Friday, April 6, 2012

Gravlax (Scandinavian Salt-Cured Salmon) at Home

Gravlax (also known as gravas lax/laks, gravlaks and graflax) is a traditional Scandinavian dish of fresh raw salmon, cured with salt, sugar and fresh dill. Gravlax is sometimes confused with smoked salmon, though it's simply cured and never smoked.

I LOVE gravlax on its own, but it's often sliced thinly and served as an appetizer, or with simple boiled potatoes and a mustard-dill sauce. Like regular lox, gravlax is wonderful with bagels and cream cheese, or mixed into scrambled eggs. 

The old way of making gravlax, WAY back in the Middle Ages, was to salt the fresh salmon and lightly ferment it by burying it in the sand. The name comes from "grav", meaning "grave", and "lax/laks", meaning "salmon", thus, "buried salmon". 

Nowadays, making gravlax is much easier; in lieu of fermentation, the salmon is cured in a dry salt blend, and is incredibly easy to do at home, assuming you have access to VERY fresh fish. It will still taste like fish, though not fishy, and the texture is perfect - like good sashimi, where you can sense the fattiness of the fish on your tongue. Yum!!


2 lbs center-cut skin-on salmon, filleted & deboned*
1/4 cup kosher salt (NOT table salt)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 bunch fresh dill (do NOT use dried dill weed)
2 Tbsp vodka, divided

*In lieu of a single 2 lb piece of salmon, you can instead buy two 1-lb pieces that are similar in length and width. You need to get sushi-grade salmon, which can be pretty expensive. If you can't get sushi-grade (nearly impossible to find here), use good quality salmon, but freeze it for 72 hours first to kill any bacteria that may be present. Thaw before preparing the gravlax.*

Halve the salmon fillet crosswise into 2 equal sized pieces; the cure will be sandwiched between these pieces. 

Place one of the fillets on a large piece of plastic wrap, skin side down. 

Combine the salt, sugar and pepper. Sprinkle one-half of the dry cure mixture over one of the fillets. Repeat with the other fillet and the remaining cure. Using your fingers, massage the cure into the salmon.

Drizzle 1 Tbsp of the vodka over each filet and spread the dill sprigs atop the filet on the plastic wrap.

Carefully lay the other fillet, cure (flesh) side down, atop the dill sprigs; the skin sides of this salmon "sandwich" should be on the outside.

Tightly wrap the fillets in plastic wrap. Repeat with a fresh piece of plastic wrap and place inside a large freezer bag. Place the bag in a baking dish and top with a weight to compress the fish (a six-pack of beer or soda works great for this).

Refrigerate, turning the bag over twice a day; as the salmon cures, liquid will be drawn out of the fish. After about 3-4 days, the salmon flesh should turn opaque & firm, which indicates that the gravlax is ready.

Remove the dill from the salmon and wipe off the excess cure/brine. Blot dry with paper towels, then slice thinly & slowly at a flat angle with a sharp knife, taking care not to include any skin with the flesh. You may need to use a sawing back-and-forth motion; you want the slices to be long and thin. Don't cut through the skin; simply cut the gravlax slice off right where the meat meets the skin.

The gravlax will keep in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped, for about a week, or in the freezer for a month. Slice off only what you plan to eat or serve, covering the remainder with the leftover skin and re-wrapping.


  1. Fantastic post - I am so going to do this! Thanks for linking it in to Food on Friday. Cheers

  2. Ps I stumbled this one for you, too

  3. Fabulous! So that is how to make salmon appetizers! Oh, so yummy looking. I must try. BTW- Love your knife...I have one just like it. smiles.

    1. You have great taste in knives!! Those Wusthof Classics are my FAVORITE - I've tried the J.A. Henckels and liked those as well, but I LOVE the Wusthofs. Plus, though they aren't CHEAP, they aren't as ridiculously pricey as some of the other brands!!

  4. Gravlax is a favourite too. I'm a bit curious on your connection to Sweden? �� I've seen a few Swedish recipes that you have posted on the blog. Thumbs up!

    1. No connection at all to Sweden - just love the culture and food!