Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Bread

Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Bread

This gluten free lemon poppyseed bread is a classic, with the subtle taste of fresh lemon from lemon juice and zest. And it turns out moist and tender every time.

Two slices of gluten free lemon poppyseed bread on a plate, one broken in half to show moist and tender crumb inside.

Lemon yes, lemonade no thank you

Most people love fresh lemons and most things they’re used to flavor, like this gluten free lemon poppyseed bread. But maybe you’re like me and don’t care for lemonade? It’s one of life’s little mysteries. ?

How to make this bread

This quick bread batter is made in a single bowl, and comes together very quickly. Like most baking recipes other than pastry, the ingredients must be at room temperature before using them in baking or they won’t incorporate fully into one another.

Zesting the lemon is easiest when the lemon is cold because the skin is taut. But I think you’ll find that even the lemon itself should be at room temperature when you juice it. If you haven’t let it come to room temperature ahead of time, just pierce it in two places with a knife and microwave the lemon for 20 seconds and juicing will be a breeze.

The batter is thick enough that it’s pretty easy to shape a bit in the loaf pan if you’d like. Just use a wet spatula to pull it away from the short ends of the pan a bit and pile it a bit higher toward the center.

Slices of gluten free lemon poppyseed bread.

Are poppy seeds gluten free and safe?

Pure poppy seeds without any additives are a naturally gluten free food. But as with dried spices, you want to be sure you buy a reputable source that you trust doesn’t include any fillers or anti-clumping agents. For most spices, and for these poppy seeds, I tend to buy McCormick brand and I feel very comfortable with those.

Something to keep in mind about poppy seeds, especially for government employees who are subject to random drug tests, is that eating them could cause you to fail a drug test (source)! Poppy seeds come from the same plant (the opium poppy) that is used to make opiates, and may have trace amounts. Not enough to make you feel the effects of the drug, thankfully, but enough to potentially confuse a drug test.

If you’d prefer not to use poppy seeds in this bread, you can just leave them out. They’re so tiny and solid that they don’t change the chemistry of the bread at all during baking.

Gluten free lemon poppyseed bread shown raw in a loaf pan from overhead.

Can I make this bread a different flavor than lemon?

This quick bread has a bright lemon flavor, but since we only use natural lemon flavors, the lemon doesn’t punch you in the face. If you’d like to intensify that lemon punch, try using pure lemon extract in place of the pure vanilla extract.

Believe it or not, I get a question like this every time I make anything that is chocolate (can I make it vanilla?), vanilla (can I make it chocolate?), or lemon (can I make it another citrus flavor? can I make it without lemon?). The answer is yes, but frankly why would you want to?

This quick bread is made to showcase its lemon flavor, similar to our gluten free lemon bars. Anytime lemon is used in baking, you can change the flavor from lemon to orange just by replacing the zest and juice from lemon to orange.

Freshly-squeezed range juice tends to have a less potent flavor than lemon juice, so I would recommend squeezing more juice and then reducing it by simmering it in a saucepan to make a more concentrated flavor.

You could also make this into a lime-flavored bread in similar fashion to the lemon bread. Or eliminate the citrus flavor entirely and make our recipe for gluten free chocolate chip yogurt bread instead.

Plated gluten free lemon poppyseed bread showing moist and tender crumb inside and crisp-tender crust.

Ingredients and substitutions

Dairy: To replace the butter with a dairy-free alternative, I recommend using Melt or Miyoko’s Kitchen brand vegan butter. If you can’t find one of those vegan butters, you can try using half (3 tablespoons) Earth Balance buttery sticks and half (3 tablespoons) Spectrum nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening. 

For the sour cream, try using your favorite brand of dairy-free sour cream. Make sure you like the taste of it before using it for baking, which will deepen those flavors.

In place of sour cream, if you’re not dairy free, you can also use Greek-style plain yogurt. If you can find a dairy free Greek-style plain yogurt, use that!

Eggs: Each of the two eggs in this recipe should be able to be replaced with a “chia egg” (1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds + 1 tablespoon lukewarm water, mixed and allowed to gel). If you’re willing to cook and strain “flax eggs,” that might work even better.

Corn: In place of cornstarch, try using arrowroot powder or potato starch.


Half of a loaf of gluten free lemon poppyseed bread.

This gluten free lemon poppyseed bread is a classic, with the subtle taste of fresh lemon from lemon juice and zest. And it turns out moist and tender every time.

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 1 loaf bread


1 3/4 cups (245 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (54 g) cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 medium-size lemon (about 3 tablespoons juice)

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar

6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup (230 g) sour cream, at room temperature

2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and line a standard 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan and set it aside.

  • In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well, breaking up any clumps of lemon zest. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the butter, sour cream, eggs, vanilla and lemon juice, and mix to combine. The batter will be thick, so be sure to press down on the wet ingredients with the back of the mixing spoon to moisten the dry ingredients as you go.

  • Transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan, and spread into an even layer with a wet spatula. For a more even loaf, with a wet, very sharp knife, slash the loaf down the center about 1/4-inch deep. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue to bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean and the top is lightly golden brown (another 15 to 20 minutes). Remove the loaf pan from the oven and allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice thickly and serve.

  • Originally published on the blog in 2014. Recipe unchanged; video and some photos new; text mostly new.


Comments are closed.

