This brightly lemony quick bread, punctuated with gently crunchy poppy seeds, is sweet and tender enough to satisfy a cake craving, but it does so in a much better-for-you way.

It is made with healthful olive oil, mostly of whole-grain flour and has much less refined sugar than similar recipes. The loaf is sweetened in part with honey, which not only lends a rich flavor and some antioxidant power, it also makes for an ultra-moist crumb. Because honey increases browning, the cake bakes at a lower temperature, which makes the top turn out level rather than with a high crown. But what you forgo in height you more than make up for with a gloriously deep golden-brown, caramelized crust.

To let the lemon flavor come through clearly and cleanly, I recommend using both honey and olive oil that are mild and light in taste and color. This recipe is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up to enjoy with a cup of tea or to serve as part of a brunch spread.

Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television’s “Ellie’s Real Good Food.” She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at

Lemon poppy seed bread

10 servings (makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf or two 5 ½-by-3-inch loaves)


From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.


1/3 cup olive oil (one that is light in flavor and color), plus more for greasing the pan

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or regular whole-wheat flour

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder


½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup honey (one that is light in flavor and color)

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (from about 3 large lemons)


½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup buttermilk, well shaken

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons poppy seeds


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Brush or spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with a little oil. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and place it inside.


Whisk together the whole wheat and all-purpose flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the sugar, honey, the 1/3 cup of oil and the eggs in a separate bowl until well incorporated, then stir in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.

Combine the buttermilk and lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and then the buttermilk mixture to the egg mixture, in two batches each, stirring after each addition until just incorporated. Gently stir in the poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly. Bake (middle rack) for 40 to 45 minutes, until browned and a wooden skewer inserted into center comes out clean. (The small loaves may need less baking time, and may dome slightly.) Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then dislodge from the pan (and paper) and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving or storing.

Nutrition | Per serving: 250 calories, 4 g protein, 38 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 23 g sugar

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.