Gravlax, or Scandanavian cured salmon, is truly a breeze to make. Simply cured with salt and sugar, patience is the hardest step! The salmon must sit in the refrigerator for 3-4 days until it’s ready to slice. It’s definitely worth the wait.
You’ll definitely impress your guests when you reveal that this beautiful, sliced dry brine salmon was made in your own kitchen. It’s truly a luxury item you can make at home! Check out how to make gravlax for your next breakfast or brunch guests.
How to Make Gravlax
Our 4th of July menu was anything but classic Americana fare: Brazilian cocktails, Scandinavian cured salmon, grasshopper pie, plus something to throw on the grill. Certainly a mish-mash of recipes from across the globe. But I had my reasons for such a menu. We gather with our neighbors each Independence Day for a pitch-in dinner and fireworks.
It’s the perfect time to test out some recipes for the blog, like this gravlax. My friends, unlike my family, will eat anything and they are so proficient at giving me quotable reviews. This is definitely an improvement over the “good stuff” or “you don’t have to make this again” that I get from my crew. Plus they are actually interested in HOW to make gravlax, not just eating it!
The first gravlax recipe goes back to the Middle Ages when fishermen salted salmon and buried it in the sand to ferment. Nowadays, salmon fillets are coated with a salt and sugar mixture then topped with dill sprigs. Mine received a sprinkle of Cognac before hanging out in the fridge for half a week. The fillets were weighted down (I used two cast iron popover pans), then flipped every 12 hours…and the salmon is eventually cured via osmosis.
Tips for Making Gravlax
Minimal ingredients plus an easy recipe make this a must-make dish! The only requirement is patience as it will be 3 days before you can dig in!
- Use high-quality salmon. I go to my fishmonger instead of the grocery store for the best, freshest salmon available. I find some grocery store salmon can be mushy and you do not want those results.
- Don’t overdo the dill. A subtle flavor is nice, but it shouldn’t dominate the seafood flavor. Other herbs and spices used are fennel, anise, coriander, caraway, and citrus.
- PRO-Tip: Adding alcohol, like Cognac, is optional. It adds a complexity to the flavor. Alcohol, like salt, is a flavor enhancer. Also used are vodka, gin, whiskey, and most notable, aquavit.
- Be patient. The salt mixture needs time to penetrate the seafood and draw out the moisture, thus preserving it. It is worth waiting for!
- PRO-Tip: Put reminders on your calendar or phone to flip your salmon every 12 hours. I often place mine in a basement refrigerator and can forget when it’s out of sight.
- Use whatever you’d like to weight down the salmon, bricks, a cast-iron skillet, even books. The pressure helps keep the salt and sugar mixture in close contact with the fish.
- Slice as thin as you can from long end to long end at a slight angle. Use a very sharp knife for the best results. My slices weren’t as thin as I like.
I knew I had a winner when one of my guests commented, “Great smoked salmon,” with Bill chiming in, “I hope there’s more of this.” Yes, Mr. Picky Pants was eating raw, cured salmon…whoa. Maybe he will eat fennel again one day…or mint…or nuts…or pineapple. I can dream, can’t I? I’ve also made terrific canapes with Dorie Greenspan’s gravlax recipe.
Questions About Making Gravlax at Home:
Gravlax is a Swedish raw salmon dish that is cured for a few days in a salt, sugar, and dill mixture. It’s then sliced paper-thin to serve. The name of the dish comes from the Swedish words for to dig (grav) and salmon (lax). Early gravlax was made by burying the fish in the sand and allowing it to cure by fermentation.
Lox is fresh salmon that has been cold smoked or hot smoked. Cold smoking takes days, where hot smoking takes hours. Gravlax is salt-cured fresh salmon.
Top the salmon with the salt and sugar mixture, then the fresh dill. Place it on a rimmed, plastic-lined baking sheet, then top with another layer of plastic wrap, and a second baking sheet (flat side down).
Weight it down by pacing a heavy skillet or cans on the top baking sheet. Refrigerate, turning every 12 hours for 3-4 days. Scrape off the dry brine before slicing and serving.
Served for breakfast, brunch, or part of a smorgasbord, it’s often paired with dark bread and a mustard dill sauce. On a bagel, it’s delicious with a smear of cream cheese, diced red onions, and capers.
Freshly cured gravlax stays fresh, covered in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days.
More of the Best Salmon Recipes:
- Rainbow Salmon Skewers from The View from Great Island
- Easy Glazed Salmon
- Pesto Potato Salmon
- Easy Smoked Salmon Dip
- Paleo Roasted Salmon
- More Seafood and Easy Salmon Recipes
- 4 pounds boned salmon fillets, skin on
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 3 bunches fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons Cognac
- Wrap baking sheet in plastic wrap, then line with parchment. Place fillets baking sheet, skin side down. Remove any bones.
- Mix together pepper, sugar and salt. Sprinkle over fillets. Place dill over salmon, then drizzle with Cognac.
- Cover with plastic wrap, then top with another baking sheet. Place a heavy object on top of the second baking sheet (I used cast iron popover pans).
- Every 12 hours, flip the salmon pieces and cover with new plastic wrap. Continue for a total of 3-4 days.
- To serve, scrape off dill and spices. Pat dry. Slice thin pieces on the diagonal.
Inspired by recipes from Emeril and Julia Child
Total time is 3-4 days for curing.
Feel free to use half the amount of salmon and half the rest of the ingredients. Curing time will remain the same.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 210Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 1470mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 0gSugar: 5gProtein: 20g