These easy lemon poppyseed scones are perfect for a spring or summer brunch! They're packed with bright lemon flavor and are ready in half an hour.
We're making the best lemon scones from scratch today - perfect for Mother's Day, Easter, or a casual brunch!
Start with a basic scones recipe, throw in plenty of lemon juice and lemon zest, and add a scoop of poppyseeds for color and texture.
Bake them up, drizzle with a quick lemon glaze, and you're in business!
Ingredients you'll need
- Cold unsalted butter - It's important to start with very cold butter for this scone recipe. Cold butter melts when it hits the oven and leaves small pockets in its wake, which gives us a light, crumbly, airy scone.
- All purpose flour - For best results, measure your flour by weight with a kitchen scale.
- Baking Powder - To help the scones rise.
- Salt - A tiny bit of salt in our scone dough helps the flavors pop.
- Sugar - To complement the lemon with a hint of sweetness.
- Poppy Seeds - For color and texture.
- Lemons - We'll use the zest and juice of a few lemons here. Fresh lemon juice gives a bright, delicious acidity.
- Lemon extract - A few teaspoons of concentrated lemon extract is what gives these scones their distinct lemon flavor. In our recipe testing, we found that lemon juice and lemon zest alone just wasn't enough to get the strong flavor we wanted, so don't skip the lemon extract if you can help it!
- Milk - To bring our scone dough together.
A quick primer on scones vs biscuits
Scones and biscuits are very similar. So what's the difference? At Life As A Strawberry, we default to this view:
Biscuits flake. Scones crumble.
A great biscuit will have layers you can peel apart one by one; a scone is perfect for breaking into small pieces and dunking in your tea or coffee. A scone is a little bit drier than a biscuit, and a little more dense.
We'll shred our butter here (instead of cubing it like we do in our biscuit recipes) to help these scones achieve that perfect, crumbly texture. These smaller butter pieces give a more uniform, less flaky final dough. We'll also use a touch less milk here compared to our biscuit recipes for a slightly tighter, more dense crumb.
How to make lemon poppyseed scones
First up: Shred your cold butter.
Start with a stick of very cold butter, then carefully shred it using the large holes of a box grater.
Place the shredded butter into the fridge or freezer while you prep the rest of your ingredients to keep it extra cold. You can also use a food processor fitted with a shredding attachment to shred the butter if you don't want to do it by hand!
Next, mix the dry ingredients together.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, poppy seeds, and salt in a large bowl.
Then, add the shredded cold butter to the flour mixture and stir to combine.
Finally, stir in some milk to finish the dough!
Add milk a bit at a time and stir until the dough just starts to come together. It should still be a little bit crumbly!
Note: For best results, make sure to measure your flour by weight with a kitchen scale. If you measure the flour by volume (with cups) you may need to add a little bit more milk to get your dough to the perfect consistency!
Shape and bake your scones
Tip the scone dough onto a lightly floured cutting board and use clean hands to pat it together. Work quickly here - you want those butter shreds to stay nice and cold!
Fold the dough over on itself a few times to build those nice, crumbly layers, and then pat it into a circle.
Use a sharp knife or a bench scraper to cut the dough into eight equal pieces.
I like to cut the dough in half from side to side and again from top to bottom, then cut each of those triangles in half to form evenly sized scones.
When your scones are cut, transfer them to a prepared baking sheet.
Leave the scones together in a circle to keep them soft along the inside edges, or separate them out across the baking sheet if you like them crispier! (See below for notes on adjusting the size and shape of your scones)
Riffs and Substitutions
These lemon poppy seed scones are fairly forgiving: mix up the flavors to make them your own! A few of our favorite swaps:
- Swap the poppy seeds for chopped walnuts, pecans, or pistachios. Not a fan of the extra texture? Omit the poppyseeds entirely for a plain lemon scone recipe.
- Add your favorite mix-ins for extra flavor. These easy scones make a perfect blank canvas. Add a bit of grated fresh ginger to the dough or toss in a handful of fresh berries. If you're making these scones for Christmas or other winter holidays, they're also excellent with some dried cranberries sprinkled in.
- Use buttermilk instead of milk for extra depth of flavor.
How to bake scones in different shapes
This dough is a great base recipe that works in a variety of shapes.
Shape the dough into a large square and cut into thirds from top-to-bottom and side-to-side to form 9 square scones.
For mini scones, form the dough into 2-3 smaller rounds and cut into small wedges (you'll need to reduce the cooking time, so keep an eye on it).
Add an extra splash of milk to make the dough a little bit looser for drop scones (just drop a spoonful of batter directly onto your baking sheet - no rolling or cutting necessary!)
A few scone FAQs
We tested these scones with a TON of different lemon options - and this combo gives you the best flavor! Lemon juice alone doesn't do it here - the lemon extract is REALLY important if you want that prominent lemon flavor.
