Jan 2009

Home-Cured Salmon (Gravlax)


Last July, Girlie of Boots in the Oven posted about the simplicity of home-curing salmon. I mentally bookmarked the recipe for a later date because there was no salmon to speak of in Saigon. This past weekend, the fishmonger cut a fillet too large for a dish that The Astronomer was preparing, so I decided to “smoke” the leftover section. This simple method of preserving salmon is Scandinavian in origin and is called gravlax. Gravlax is similar to lox (cured salmon that has been cold smoked) and is sometimes referred to as Gravad lox.

I began with a skinless and boneless salmon fillet about five inches long, two inches wide and a half inch thick. Boots’ recipe calls for one part salt and one part sugar. Since I was only curing an itty bitty fillet, I went with one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of salt. I poured the sugar and salt directly into a Ziploc bag and tossed in the fillet to coat (top photo).

After sealing up the bag, I stuck it in the refrigerator under the weight of five blocks of cream cheese (Boots used a baking sheet weighted down by miscellaneous foods for her much larger fillet). I jostled the bag every twelve hours or so to redistribute the juices. The bottom photo is what the salmon looked like after thirty-six hours of chilling in the fridge.


The salmon is ready for consumption after a full day in the fridge. The longer the salmon chills in the bag, the saltier it gets. After thirty-six hours, I removed the fillet from the bag, rinsed it under cold water and patted it dry.


Using a sharp knife, I cut the salmon into thin slices. The verdict? Really tasty. The gravlax tasted just like traditional smoked salmon. I seriously can’t believe how easy it is to make!

Gravlax tastes most excellent atop a toasted and schmeared bagel. For more ideas on how to prepare gravlax, check out Boots in the Oven and Cooking for Engineers.

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23 thoughts on “Home-Cured Salmon (Gravlax)

  1. Yay! I’m so glad you made this, and it worked, and you guys loved it! It’s about time for us to make it again, I think… your pictures are bringing on a serious craving.

  2. i am pretty much doubt but I’ll try, this is easier than cup’s’ noddle with egg…. I’ll let you know how my smoky turnout…

  3. Wow, I was just thinking about making Gravlax and then I find you (great blog!) in some roundabout way via Twitter. Maybe this is overthinking it but what kind of salmon did you use? Farmed vs. wild caught? Atlantic vs. Pacific? Made gravlax once years ago using wild caught but all that’s available here in Toronto is farmed. I’d think it would be fine but it’s so much fattier. Thanks!

  4. Carrie – My salmon was of the “nothing special” variety—it was purchased from Ralph’s, which is your average supermarket in California—pretty sure it was Atlantic and farmed.

  5. Hey~~!! and happy new year! …Midori..sushi bar? (I can’t eat sushi =( ) A shocker huh.

  6. next time, try doing adding some aromatics, like dill, white and black peppercorns, other herbs and spices, to your cure. it makes a huge difference.

    or you can even smoke it yourself! it’s quite easy to do at home, and so much better than gravlax.

  7. wow, I’ve never considered doing that myself, just cuz I never thought about scaling down to a filet from an entire fish! That looks fantastic and so easy too.

  8. Hi there,
    Long time lurker/reader. I love your blog. You make me laugh at loud sometimes. Quick questions? Does it matter if the fillet was peviously frozen? Did you add water in the ziploc with the salt and sugar or was that what came out after the curing?
    Keep up the good work,

  9. Anna – Glad to hear that I make you LOL on occasion! About the gravlax, I don’t think it matters if the fillet was previously frozen. Just to make sure, I’d test a small section of fish to start. I didn’t add water to the Ziploc, the weight upon the fish caused it to release some liquid. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  10. Love this one. But how can we be positive that no harm will come from uncooked salmon? (If you think it can’t happen, google .)

  11. John – I eat lots of sashimi so I’m not too worried about uncooked salmon. If you’re relatively healthy, I’d take a chance. This stuff is good 🙂

  12. I have read that in order to eliminate the possibility of roundworm which can be harbored inthe salmon and is not killed by the curing process, the salmon should be frozen at -10 degrees for 7 days.

    Do most people do this?

  13. It can be fun to flavor the salmon with different spices while it cures. My favorite is black pepper and coriander (pastrami seasonings).

  14. You can freeze the finished gravlax–which by the way this is not. There are different gravlax recipes around the net but you also use pepper–usually white–and lots of dill if you want the real thing that the Swedes do. My wife is Swedish and we make it the traditional way all the time. You also can add a liquour like vodka or aquavit to make it as well and it is important to have lots of weight on it and turn it at least once. You then make a mustard/dill sauce to put on it when serving it. You will find lots of recipes for that as well on the net. You can find the famouse New York Aquavit Restaurant’s recipe here for gravlax and other Swedish treats: http://www.aquavit.org/restaurant/default/recipes.asp

  15. Pingback: Peeps From Abroad » The Great Salmon Adventure: Part 3, Gravlax
  16. “Using a sharp knife, I cut the salmon into thin slices. The verdict? Really tasty. The gravlax tasted just like traditional smoked salmon. I seriously can’t believe how easy it is to make!”

    Wow nice. Yeah it seems pretty easy to make but looks yummy with the bread. I’ll try this tomorrow right after I get fish from the grocery. Will probably add some variation and add a few herbs (basil) along with the salt and sugar.

  17. Have made gravlax several times, but never in a ziploc….trying that method as I write. Have varied aromatics, adding dill and cognac,crushed mustard seed, and gin and tarragon…love them all, depending on what you will serve with the gravlax. Always add some cracked pepper, and am going to try caraway so we can have with Aqavit….alll GOOD!

  18. made gravlax using salt,sugar,cracked pepper and fresh dill. Delicious!!! Unsure how long it will keep in fridg ? Any suggestions ?

  19. Maybe adding some cumin or paprika to the salmon would make it more eastern. But anyway, this is terrific since I never thought you could use a ziploc for curing. I hope this can last for a week though.

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