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Gravlax on crackers on a small white plate with a red handle knife

How to Make Gravlax

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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.

A slice of gravlax on a cracker on a square white plate

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!

Cured salmon on a white platter before slicing

Cured Salmon

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.

Gravlax on cucumber rounds on a white appetizer plate

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:

What Is Gravlax?

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.

Gravlax Vs Lox

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.

How to Make Gravlax

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.

How to Eat Gravlax

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.

How Do You Store Gravlax

Freshly cured gravlax stays fresh, covered in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days.

More of the Best Salmon Recipes:

Gravlax on crackers on a small white plate with a red handle knife


How to cure salmon with salt and sugar!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Yield 20 servings


  • 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


  1. Wrap baking sheet in plastic wrap, then line with parchment. Place fillets baking sheet, skin side down. Remove any bones.
  2. Mix together pepper, sugar and salt. Sprinkle over fillets. Place dill over salmon, then drizzle with Cognac.
  3. 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).
  4. Every 12 hours, flip the salmon pieces and cover with new plastic wrap. Continue for a total of 3-4 days.
  5. 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.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 210Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 1470mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 0gSugar: 5gProtein: 20g


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40 comments on “How to Make Gravlax”

  1. Sure is a beautiful color! Have a great vacation:@)

  2. Making my own cured salmon has been on my bucket list forever, too, Liz. Yours looks gorgeous – I mean, really! That color is phenomenal! I would have been sitting right beside this plate, waving people off in the hopes of having it all to myself.

  3. Say hello to Wisconsin for me Liz! You really out did yourself on this one. Once again, I wish we were neighbors!

  4. This with a bagel and cream cheese is pure joy!!

  5. I’ve never heard of gravlax before but it sounds like it gets a taste similar to smoked salmon. I’ll have to give this one a try once we get a new refrigerator downstairs so I have room to store it for half a week. It looks delicious!

  6. Wow, I love the recipe. It’s so different! Perfect for topping on a bagel!!

  7. Thank you so much for your loyalty and your continued commenting on my blog Liz, we’re going through some issues and its been rather difficult to manage both the blog and keeping up the comments. I really appreciate it.
    I was thinking about smoking a salmon for my upcoming benchmark birthday bash but I may have to cure it instead! The colour is incredible!

  8. I’m making my first lox today! LOVE yours!

  9. One of our favorite dishes. I’ll be trying this version soon! We’ve always used Ryan Nelson’s recipe from when he was at Oceanaire. It was published in the Sunrise cookbook. It’s VERY good but my guess is this recipe allows the salmon to shine more brightly. Hope you’ve had a fabulous time up north 🙂 Hugs!!!

  10. I think I could eat these just as a snack!

  11. This sounds like a winner to me! Beautiful presentation. lol My Husband is a Mr. Picky Pants too.

  12. I still need to try my hand at making this.

  13. Oh yeah! This is right up my alley. I can imagine this tossed in a salad, covering my cream cheese bagel, with some capers and oh my! Just fantastic!

  14. This was a complete weakness of mine growing up – if it was on a buffet I’d hoover it like nobody’s business!

  15. I’ve never made gravlax, and really need to someday. It’s such good stuff! Yours looks terrific, and you’ve inspired me. It’s not going to happen this year, but maybe next! Really nice – thanks.

  16. We buy this and my family adds it to their sandwiches a lot. It looks easy, I need to try it at home someday..

  17. This is incredible, Liz! I’m drooling over those beautiful colors, and that dill. I’m making this the next time I see my Pop. He grew up on this stuff, and I’m sure it will make him so happy! Thank you! 🙂

  18. Did you say Brazilian cocktails!?!?!? I can think of nothing better 😀

  19. I made this many years ago and loved it. I haven’t made it since but this would be a nice dish to make for an upcoming holiday. I haven’t seen this recipe but it sounds delicious and looks perfect. This would be a huge hit with my family – the one I grew up with. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be sure to save this and surprise everyone with it.

  20. Ah, the great gravlax or lox debate! 🙂 We’re of the non-dill eaters but frankly, I’ll take cured salmon any which way!

  21. Thank you for the intro to gravlax, Liz. Salmon sushi and lox have long been a part of this Ninja Baker’s diet. But that is so interesting to learn of the tradition of gravlax….I do very much like your improvement of Cognac to the mix =)

    P.s. Love the recipe for your grasshopper pie. I bet it’s tantalizing and terrific, too!

  22. I need to make me gravlax. This looks so fresh and delicious!

  23. Wow, seriously impressed that you made homemade Gravlax. Looks awesome!!! Have fun on your vacation 🙂

  24. This is something that I’ve always wanted to make! Now that I can get wild salmon at Costco, I think it’s time to give it a try. Thanks for sharing you recipe and method! I could make Bobby very happy with this. 🙂

  25. What a great looking cured salmon!

  26. What a gorgeous delicious colour 😀


  27. Wow, this cured salmon looks fantastic! I love the beautiful color 🙂

  28. Gravlax is one of my husband’s favorite dishes…it looks great.

  29. I have always been intrigued by gravlax – now I will have to try it! Great recipe!

  30. This looks so yummy!!! Mr. P would love this!

  31. This looks amazing, Liz. Love the color of that salmon! Throw that on a bagel with some cream cheese and capers and I would be in heaven!

  32. This is such a pretty recipe to make! I wouldn´t eat it, but I made fish so many times for others, it might as well look wonderful as this one. Enjoy your vacation my friend!

  33. I love to make gravlax. The hardest part is the slicing! The easiest part is the eating!

  34. I love this post, Liz – what a fantastic idea! BC salmon is amazing and buying smoked salmon is so darn expensive. Now that I’ve read your post, I can make it myself! I can’t believe it’s that easy. Your gravlax looks amazing. You would’ve had to beat me with a stick to keep me away from this plate at your party.

  35. Wish you were my neighbour, being invited over for salmon sounds like my idea of a perfect 4th of July.

  36. Yay for Bill. Love the picky pants comment. 🙂 Well done on this salmon… it’s beautiful.

  37. Your fine palte made me jealous my friend!
    great looking cured salmon….

  38. Hello lovely Liz! Apologies that I haven’t been popping in… I have not forgotten you, just life is crazy busy lately… and a couple of your posts wouldn’t allow me to comment. Anyhoo, I hope this finds you well. Love, love, love salmon in all forms… do want to try this gravalax recipe xx

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