If you want to start off your next brunch party with a little burst of citrus happiness, look no further. These orange poppy seed muffins with yogurt, vanilla, and a crunchy sugared topping are beyond delicious and easy to make from scratch. Enjoy them with friends over a nice chat and some cozy coffee!

Orange poppy seed muffins on a wood board next to oranges, orange leaves, and white bowls on a white counter.

Getting older is so wild. One day you’re waking up on Sunday afternoons with a splitting headache and the taste of gin still lingering in your mouth. And the next thing you know it (without any warning I might add) your weekends are spent in the actual AM with a cup of coffee and a thick novel.

The common denominator of these situations is that both require a nice pastry. Whether it’s ginger cranberry orange scones, cookie butter banana bread, or a fluffy muffin, you’re going to need something carb-y to elevate your morning. (Or revive your spirit from said gin.)

If you’re looking for your next weekend baking project, look no further than these poppy muffins. They’re bright and citrusy, crunchy and nutty, and come together quickly for no fuss, high reward. Let’s bake!

Recipe details

Back when I was in pastry school, we used to make a ton of muffins for the student cafe. Testing recipe after recipe gave me the chance to figure out the perfect muffin situation (well, to me at least). This version is based on my favorite lemon poppy seed muffins we used to make for the coffeeshop. But, I used orange zest instead just to switch things up a little!

  • This recipe comes together in about 30 minutes.
  • The muffins are moist, fluffy, and have a crunchy sugared topping!
  • They’re lovely served with a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Serve these muffins for brunch, holidays, or a sweet snack.

The ingredient list

White and brown bowls of flour, poppy seeds, eggs, sugar, oil, yogurt, vanilla, orange zest, milk, and salt.
  • Flour – all-purpose flour will give the batter stability.
  • Baking powder – a bit of baking powder will act as the leavening agent which will help the muffins rise and get those gorgeous tops!
  • Salt – to offset the sweetness, you’ll want to add a little bit of salt. I like Morton’s Kosher salt!
  • Poppy seeds – a few tablespoons of poppy seeds add a nutty flavor and a little crunch.
  • Sugar – regular granulated sugar will add sweetness, moisture, and softness to the muffins.
  • Orange zest – the oils in orange zest will give these muffins a ton of citrusy flavor!
  • Eggs – the eggs will add structure to the batter and make the muffins lighter and fluffier.
  • Greek yogurt – the yogurt is my secret trick to muffins that are super moist and have a little tang. Make sure you’re using whole milk yogurt – you need the fat for the best texture.
  • Milk – a splash of whole milk will loosen up the batter and give us a softer crumb.
  • Oil – some muffin recipes call for butter but I like oil because it makes the muffins super moist! Any neutral oil like canola, vegetable, or avocado will work.
  • Vanilla – to add extra flavor, we’ll add a splash of vanilla extract.
  • Turbinado sugar – for that crunchy topping! Sometimes, it’s also called ‘raw sugar’.

Ingredient variations

  • Citrus – feel free to use any citrus you like! Try lemons, meyer lemons (if they’re in season), or even grapefruit for a more complex flavor.
  • Yogurt – you can also use whole milk ricotta cheese for a richer flavor.
  • Gluten-free – replace the flour with a 1-to-1 GF flour alternative like Cup4Cup.

How to make this recipe

Six steps to making quick bread. In photo 1, a white bowl of flour on a white counter. In photo 2, the bowl has black seeds in it. In photo 3, a whisk is whisking the mixture together. In photo 4, a white bowl of sugar. In photo 5, the sugar is topped with citrus zest. In photo 6, hands are rubbing the sugar and zest together.
  1. Start by mixing the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Then, add the poppy seeds and whisk well. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the sugar and orange zest. Using clean hands, “rub” the sugar and zest between your fingers to release the oils in the orange peel.
Six steps to making orange poppy seed muffins. In photo 1, a white bowl has sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla, and yogurt. In photo 2, the mixture is whisked. In photo 3, the bowl has flour in it. In photo 4, the bowl has batter in it. In photo 5, the batter is divided between muffin liners in a pan. In photo 6, the muffins are topped with raw sugar.
  1. Add the eggs, yogurt, milk, oil, and vanilla to the orange sugar. Whisk until smooth.
  2. Then, add the flour mixture in two batches, just until the batter comes together. A few lumps are ok!
  3. Divide the batter between the muffin liners. Sprinkle with raw sugar and bake. Let the muffins cool and enjoy.

