Homemade Cured Salmon Gravlax (Best Recipe)

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Do you know what salmon gravlax is? It is cured salmon. I know, it sounds scientific, but I promise it is very easy to make at home. The prep has only few steps, it takes few days and the best part is, you will never want to buy gravlax at the store ever again.

pieces of salmon on a bagel with cream cheese and sliced cucumbers, dish with olives, fresh dill; glasses with water

What is cured salmon? Cured salmon refers to salmon that has been preserved using a curing process, which typically involves salt and sugar. The curing process can also include additional spices and flavorings. The key ingredients for gravlax are salmon, salt, sugar, and a generous amount of fresh dill. Spices such as crushed peppercorns and juniper berries are also often used when making cured salmon.

Why you will love this salmon gravlax recipe 

#1. Flavor explosion –  fresh dill, lemon zest, and the delicate balance of salt and sugar creates a complex and irresistible flavor.

#2. Versatility – Gravlax is a sophisticated dish that adds a touch of elegance to any meal. Served as an appetizer, part of a brunch spread, or the star of a fancy hors d’oeuvres platter, it always impresses.

#3. Healthy – salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. Delicious and healthy, what more do we need.

#4. Easy to make – despite its gourmet reputation, cured salmon is surprisingly easy to make at home. With just a few ingredients and some patience, you can create a dish that looks and tastes like it came from a high-end restaurant.

Gravlax Recipe Ingredients, Variations and Substitutions 

ingredients to make Gravlax

Fresh Salmon Fillet, Skin-On – fresh salmon is the main ingredient, providing a rich, buttery texture and flavor. The skin helps hold the fillet together during the curing process. Choose the freshest salmon you can find, preferably wild-caught for the best flavor and quality. Ensure the fresh salmon filet is free of bones. If fresh salmon is unavailable, you can use frozen salmon or other fatty fish like Arctic char or trout, but the flavor will be different.

Kosher salt, coarse grind – is used for its purity and coarse texture, which helps draw moisture from the salmon while imparting flavor. Make sure to use kosher salt, as its larger crystals are more effective for curing than table salt. Sea salt can be used as an alternative. Avoid iodized table salt, which can give the fish an off-taste.

Sugar – balances the saltiness and helps to enhance the overall flavor of the salmon. Granulated white sugar works well. Adjust the amount slightly if you prefer a less sweet cure. Brown sugar or honey can be used for a slightly different flavor profile. If using honey, use slightly less, as it is sweeter than granulated sugar.

Dill – adds a fresh, herbaceous note that is essential to traditional gravlax. Use fresh dill for the best flavor and aroma. Remove any tough stems. If fresh dill is unavailable, dried dill can be used, though the flavor will be less vibrant. Use about 1-2 tablespoons of dried dill. Tarragon or fennel are not traditionally used but may be a great alternative if you like experimenting with flavors.

Peppercorns crushed – add a sharp, pungent flavor that compliments the richness of the salmon. Crushing the peppercorns yourself will yield the best flavor. Use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder for even consistency. If you don’t have whole peppercorns, pre-ground black pepper can be used, though freshly crushed is preferred for maximum flavor.

Juniper berries – add a unique, pine-like flavor that complements the salmon and adds depth to the cure. Crush the juniper berries to release their oils and maximize their flavor. If juniper berries are hard to find, you can omit them or use a small amount of gin, which is made from juniper berries.

Lemon zest – adds a bright, citrusy note that lifts the overall flavor of the gravlax. Use a microplane or fine grater to zest the lemon, avoiding the bitter white pith. Orange or lime zest can be used for a different citrus twist. Ensure it’s fresh for the best flavor.

Equipment you will need

Here’s what you need to make salmon gravlax at home:

  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Plastic wrap
  • Measuring cups and spoon
  • Mixing bowl
  • Plastic wrap
  • Dish to store the salmon during the curing process
  • Mortar and Pestle or Spice Grinder
  • Zester or Microplane
  • Paper Towels

Top Tips for Making Gravlax

Choose High-Quality Salmon – start with the freshest, highest-quality salmon you can find. Wild-caught salmon is often preferred for its flavor and texture. Ensure the fillet is free of bones.

Use Fresh Dill  – it is crucial for authentic gravlax flavor. Avoid using dried dill if possible, as it lacks the vibrancy and aroma of fresh dill.

Evenly Distribute the Cure – make sure the salt, sugar, and spice mixture is evenly distributed over the entire surface of the salmon. This ensures consistent curing and flavor throughout the fillet.

Wrap Tightly – wrap the salmon tightly in plastic wrap to keep the curing mixture in contact with the fish and prevent air exposure. This helps in achieving the best texture and flavor.

Turn the Salmon – flip the salmon halfway through the curing process. This ensures even distribution of flavors and cures the salmon uniformly.

Be Patient – allow the salmon to cure for at least 24 hours, preferably 48 hours for a deeper flavor. Resist the temptation to shorten the curing time.

Rinse and Dry – after curing, gently rinse off the salt mixture under cold water. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels to prepare it for slicing.

