butter. Cut 1 stick unsalted butter into 4 pieces and place in a medium glass microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the butter in 4 to 6 (10-second) intervals, stirring between each. When the butter is mostly melted and only a few small pieces remain, stop microwaving and set aside at room temperature; the last few pieces will melt. (Alternatively, melt in a small saucepan on the stovetop over low heat, then pour into a medium bowl.)

  3. Combine the sugar and lemon zest. Place 2/3 cup of the granulated sugar in a large bowl. Finely grate the zest of 2 medium lemons with a Microplane into the bowl (2 tablespoons zest). Rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the mixture is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  4. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Measure 3 cups all-purpose flour using the spoon and sweep method and place in the bowl of lemon-scented sugar. Add 3 tablespoons poppy seeds, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk to combine.

  5. Whisk the wet ingredients together. Crack 2 large eggs into the bowl of melted butter. Juice the zested lemons into the bowl (6 tablespoons juice). Add 1 1/4 cups whole or low-fat plain yogurt (not Greek) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; whisk to combine.

  6. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined and no dry flour remains; some lumps are fine. The batter will be quite thick, somewhere between a wet bread dough and a thick cake batter.

  7. Divide the batter. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin wells, filling each one to dome over the top, about a heaped 1/3 cup of batter per well.

  8. Top the muffins with sugar. Divide the remaining 6 teaspoons granulated sugar on top of the muffins, sprinkle each muffin with 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar.

  9. Bake and cool the muffins. Bake until the muffins are lightly golden and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool at least 10 minutes more before serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The muffins will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. They can also be frozen and then thawed at room temperature.

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