  • Shelley
    February 17, 2020 at 8:24 PM

    This lemon cake is SO GOOD!! I made it without poppy seeds (didn’t have any) and, as I know my husband feels pretty strongly that (almost) everything is better with icing, I added a glaze (icing sugar, milk, the leftover lemon juice from my lemon). Definitely a win, and the reason I call it cake! Thank you Nicole, for this amazing, no-one-would-ever-know-it’s-gluten-free recipe!!

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 18, 2020 at 10:15 AM

      I’m so glad, Shelley! And your husband sounds like a smart man. And like he has a very smart and capable wife. :)

  • Candace
    February 9, 2020 at 11:14 PM

    Bet you could make your kids a nut butter sandwich with this. I don’t like lemon so I would be one if those nuts that would want to change the flavor. ?

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 10, 2020 at 8:08 AM

      Hahaha don’t give my kids any ideas, Candace!

  • Gabriele
    February 9, 2020 at 9:27 PM

    I made this today and forgot to line the baking form with parchment paper. It came out of the form perfectly fine 1 hour after taking it out of the oven even without the liner. I didn’t have sour cream, so I used half and half with buttermilk powder, which seemed to work just fine, too.
    I would prefer a more intense lemon taste, so next time I’ll add more lemon juice and zest, otherwise the recipe is a keeper!

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 10, 2020 at 8:08 AM

      Half and half with buttermilk powder is an interesting substitute, Gabriele. It wouldn’t give you the consistency of sour cream, but I would recommend to others trying that as a sub for buttermilk if you run out!

  • GF Mum
    February 9, 2020 at 8:57 PM


    We made this loaf this morning and it was delicious. Quick question… I often get a gummy layer at the bottom of quick breads. Any advice on how to avoid it?

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 10, 2020 at 8:06 AM

      That gummy layer is usually due to a too-hot oven, where the outside of the loaf bakes too quickly and before the inside has enough structure to support it, so the loaf collapses a bit and compresses the bottom layers. Most ovens run hot, so I always recommend using a simple, cheap, analog oven thermometer as a temperature gauge.

  • Cathy
    February 9, 2020 at 3:21 PM

    Has anyone try this recipe with a sugar alternative? Monkfruit?

  • Kathleen Park
    February 9, 2020 at 12:02 PM

    Is that waxed paper under the loaf? I’d bet on parchment, but mine is tan, not that brilliant white in the photo. Please advise. I’ve never told you, Nicole, but I use your recipes often and am so grateful! So is my husband, who doesn’t need GF, but has never hesitated over anything. He’s just grateful I bake something.

    Kathleen, in the wilds of Oklahoma

    • Nicole Hunn
      February 9, 2020 at 12:23 PM

      It’s bleached white parchment paper, Kathleen! I’d (almost) never use wax paper in the oven (just in certain recipes that are baked at a low temp and quickly). I usually use unbleached parchment, which is the tan kind you’re describing, since it’s much easier to mold. But sometimes I use the bleached kind, particular for photos. Thank you for the kind words!

    February 7, 2020 at 7:05 PM

    I always want anything lemon to be really lemony so I added more lemon zest. WOW!
    I’m now working on converting a Meyer lemon cake recipe into a gluten free recipe and it calls for
    very thin slices of lemon with the rind on between layers of the batter. Will let you know how it turns

  • Rachel
    June 30, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    Seeing that I’m in Australia I reckon I best be turning my oven on for some warmth snd making this delicious sounding recipe. Thanks!

  • Lucy
    June 29, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    Just got in from Vancouver checking out the farmer’s markets! The two we visited only one had GF baking, I tried out a chocolate donut. Big disappointment :(
    Definitely not Nicole’s recipe!
    My girls think I should start a booth at the market (my personal fan club). We could sell GF fruit with our GF baked goodies… that’s when the fruit trees start producing… another 2-3 years! Lots of time for research… :)
    Your recipe looks so good Nicole… I have some lovely cherries from the market and some beets, looking at baking velvet brownies and cherry pie… gonna save this lovely recipe for the weekday baking. Thanks! HUGS!

    • June 30, 2014 at 7:43 PM

      As always, Lucy, I’m terribly jealous of your fruit trees. :)

  • Maz-zaM
    June 29, 2014 at 7:08 AM

    Defiantly a new fav recipe, simple and tasty! Made from basic ingredients, used low GI sugar, would like to conquer a no or low sugar content loaf.

  • Jen from Revelstoke, BC
    June 27, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    This recipe is awesome! Thank you for it, it will become a staple for me! I used a bundt pan instead and there is no way anyone could tell this is gluten free (even my picky husband)!

  • Emily in NV
    June 27, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    Any ideas to make this as almond poppyseed bread? – I’m going to make the lemon tonight!!!
    I have “bakes bread” and “GFOAS- 125” and made my first batch of flour blend, and then the flaky biscuits – yum yum!

  • Jennifer S.
    June 27, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    I also want to make these into muffins – I love this flavor profile.
    Also, have you heard of GF WOW cookies? Oh my word – they make a great PB cookie and a lemon one – so moist and yummy. Would love a copycat recipe! FYI: I just found some at my local target and I think they also sell them at specialty stores.

    • June 30, 2014 at 7:42 PM

      I’ve never heard of them, Jennifer! I don’t usually do copycat recipes of gluten free products, in part because I haven’t ever tried or even heard of many of them! What else can you tell me about them?

  • Janet
    June 27, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    I made this in muffin tins and after they were cooled I mixed powder suger and lemon juice over them.

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