Slice Thinly – use a sharp knife to slice the gravlax as thinly as possible, at a slight angle. Thin slices enhance the delicate texture and flavor of the gravlax.

How to make this salmon gravlax recipe (step by step instructions)

  • Make the cure, by mixing salt, sugar, dill, lemon zest and crushed peppercorns in a bowl. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a splash of gin or aquavit.

  • Place a piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface. Apply one layer of the cure on top of the plastic wrap.
  • Place the salmon fillet skin-side down on top of the cure. Evenly coat the top of the fish with the curing mixture. You can additionally top it with more chopped fresh dill.

  • Tightly wrap the salmon in the plastic wrap, ensuring all the curing mixture stays in contact with the fish. Place the wrapped salmon in a glass dish or baking tray.

  • Place a weight (like a heavy baking dish or cans) on top of the salmon to press it down. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours, turning the fish over halfway through the curing time to ensure even flavor distribution.
  • After curing is done, unwrap the salmon and gently rinse off the remaining salt mixture under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.

  • Using a sharp knife, slice the gravlax thinly at an angle and serve cold.

How to best enjoy salmon gravlax

Classic Gravlax on Rye Bread – the traditional way to serve gravlax is on slices of dense rye bread. You can even add some whipped cream cheese!

Gravlax Bagel – perfect for brunch, toasted bagel, cream cheese, and top with gravlax, 

Gravlax Salad  – arrange gravlax slices over a bed of mixed greens. Drizzle with a lemon-dill vinaigrette.

Gravlax Platter  – slices of gravlax on a serving board along with a selection of veggies, lemon wedges, and fresh herbs. Serve with rye bread, and/or crackers, and whipped cream cheese.

Gravlax Canapés – bite-sized and elegant. Top small pieces of rye bread, or cucumber slices with a dollop of crème fraîche or mustard sauce, a slice of gravlax, and a sprig of dill or a caper.

Sushi Rolls with Gravlax  – use gravlax to create a Scandinavian twist on sushi.

Gravlax Pasta – toss gravlax slices with hot pasta, olive oil, lemon juice, capers, and dill.

Gravlax Eggs Benedict – top a toasted English muffin half with gravlax, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. Add fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon.

Gravlax with Scrambled Eggs  – simple yet luxurious breakfast option.

Gravlax Pizza – top a pre-baked pizza crust with crème fraîche, thinly sliced red onions, capers, and gravlax. Bake and finish with fresh dill and lemon juice.

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How to store salmon gravlax

In the Refrigerator

  • Once the gravlax is fully cured, rinse off the salt mixture, pat the salmon dry with paper towels, and slice it thinly.
  • Wrap the sliced gravlax tightly in plastic wrap to prevent air exposure, which can lead to drying out and spoilage.
  • Place the wrapped gravlax in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag. Ensure there is minimal air inside the bag to maintain freshness.
  • Store the container in the coldest part of your refrigerator, typically the back of the bottom shelf, where the temperature is most consistent.
  • Gravlax will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. For optimal freshness, consume it within the first few days.

In the Freezer

  • Slice the gravlax as desired before freezing, as thawing and slicing may affect the texture.
  • Wrap the sliced gravlax tightly in plastic wrap, then place it in a resealable freezer bag or an airtight container. For extra protection, you can wrap the plastic-wrapped salmon in aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn.
  • Label the container or bag with the date to keep track of storage time.
  • Ensure your freezer is set to 0°F (-18°C) or lower to maintain the quality of the gravlax.
  • Gravlax can be frozen for up to three months. For the best texture and flavor, try to consume it within one to two months.
  • Note: do not freeze gravlax if it was made with previously frozen salmon.

Thawing Frozen Gravlax

  1. In the Refrigerator: The safest way to thaw frozen gravlax is in the refrigerator. Place the frozen gravlax in the fridge and allow it to thaw slowly overnight or for about 24 hours.
  2. Avoid Room Temperature Thawing: Do not thaw gravlax at room temperature, as this can lead to bacterial growth and potential food safety issues.

Serving After Thawing

  • After thawing, check the gravlax for any changes in color, smell, or texture. Properly stored and thawed gravlax should retain its fresh, vibrant appearance and pleasant aroma.
  • If the gravlax appears slightly wet after thawing, gently pat it dry with paper towels before serving.
  • Once thawed, consume the gravlax within a few days for the best taste and quality. Do not refreeze previously frozen gravlax.
slices of cured salmon on serving plate, with olives and yogurt sauce, lemon wedges, glass with water
pieces of salmon on a bagel with cream cheese and sliced cucumbers, dish with olives, fresh dill; glasses with water

Homemade cured salmon – Gravlax

Do you know what Gravlax is? It is cured salmon. I know, it sounds scientific, but I promise it is very easy to make at home.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Curing time 1 day
Total Time 1 day 45 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 104 kcal