Quick tip

Don’t over-mix the batter! You want to mix it just until the flour mixture is fully combined. Mixing the batter too much can over-develop the gluten in the flour which will make the muffins dense instead of moist and fluffy.

The secret to super citrusy baked goods

This is probably my favorite trick I learned in pastry school! For super citrusy muffins (without zesting a million oranges), you’ll want to “rub” the sugar and orange zest together first. This will help the orange zest release its oils which has all of the flavor. Here’s how!

  1. Add the sugar and orange zest to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Then, using clean hands, “rub” the sugar and orange zest between your fingers.
  3. After about 1-2 minutes, the sugar will be oily and smell super fragrant. At this point, you’re ready to bake!

Serving ideas

Muffins are lovely for casual snacking, but of course, I also love serving them for all kinds of get-togethers. These are some of my favorite serving ideas!

A muffin with a bite taken out of it on a wood board next to orange poppy seed muffins, oranges, and white bowls on a white counter.

Storing, make-ahead, & freezing

To store leftover muffins, place them on a countertop and cover them loosely with a clean linen for up to 2 days. The linen is key for keeping the muffin tops crunchy. If you store them in an airtight container, the moisture in the muffins will cause the raw sugar topping to melt.

Pro tip!

Don’t worry about the muffins drying out on the counter! They have plenty of fat from the oil, egg yolks, and yogurt to keep them moist. They will dry out just a bit on the counter but not enough to affect the overall taste and texture. After 2 days, the muffins will start to dry out too much so I would recommend freezing them at that point.

If you want to store muffins for longer than 2 days, or if you want to make them in advance, I recommend freezing the muffins. Just wrap the baked muffins in plastic wrap or parchment paper and then place them in a freezer bag or airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Unwrap the muffins and defrost them at room temp for 1 hour before serving.

Helpful tools

Pro tip!

The secret to great (not just ok) muffins is to properly measure the ingredients with a scale instead of measuring cups. Adding too much flour can make the muffins dry and dense. If you don’t have a scale, then make sure you’re measuring the flour the right way. First, fluff the flour with a whisk or fork. Then, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off without packing it in.

A citrus muffin with a bite taken out of it on a white plate next to sliced navel oranges, leaves, muffins, and a brown bowl of sugar on a beige counter.

Tips & tricks

  • When zesting the oranges, you only want the outside layer. Avoid zesting the pith (the white layer underneath the zest) which will make the muffins bitter.
  • Don’t over-mix the batter! You want to whisk everything together just until there are no more flour streaks. Otherwise, you could end up with dense muffins.
  • For bakery-style muffins, use jumbo muffin liners. You can also use regular cupcake liners for smaller muffins.
  • If you want super tall muffins, make sure to fill the cupcake cavity with batter all the way to the top! That will help us get a gorgeous rise for those classic tall muffin tops.
  • Staggering the liners in a diamond shape allows for more airflow. This will make the muffins super tall!
  • Use a toothpick or skewer to test the muffins. They’re done when an inserted toothpick or skewer has a few moist crumbs on it. Don’t over-bake or the muffins will dry out.

Recipe FAQs

How do you zest oranges?

To zest oranges, I definitely recommend a citrus zester. It makes things so much easier! Just wash the orange, grip it well, and run it along the zester, rotating the orange to zest the entire outside. Avoid zesting the pith (white layer) which is bitter. You want just the zest for all that lovely citrus flavor!

Do you have to soak poppy seeds before baking?

You can but I personally don’t. Soaking the poppy seeds in milk for 30 minutes or so softens them a bit so they have a nutty flavor but no crunch. But, I like the crunch so I don’t soak them!

What makes muffins light and fluffy?

The baking powder will help the muffins rise and make them fluffy. The other trick is to not over-mix the batter which makes muffins dense. Just keep in mind that muffins are supposed to be a bit dense. That’s what makes them a quick bread and not cake!

Can I make these muffins gluten-free?

Sure! Just replace the all-purpose flour with a 1-to-1 gluten-free flour replacement like Cup4Cup.

