Salmon Gravlax (Salt Cured Salmon)

Salmon gravlax is a salt cured salmon that is luxurious, mild in flavor and can be enjoyed in so many ways. Thinly sliced, it has the delicate flavor of fresh dill.

Salmon Gravlax - salt cured salmon with fresh dill, then thinly sliced and on an open faced sandwich.

Delicate, delectable and classy, Salmon Gravlax is very simple to prepare. It’s a great appetizer. Next time you want to have an effortless party, invite your friends for tea and serve sandwiches with salmon gravlax. Spread butter on bread and top with thin slices of salmon. Or mix together cream cheese, lemon juice, dill, etc. and use it as a spread on bagels for brunch.

This is a variation of my Mom’s recipe and she’s been making it for decades. Although Salmon Gravlax is a Nordic recipe, salt cured salmon is also very popular in my Belarusian culture. We love all sorts of cured, smoked and marinated fish. The only thing I added to Mom’s original recipe is the fresh dill and some coriander. You pretty much can’t mess it up with this method and it’s perfectly seasoned. We make it all the time and it always turns out perfectly.

Salmon Gravlax is usually enjoyed simply with bread, in many varieties of sandwiches and appetizers. I also think it’s delicious served with some boiled potatoes and salad for dinner. It’s also MUCH cheaper to make it at home than buying it at the store, where it’s not always available anyway. The quality and flavor is much more superior too.

Ingredients

(Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the Printable Recipe with all the measurements.)

  • fresh salmon
    • I usually use a large boneless salmon fillet and remove the skin. The size of the fish can vary, depending on how much you want to make. The amount of salt mixture is enough for 1 large salmon fillet. You will dredge the salmon in it and discard any excess.
  • kosher salt
    • Instead of kosher salt, I have also use sea salt. The important thing is that the salt coats the salmon on all sides, all the excess salt will be shaken off. Table salt will make the salmon too salty.
  • granulated sugar
    • The sugar helps to balance the salt in the sugar. I use raw sugar.
  • coriander, optional
    • This is completely optional, but I think it adds a nice floral flavor to the salmon. It’s very mild.
    • You can add lots of different spices, such as dry ground mustard, cumin, fennel, dill seeds, etc. Spices will add a bolder flavor to the salmon.
    • You can also add lemon zest.
  • fresh dill
    • Dill pairs so nicely with salmon. It’s perfect in this recipe.
Ingredients for Salmon Gravlax

What is Salmon Gravlax?

Salmon Gravlax originated as a Nordic (Swedish) recipe and means “graved” salmon. In other words, the salmon is “buried” in salt to preserve it. The salt and sugar draw out the moisture from the salmon.

With the added weight on top of the salmon as it cures, the salmon changes its texture from really soft and tender to a much stiffer consistency. It’s much easier to slice than typical raw salmon.

It’s similar to smoked salmon or lox that you can buy at the store, but it’s not smoked and has a more mild flavor. Smoked salmon is cured then smoked, so it has a smoky flavor and the smoking process gives it a slightly different texture too. Salmon Lox (a Jewish recipe) is brined, usually much longer than gravlax and there are no herbs used in this preparation.

Salmon Gravlax thinly sliced - salt cured salmon with dill

How To Make Salmon Gravlax

  1. Prep the salmon.
    • Remove the skin from the salmon fillet. Cut the salmon fillet in half. It’s easier to work with and to store.
    • If you’re using a smaller fillet, you can keep it whole.
  2. Next, make the salt mixture.
    • Combine the salt, sugar, ground black pepper and coriander until evenly mixed.
    • You can do this on the counter, but if you use parchment paper, you can just chuck the whole thing when you’re done. It makes cleaning very easy.
    • Create a bed of salt in the middle of the parchment paper, slightly bigger in size than your salmon.
  3. Dredge the first half of salmon fillet in the salt mixture until the salmon is well coated.
    • Tap off the excess salt.
    • Place the salmon in a deep dish/container, topping with half of the fresh dill.
    • Dredge the remaining half of salmon in the salt mixture, tapping off the excess.
    • Put the salmon on top of the first salmon fillet and cover with the rest of the dill.
  4. Place a weight on top of the salmon.
    • I used a smaller baking dish on top of the salmon, then put some heavy cans inside the top baking dish.
  5. Cover all of it well with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  6. The next day, uncover the salmon, turn it over, then place the weight on it again, covering it and returning to the refrigerator. Repeat once a day.
  7. Leave the salmon in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. If the salmon is thin, it will be ready in 24 hours. Larger salmon fillets will take 36 hours.
  8. When the salmon is cured, discard the dill, rinse the salmon in water and pat it dry.
  9. Thinly slice the salmon and serve.
How to make Salmon Gravlax tutorial

Serving Salmon Gravlax

The best way to slice gravlax is on a bias, using a long, sharp knife. Thinly slice the salmon, trying to keep it all in one piece. Salt curing will make the salmon easier to slice than if you were cutting raw salmon.  

There are SO many ways to enjoy Salmon Gravlax. The simplest is to enjoy it on toast or a slice of bread with butter. You can top it with fresh dill or chives.