Yes! Use cold coconut oil instead of butter (cut it into the dough with a pastry blender instead of shredding it, it'll be easier) and use coconut milk or almond milk instead of dairy milk - very similar to our easy vegan biscuits.
Store scones in an airtight container on the counter for 1-2 days, or freeze them for up to 3 months.
Yes! These scones hold their flavor for up to 3 months in an airtight container in the freezer (past that, the texture is still good, but they aren't as lemon-y anymore). Defrost scones on the counter for a few hours or pop them in a 300°F oven until warmed through.
These easy lemon poppy seed scones are perfect for spring and summer!
For the scones:
- 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
- 2 large lemons
- 320 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 ⅔ cups), plus extra for dusting
- 68 grams sugar (about ⅓ cup)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder (9g)
- 1 Tablespoon poppy seeds (8g)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup lemon juice (from the lemons listed above!)
- 2 teaspoons lemon extract
- ⅔ cup milk
For the glaze:
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 cup powdered sugar
Shred the butter & preheat the oven
- Carefully grate cold butter along the large holes of a box grater. Place shredded butter into a bowl and transfer to the freezer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Heat oven to 425°F.
Prepare the lemons
- Zest each lemon; set the zest aside. Then slice lemons in half and squeeze out the juice, removing any seeds. Measure out the amount lemon juice you'll need for these scones; save the rest for other recipes.
Make the dough
- Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, salt, and lemon zest together in a large mixing bowl.
- Stir cold shredded butter into the dry ingredients, making sure to break up any big clumps of butter.
- Add lemon juice, lemon extract, and milk to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The mixture will still be a bit crumbly - that's ok!
Shape the scones
- Tip scone dough onto a lightly floured cutting board. Use your hands to quickly and gently bring the dough together. Pat the dough into a large circle, about ½ inch thick. Work quickly here to avoid melting the butter with the heat from your hands! You want the butter to stay nice and cold in order to create an airy, crumbly scone.
- Divide the dough circle into 8 evenly sized wedges with a chef's knife or bench scraper. Transfer dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
- Bake at 425° F for 14-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before adding a lemon glaze (recipe below).
Make the lemon glaze
- Place powdered sugar in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in lemon juice a little at a time until you have a smooth glaze and have reached your desired consistency. Drizzle the glaze over cooled scones and enjoy!
A note about butter. We love shredding the butter for scone recipes because it gives the final product great texture. We like to wrap the butter wrapper around the end of the butter when shredding it with a box grater: It gives a better grip, acts as a small buffer between your hands and the blade, and stops the butter from melting as quickly. You can also shred butter using the shredder attachment of a food processor, or you can cut the butter into small cubes and cut it into the dough using a pastry blender (just like in a biscuit recipe!) If you cut the butter in with a pastry blender rather than shredding it, your scones will be a bit flakier (more like a biscuit-y texture).
Adjust the amount of milk if necessary. If you measure your flour by weight (with a kitchen scale) the amount of milk in this recipe should be just about perfect. If you measure your flour by volume (with cups), you may find you need an extra Tablespoon or two of milk to help the dough come together. If it's especially humid outside, or if you cut the butter into the dough (instead of shredding it) you might need a tiny bit less milk than the recipe calls for: start with just ½ cup milk and add a Tablespoon at a time as necessary.
Adjust the shape and size of your scones. Shape your dough into a large square and cut it into thirds from top-to-bottom and side-to-side to form nine square scones if you like. Make mini scones by shaping dough into two or three smaller rounds before cutting, or add a splash of milk to the dough for a looser consistency that's perfect for drop scones. If you adjust the size of your scones, just remember to adjust the baking time as needed!
To keep scones taller or stop them from spreading as much, place them in the fridge for 20 minutes (or the freezer for 10 minutes) before baking.
Why the lemon extract? We tested this recipe with a ton of different lemon flavor combos. When we used just lemon juice, you had to use a LOT in order to get the lemon-forward flavor we wanted (and using that much lemon juice messed with the texture of the final product quite a bit!) This combination of lemon juice, lemon zest, and a splash of lemon extract gives these scones the perfect lemon-forward flavor without compromising on texture. You can use additional lemon juice instead of the lemon extract if you need to: the scones will still taste great, but the lemon flavor will be much more mild.
Additions and Substitutions. Use chopped walnuts, pecans, or pistachios instead of poppyseeds. Add fresh ginger, fresh berries, cherries, or dried cranberries for a boost of flavor. For vegan scones, use cold coconut oil instead of butter and coconut milk or almond milk instead of dairy milk. Use milk or cream instead of lemon juice in the glaze if you want less lemon flavor.
Storing and Freezing. These scones are best eaten the day they're baked! Store leftover scones in an airtight container on the counter for 1-2 days, or in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. We don't recommend adding glaze or icing to scones you plan to freeze, as the texture can warp a bit in the freezer.
Keywords: spring, mother's day, easter brunch