Equipment

  • cutting board and chef's knife
  • plastic wrap
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • mixing bowl
  • dish to store the salmon during the curing process
  • Mortar and Pestle or Spice Grinder
  • Zester or Microplane
  • paper towels

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 lb fresh salmon fillet skin on
  • 8 oz kosher salt coarse grind
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp peppercorns crushed
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the cure. In a bowl, mix the salt, sugar, dill, lemon zest and crushed peppercorns. If you’re feeling adventurous, add a splash of gin or aquavit.
  • Place a piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface. Apply even layer of the cure.
  • Place the salmon fillet skin-side down on top of the cure. Evenly coat the top of the fish with the curing mixture. You can additionally top it with more chopped dill.
  • Tightly wrap the salmon in the plastic wrap, ensuring all the curing mixture stays in contact with the fish. Place the wrapped salmon in a dish or baking tray.
  • Place a weight (like a heavy baking dish or cans) on top of the salmon to press it down. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours, turning the fish over halfway through the curing time to ensure even flavor distribution.
  • After curing is done, unwrap the salmon and gently rinse off the curing mixture under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Using a sharp knife, slice the gravlax thinly at an angle and serve cold.

Notes

Use Fresh Dill  – it is crucial for authentic gravlax flavor. Avoid using dried dill if possible, as it lacks the vibrancy and aroma of fresh dill.
Evenly Distribute the Cure – make sure the salt, sugar, and spice mixture is evenly distributed over the entire surface of the salmon. 
Wrap Tightly – wrap the salmon tightly in plastic wrap to keep the curing mixture in contact with the fish and prevent air exposure. 
Turn the Salmon – flip the salmon halfway through the curing process. This ensures even distribution of flavors and cures the salmon uniformly.

Nutrition

Serving: 4ozCalories: 104kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 12gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 11.013mgPotassium: 316mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 46IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 26mgIron: 1mg
Keyword cured salmon, gravlax, salmon
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Salmon Gravlax Recipe Conclusion

I told you, salmon gravlax is easy, right?

Making salmon gravlax at home is very rewarding. This delicate, flavorful gravlax is surprisingly simple to prepare, requiring just a few ingredients and a bit of patience. By following the steps outlined in this post, you can create a dish that’s elegant, versatile and perfect for any occasion.

The freshness of the salmon, dill, and the curing mixture all come together to create a gourmet experience right at your home.

So, roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and start curing! By making salmon gravlax at home you are elevating your culinary skills but mostly treating your taste buds.

Enjoy every flavorful bite and the satisfaction of creating something truly special from scratch.

Salmon Gravlax FAQ

What is gravlax?

Gravlax is a Scandinavian dish of raw salmon that has been cured in a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, typically dill and black pepper. It is traditionally served thinly sliced and often accompanied by mustard sauce, dill, capers, and thinly sliced red onions.

Is gravlax the same as smoked salmon?

No, gravlax and smoked salmon are different. Gravlax is cured with a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, while smoked salmon is preserved by smoking over wood chips. Both have a distinct flavor and texture.

How long does it take to make gravlax?

The curing process for gravlax typically takes 24 to 48 hours, depending on personal preference and the size of the salmon fillet. It’s essential to allow enough time for the salmon to fully cure and develop its flavor.

Can I use frozen salmon to make gravlax?

Yes, you can use frozen salmon to make gravlax. Thaw the salmon completely before curing, and pat it dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture before applying the salt mixture. Click HERE to read more about best ways to store gravlax.

Is gravlax safe to eat raw?

Gravlax is considered safe to eat raw if it has been properly cured. The curing process helps to eliminate harmful bacteria and parasites. However, it’s essential to use fresh, high-quality salmon and follow proper curing and storage procedures to ensure food safety.

Can I make gravlax without dill?

While dill is a traditional ingredient in gravlax and adds a distinctive flavor, you can make gravlax without it. You can experiment with other herbs and spices to create unique flavor profiles, such as tarragon, fennel seeds, or citrus zest.

How should I store leftover gravlax?

Store leftover gravlax in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or stored in an airtight container, for up to one week. If you want to store it for a longer period, you can freeze it for up to three months. Click HERE to read more.

Can I use gravlax in cooked dishes?

Yes, you can use gravlax in cooked dishes, although it’s typically enjoyed raw. Gravlax can add a unique flavor and texture to pasta dishes, omelets, quiches, salads, and more. Just be mindful not to overcook it, as heat can affect its delicate texture and flavor.

Can I reuse the curing mixture for another batch of gravlax?

It’s generally not recommended to reuse the curing mixture for another batch of gravlax, as it may have absorbed moisture and flavors from the first batch of salmon. It’s best to discard the used curing mixture and prepare a fresh batch for subsequent batches of gravlax.

Can I serve gravlax to guests who are pregnant or immunocompromised?

It’s advisable to avoid serving gravlax to individuals who are pregnant or immunocompromised due to the risk of foodborne illness. Raw fish, even when cured, can pose a risk of bacterial contamination. It’s best to consult with guests about their dietary restrictions and preferences before serving gravlax.

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