It’s great to put on bagels, similar to lox. We love it for breakfast on English muffins or toast with poached eggs. It’s great on a croissant breakfast sandwich too.

You can enjoy the salmon on crackers, or with fresh vegetables, like cucumbers or bell peppers. It’s really good with mustard too.

I also like making a variety of Salmon Sandwiches with a Cream Cheese Spread (with lemon juice, salt, pepper, dill, etc), topping the salmon with dill, cucumbers, thinly sliced red onion, or, even better, pickled red onion and capers. These sandwiches are so pretty and all these ingredients pair really well together.

Salmon Gravlax sandwiches with dill, cucumber, pickled red onion, capers
Print

Salmon Gravlax

Salmon gravlax is a salt cured salmon that is luxurious, mild in flavor and can be enjoyed in so many ways.

  • Author: Olga’s Flavor Factory
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 36 hours
  • Total Time: 36 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 10 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 salmon fillet (13 lbs)
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/21 Tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander, optional
  • 1 large bunch fresh dill

Instructions

  1. Remove the skin from the salmon fillet. I think it’s easier to cut the salmon in half if you’re using a large fillet. 
  2. Combine the salt, sugar, ground black pepper and coriander together until evenly mixed. For easier cleanup, place it on top of some parchment paper. Spread it out evenly until it’s slightly larger than the salmon that you are using. 
  3. Dredge the salmon in the salt mixture until the salmon is well coated. Tap off the excess.
  4. Place the salmon in a deep dish/container. Place a generous amount of fresh dill on top of the salmon.
  5. Dredge the other half of the salmon in the salt mixture. Place it on top of the dill covered salmon, cover it with the rest of the dill. 
  6. You will need to put a weight on top of the salmon. I placed a smaller baking dish on top of the salmon, then placed some heavy cans inside the baking dish. 
  7. Seal the dish tightly, with plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator. 
  8. The next day, turn the salmon over, then place the weight back on, wrap it up again and return it to the refrigerator.
  9. If you use a smaller salmon fillet, the gravlax will be ready in 24 hours. Larger salmon fillets will need 36 hours to cure. Each day, turn the salmon over. 
  10. When the fish is cured, remove the dill, rinse the salmon with water and pat it dry on a paper towel.
  11. Thinly slice the salmon. Store the Salmon Gravlax in the refrigerator, well sealed, for 3-5 days. 

Keywords: salmon gravlax, salt cured salmon

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This recipe was originally published on February 15, 2013. I have added a video, updated the pictures and clarified the instructions to make the recipe even easier to follow. The recipe is still the original recipe that we have enjoyed for many years.

16 Comments

      • moms dish

        oh ok 🙂 I will try this recipe. I tried something similar and it didn’t turn out for me. You cook lots of fish at home. You should live in NW 🙂 We have plenty of salmon 🙂

        • olgak7

          I really like seafood. Plus, it’s really healthy, so I try to serve it at least once or twice a week. We do have lots of fish here in Florida too, but fresh fish is very expensive. Oh, well! It’s worth it.

  • Nelya

    We always freeze the fish at least for 12 hours before salting it, in order to kill any microorganisms that might be living in it.

    • olgak7

      Hi Nelya,
      Unless you buy the fish from a fisherman, most fish that is sold in stores has already been frozen. The large amount of salt that is used to cure the fish will keep bacteria from growing in the fish. Salt is a great preservative and that’s why it’s been used for centuries even when people didn’t have refrigerators. I do have to point out that pregnant people and people who’s immune systems are suppressed (elderly or sick, etc), should refrain from eating this dish.

  • Oksana K

    Tempted to try and do it at home. Its sorta spendy to buy it at Costco, as it’s always gone before u know it… hope it will have a similar taste though, because isn’t the one that is sold at Costo and other grocery stores, SMOKED salmon? hmm… 😕

    • olgak7

      Hi Oksana K,
      This is NOT smoked salmon that is sold in stores. Salmon Gravlax doesn’t have a smoky flavor, since it’s not smoked, it’s cured. I really enjoy both types.

  • Sid's Sea Palm Cooking

    Yum, now you I have to go and make some. I have a wonderful recipe as well. I put mine in a double ziploc bag, and turn it over a couple of times during the curing process. Less fishy smell that way.

  • Ilona

    I really enjoy your blog and stories :)I made this last night, and it’s still curing, but wondering how to take out bones. Do you try pulling them out before slicing?

    • olgak7

      Hi Ilona!
      Thanks for your kind words:).
      I always get all the bones out before curing the fish. Most of them are easy to just pull out, the stubborn ones will come out with a pair of tweezers.

  • alla shchegol

    Hi Olga
    I decided to try this, yet your instructions (unless I missed it) doesn’t state the size/weight of salmon filet I need. Can you please advice?
    Thank you so much
    Alla

    • olgak7

      The size/weight of the salmon is not important in the recipe, Alla. You can use bigger or smaller fillets, the amount of salt and sugar will remain the same. The excess salt and sugar mixture will not adhere to the salmon and you will discard it anyway.

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