Amazing Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls (video)

a large casserole pan filled with lemon poppy seed rolls, on a table

The most delicious, moist and fluffy lemon rolls recipe! My lemon poppy seed rolls with lemon cream cheese icing are always a huge hit! They’re made with a soft yeast dough dotted with lemon zest and poppy seeds, filled with a sugar, lemon, and poppy seed mixture; then topped with a lemony icing. Every single bite is bursting with incredible lemon flavor. These are great year-round but especially for spring and summertime! I love to serve these for Easter and Mother’s Day. And, if you want to make these ahead of time, I have those instructions down below, too!

Watch My Lemon Rolls Video Tutorial

Watch my YouTube video tutorial on how to make lemon poppy seed rolls for step-by-step instructions. Plus, I share lots of extra tips for making these perfect the first time. Want to stay up to date on the latest recipes? Make sure to subscribe to my website emailing list and my YouTube channel and turn on notifications.

Ingredients for Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls

I love a simple, straight forward recipe and these lemon rolls are one of those! Made with staple pantry ingredients you’re sure to already have on hand. For the full list of ingredients and measurements, head down to the recipe card.

  • Lemon Zest: fresh lemon zest will add the most amount of lemon flavor and the best lemon aroma! You can also add a bit of lemon extract into the dough and the icing.
  • Poppy Seeds: use toasted poppy seeds for this recipe. I get mine in bulk at a local Eastern European market. You can also find them in the spice aisle.
  • All-Purpose Flour: this basic flour works great for this recipe.
  • Eggs: have the eggs at room temperature for best results. Cold eggs will bring down the temperature of the dough.
  • White Granulated Sugar: for the filling and for making the dough.
  • Half-and-Half or Cream: my secret ingredient for making the softest rolls! You can use half-and-half, cream or whole milk for pouring over the rolls. More on that later!
  • Cream Cheese: for making the lemon icing. Soften the cheese at room temperature while preparing the rolls.

Supplies & Tools for the Recipe

Need to get some supplies for this recipe? Shop my Amazon Affiliate Links – you’ll support my blog and it doesn’t cost you extra!

  • Wooden Rolling Pin – this basic rolling pin is my favorite. Easy to clean and easy to use!
  • Large Casserole Pan – a versatile pan that’s great for baking and roasting.
  • Digital Thermometer – I love these and have 3 of them in my kitchen. Great for taking meat temps, too.
  • Small, Off-Set Spatula – great for spreading on that icing once the rolls are out of the oven!
  • Poppy Seeds – if you’re not able to find any in-stores, online is always an option.
a close up of poppy seed bread rolls in a casserole pan

Making the Soft Yeast Dough

You’ll want to start my lemon poppy seed rolls recipe with the yeast dough. It takes about 1 to 1 ½ hours to proof. If you’ve never made a yeast dough, don’t worry! Follow these instructions and you’ll have perfect dough!

  1. First, heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove top until it reaches between 120F and 130F. Cold milk will not activate the yeast properly and hot milk will kill it. I recommend using a digital thermometer.
  2. Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Allow it to stand for 5 minutes, then whisk in the sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs (at room temperature), and melted butter (cooled). Whisk for a few minutes, until the eggs are well beaten.
  3. Next, add in the fresh lemon zest and poppy seeds; whisk to combine.
  4. Gradually start adding in the flour, about ½ cup at time. Start with a whisk, then switch to a spatula. Lightly flour your work surface and turn out the dough once it pulls together into a ball. You’ll need about 3 ½ to 3 ¾ cups flour; the rest you’ll use for dusting your work surface.
  5. Knead the dough for 3 to 6 minutes, adding additional flour in small increments, as needed. The dough should be extra soft and just slightly sticky.

The First Proofing

Once the dough is smooth and elastic, return it back to the mixing bowl; there’s no need to clean it. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and set the dough into a warm corner of the kitchen, away from any cold air drafts.

The dough for these lemon rolls will take about 1 to 1 ½ hours to proof and double in size. To proof the dough more quickly, place the mixing bowl over a pot of hot steaming water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water!

While you’re waiting for the dough to proof, you can also prepare the baking dish. I used a large 10×14-inch casserole pan and lined the inside with parchment paper.

a lemon roll on a plate, on a table with lemons and casserole pan

How to Make Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls

While the dough is proofing, you can gather the filling ingredients for these lemon poppy seed rolls. You’ll need softened butter, sugar, poppy seeds and more lemon zest.