Orange poppy seed muffins with yogurt on a wood board next to oranges, leaves, and white bowls with a white background.

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Easy Orange Poppy Seed Muffins with Yogurt

Yield: 10 bakery-style muffins
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
If you want to start off your next brunch party with a little burst of citrus happiness, look no further. These orange poppy seed muffins with yogurt, vanilla, and a crunchy sugared topping are beyond delicious and easy to make from scratch! Enjoy them with friends over a nice chat and some cozy coffee. *Please keep in mind that this is a high-altitude baking recipe. Please see recipe notes for sea-level recommendations.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour (270 grams)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoons poppy seeds (24 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh orange zest (14 grams – about 2 oranges)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (134 grams)
  • 2 large eggs, room-temperature
  • 1 c whole milk Greek yogurt (227 grams)
  • 2/3 cup whole milk (160 grams)
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil (112 grams)
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Turbinado sugar (raw sugar), for sprinkling

Equipment

  • Kitchen scale (or measuring cups)
  • Zester
  • Mixing bowls
  • Cupcake pan
  • Muffin liners
  • #16 scoop

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C). Line every other cavity of a cupcake tin with jumbo muffin liners.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds until combined. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the orange zest and sugar. Using your fingers, rub the orange zest into the sugar until the mixture is pale orange, very fragrant, and starting to clump together a bit. This should take about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the eggs, Greek yogurt, whole milk, oil, and vanilla extract to the orange sugar. Whisk until smooth.
  • Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir with a whisk or rubber spatula, just until you have a couple streaks of flour left. Then, add the rest of the flour mixture and stir just until combined. The batter will be thick. A few lumps are ok!
  • Using a #16 scoop, divide the batter evenly between the 10 muffin liners. Make sure to fill to the very top of the cupcake cavity with batter. Sprinkle the top of each muffin generously with the Turbinado sugar.
  • Bake the muffins at 400°F (204°C) for 5-6 minutes until the muffins have a good rise on them. Without opening the oven, reduce the heat to 350°F (177°C). Bake the muffins for 14-15 more minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until an inserted toothpick has just a few moist crumbs on it.
  • Remove the muffins from the oven and allow them to set in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then, transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy fresh with hot coffee or tea!

Notes

This is a high-altitude recipe tested at 4,500 feet. If you live at sea-level, you can try increasing the baking powder to 1 Tablespoon. The muffins also may take 1-2 minutes longer to bake. I have not yet tested this recipe at sea-level yet but in my experience, doubling the leavening agents usually works.
The secret to great muffins is to properly measure the ingredients with a scale instead of measuring cups. If you don’t have a scale, then make sure you’re measuring the flour the right way. First, fluff the flour with a whisk or fork. Then, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off without packing it in.
When zesting the oranges, you only want the outside orange layer. Avoid zesting the pith (the white layer underneath the zest) which will make the muffins bitter.
Don’t over-mix the batter! You want to whisk everything together just until there are no more flour streaks. Otherwise, you could end up with dense muffins.
Staggering the liners in a diamond shape allows for more airflow. This will make the muffins super tall!
If you do not have tall bakery-style muffin liners, you can use regular cupcake liners. You will end up with 16-18 muffins instead of 8. Reduce the cook time by a couple of minutes to prevent over-baking.
If you want super tall muffins, make sure to fill them all the way to the top of the liner! That will help us get a gorgeous rise for those classic tall muffin tops.
Use a toothpick or skewer to test the muffins. They’re done when an inserted toothpick or skewer has a few moist crumbs on it. Don’t over-bake or the muffins will dry out.
Store the muffins on the counter covered with a linen for up to 2 days. Don’t store them in an airtight container, or the moisture in the muffins will cause the sugar on top to melt.
Cuisine: American
Course: Bread & Dough, Breakfast, Brunch
Serving: 1muffin, Calories: 346kcal, Carbohydrates: 45.3g, Protein: 6.4g, Fat: 15.7g, Saturated Fat: 2.9g, Cholesterol: 42mg, Sodium: 202mg, Potassium: 166mg, Fiber: 1.2g, Sugar: 23.1g, Calcium: 116mg, Iron: 2mg
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xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – No You Girls by Franz Ferdinand