Photo: chas53 (iStock)

Certain bakery flavor combinations are so ubiquitous, you expect to always see one paired with the other: banana and walnut, sea salt and caramel, poppy seed and lemon. But I am here with a radical notion, an outside-the-box opinion that I know you free-thinking readers will at least deign to consider. Hear me out, poppy seed muffins are even tastier without the lemon.

Whoa, hey, pitchforks down, people. Let me explain.

This story begins a couple weeks ago when I wrote this piece about whether eating poppy seeds can actually cause you to fail a drug test. Commenters seemed to care less about drug testing and were definitely more interested in consuming poppy-seed-added baked goods (you are truly my people). I mentioned that my mom has a great recipe for poppy-seed muffins, and promised to share it.

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Here is that recipe! People rave about these muffins, and they’ve been a hit at every bake sale and baby shower I’ve brought them to. What makes them so special is while they contain plenty of poppy seeds, there’s no lemon involved. The smooth evaporated milk in the batter lends a dairylike cream flavor to the final muffin, which contrasts the crunchy-earthy poppy seeds. That subtle interplay is perceptible thanks to a lack of citrus. Come on, in a lemon-poppy-seed muffin, all you can taste is lemon and sugar, right?

My mom tells me she begged this recipe from a classmate of hers decades ago: “Barbara was from San Diego. I haven’t thought of her in years.” Barbara apparently got the recipe from a brunch restaurant in California whose name is now lost to the sands of time. Well, thanks Barbara and the nameless brunch restaurant for this killer recipe, which yields delicately flavored, not-too-sweet muffins with the most perfectly crisp crowns and chewy, creamy insides. If you must, you can optionally grate in some lemon zest. Traitor.


Photo: Kate Bernot

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No-lemon poppy seed muffins

Makes about 16 small muffins

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whip until thoroughly combined. Pour into lined muffin tins and bake for 30 minutes.

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