  1. Once the dough has proofed and doubled in size, gently punch it down and turn out it onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape the dough roughly into a rectangle; don’t knead the dough again!
  2. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a large rectangle; mine was about 18×20-inches in size.
  3. For the filling, first spread the softened butter over the entire surface of the dough using an off-set spatula. Sprinkle the sugar in an even layer over the butter, then do the same with the poppy seeds. Make sure to get the edges, too. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the top.
  4. Starting with the long end, tightly roll the dough into a log, sealing the edges as you roll.
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half, then score and cut each half into 6 pieces, making 12 rolls total. Transfer the rolls into the prepared baking dish.

Baking the Lemon Rolls (My Secret Tip!)

Now that you have the rolls shaped, it’s time for the second proofing and baking.

  1. Cover the rolls with a clean towel and place them onto the stove top while you’re heating the oven. This will keep the dough nice and warm. Preheat the oven to 350F/177C.
  2. Allow the rolls to proof until they’re doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. Bake the rolls at 350F for 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven and pour warm half-and-half or whole milk over the top of each roll.
  4. Place the lemon rolls back into the oven and continue baking for another 23 to 26 minutes, until the dough is a rich, golden-brown color on the top.
a close up of a bowl of lemon and poppy seed icing, on a table

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

While the lemon poppy seed rolls are baking, it’s the perfect time to make our easy, lemon cream cheese icing! Take the cream cheese out ahead of time so it’s very soft.

  1. Place the softened cream cheese into a large mixing bowl, along with the vanilla, and salt. Add the lemon zest and poppy seeds, then mix everything together for about a minute, until the cheese is smooth.
  2. Pour in the heavy cream and add the confectioner’s sugar. Mix again until a creamy icing forms. Add more cream for a thinner icing.
a close up of a lemon poppy seed roll on a plate, topped with lemon icing

Serving the Lemon Rolls

As soon as the rolls are done baking, take them out of the oven and use a small spatula to spread the lemon cream cheese icing over the top. The warm rolls will soften the icing further, allowing it to seep into the rolls.

I love to enjoy these lemon rolls while they’re still warm! They’re extra soft, fluffy and delicious! You can store them at room temperature overnight, then reheat in the oven. To reheat a single roll, place the roll into the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds.

Make-Ahead Instructions

Want to save time in the morning? You can make these amazing lemon rolls ahead of time and have them ready to go in the morning. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Prepare the recipe as written, then proof the shaped rolls for about 20 to 25 minutes. The rolls will be well on their way to doubling in size but not yet completely proofed.
  2. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place the entire pan into the refrigerator. You can chill the rolls overnight or up to 1 day.
  3. When you’re ready to enjoy the rolls, take them out of the refrigerator while you’re preheating the oven to 350F (about 15 to 20 minutes). Bake the rolls as written in the recipe and enjoy!
a close up of bread rolls in a pan, covered with icing

More Recipes!

Enjoyed this delicious lemon poppy seed recipe? I have many other recipes you’re sure to enjoy. Make sure to check out these recipes, too!

  • Classic Cinnamon Rolls – the BEST cinnamon rolls ever, better than Cinnabon! These are super fluffy and delicious. Just read the reviews on YouTube!
  • Raspberry Cream Cheese Rolls – I use the same yeast dough and fill it with cream cheese, raspberry preserves and freeze-dried raspberries. These are so fruity and delicious!
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins – a super quick and easy muffin recipe! These moist and fluffy muffins are dotted with tons of lemon zest and poppy seeds, plus a simple sugar glaze.
  • Lemon Poppy Seed Cake – the ultimate lemon cake with lemon poppy seed cake layers, cream cheese frosting, and lemon curd filling. Perfect for spring!
  • Maple Lemon Poppy Seed Bread – a twist on everyone favorite lemon bread! This moist, lemony bread is best enjoyed warm with a cup of tea!

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a large casserole pan filled with lemon poppy seed rolls, on a table
5 from 1 vote

The Best Lemon Poppy Seed Rolls Recipe

30 mins prep + 35 mins cook + 2 hrs Proofing Time
12 rolls
The best lemon poppy seed rolls recipe with lemon cream cheese icing! Super fluffy, delicious and lemony! Perfect for breakfast and brunch!

Ingredients 

For Yeast Dough:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
  • 2 large eggs, at room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted & cooled
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • zest from 2 large lemons
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds
  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, or whole milk (warm)

For Filling:

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup poppy seeds
  • zest from 1 large lemon

For Lemon Icing:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • zest from 1 to 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar

Instructions

Making the Yeast Dough:

  • First, heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove top until it reaches between 120F and 130F (49C to 54C). Cold milk will not activate the yeast properly and hot milk will kill it. I recommend using a digital thermometer.
  • Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Allow it to stand for 5 minutes, then whisk in the sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs (at room temperature), and melted butter (cooled).Whisk for a few minutes, until the eggs are well beaten. Next, add in the fresh lemon zest and poppy seeds; whisk to combine.
  • Gradually start adding in the flour, about ½ cup at time. Start with a whisk, then switch to a spatula. Lightly flour your work surface and turn out the dough once it pulls together into a ball. You’ll need about 3 ½ to 3 ¾ cups flour; the rest you’ll use for dusting your work surface.
  • Knead the dough for 3 to 6 minutes, adding additional flour in small increments, as needed. The dough should be extra soft and just slightly sticky.

First Proofing:

  • Once the dough is smooth and elastic, return it back to the mixing bowl; there’s no need to clean it. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and set the dough into a warm corner of the kitchen, away from any cold air drafts.
  • The dough for these lemon rolls will take about 1 to 1 ½ hours to proof and double in size. To proof the dough more quickly, place the mixing bowl over a pot of hot steaming water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water!

Shaping & Filling the Rolls:

  • While you’re waiting for the dough to proof, you can also prepare the baking dish. I used a large, 10×14-inch (25×35-cm) casserole pan and lined the inside with parchment paper.
  • Once the dough has proofed and doubled in size, gently punch it down and turn out it onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape the dough roughly into a rectangle; don’t knead the dough again!
  • Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a large rectangle; mine was about 18×20-inches (46×51-cm) in size.
  • For the filling, first spread the softened butter over the entire surface of the dough using an off-set spatula. Sprinkle the sugar in an even layer over the butter, then do the same with the poppy seeds. Make sure to get the edges, too. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the top.
  • Starting with the long end, tightly roll the dough into a log, sealing the edges as you roll.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the log in half, then score and cut each half into 6 pieces, making 12 rolls total. Transfer the rolls into the prepared baking dish.

Baking Instructions:

  • Cover the rolls with a clean towel and place them onto the stove top while you’re heating the oven. This will keep the dough nice and warm. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Allow the rolls to proof until they’re doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Bake the rolls at 350F/177C for 10 minutes, then remove them from the oven and pour warm half-and-half or whole milk over the top of each roll.
  • Place the lemon rolls back into the oven and continue baking for another 23 to 26 minutes, until the dough is a rich, golden-brown color on the top.

Making the Icing:

  • While the lemon poppy seed rolls are baking, it’s the perfect time to make our easy, lemon cream cheese icing! Take the cream cheese out ahead of time so it’s very soft.
  • Place the softened cream cheese into a large mixing bowl, along with the vanilla, and salt. Add the lemon zest and poppy seeds, then mix everything together for about a minute, until the cheese is smooth.
  • Pour in the heavy cream and add the confectioner’s sugar. Mix again until a creamy icing forms. Add more cream for a thinner icing.

Serving Suggestions:

  • As soon as the rolls are done baking, take them out of the oven and use a small spatula to spread the lemon cream cheese icing over the top. The warm rolls will soften the icing further, allowing it to seep into the rolls.
  • I love to enjoy these lemon rolls while they’re still warm! They’re extra soft, fluffy and delicious! You can store them at room temperature overnight, then reheat in the oven. To reheat a single roll, place the roll into the microwave for 15 to 30 seconds.

Make Ahead Instructions:

  • Want to save time in the morning? You can make these amazing lemon rolls ahead of time and have them ready to go in the morning. Here’s how to do it:
  • Prepare the recipe as written, then proof the shaped rolls for about 20 to 25 minutes. The rolls will be well on their way to doubling in size but not yet completely proofed.
  • Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place the entire pan into the refrigerator. You can chill the rolls overnight or up to 1 day.
  • When you’re ready to enjoy the rolls, take them out of the refrigerator while you’re preheating the oven to 350F (about 15 to 20 minutes). Bake the rolls as written in the recipe and enjoy!

Nutrition

Serving: 1roll | Calories: 631kcal | Carbohydrates: 92g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 85mg | Sodium: 310mg | Potassium: 241mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 701IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 169mg | Iron: 5mg