Homemade Easy Cured Salmon (Gravlax recipe), is one of the most amazing and incredibly simple recipes you can make. A salt-cured Scandinavian dish that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The salmon is cured and pressed, and not smoked. So it’s more delicate and more mild than smoked salmon. You don’t need any special equipment and it's made with ingredients you probably have on hand.
This is a really easy recipe for homemade cured salmon. The best part is it is way cheaper to make than store-bought, and the flavor is incredible!
Once you learn how to make your own cured salmon gravlax, you'll make it all the time! It's that simple! You will impress your guests at any holiday or dinner party.
There are different variations on the actual salt + sugar cure. The key is to have the salmon not be overpowered by the flavors in the cure.
In our recipe, we use only salt, sugar, fresh dill, whole black peppercorns, and lemon zest. The recipe is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free. Ok, I know you're excited...Let's make some homemade salmon gravlax!!!
What is gravlax?
Gravlax is fresh salmon that has been cured with equal amounts of salt and sugar.
You'll see variations in the cure such as the addition of aromatics like juniper and, coriander. The salmon could even be cured with a touch of vodka, gin, or even whiskey. You may also know salmon gravlax as lox.
What equipment is needed to make gravlax?
There isn't really a need for any special equipment for making gravlax. You could even make the gravlax in a large zipped lock bag. If you have a cookie sheet, that. is what I used. I used two trays, one for the fish, and one to put on top of the salmon. On top of the second tray I added a Dutch oven to weigh down the fish. The salmon will cure without adding extra weight on top.
What is the difference between gravlax, lox and nova?
These are different methods for curing fresh salmon. Gravlax is made with a brine of different seasoning. Lox is the salmon belly meat that is salt-cured and not smoked. Nova is cold smoked salmon.
Why cure salmon?
Salmon is made up of 70% water. The best way to preserve salmon is to cure it, and that is by drawing out the water to make it safest for long term preservation.
First, the salt and the sugar draws out all the water from the fish. Which stops the natural chemical process of the flesh breaking down.
Second, the the brine from the salt and sugar cure that gets soaked into the salmon. The salt prevents any bacteria from forming and also seasons the salmon.
What ingredients are in homemade gravlax?
Here is all you need to make this incredible cured fish (full printable recipe below).
- Fresh salmon - Look for a high-quality, sashimi grade salmon fillet to get the most delicious gravlax. You could also get a very good quality frozen salmon. If you buy at a fish market, as the fishmonger to scale + remove the bones.
- Citrus - I used just fresh lemon. You could use a combination of lime, orange and lemon. Or just one citrus (like I did).
- Sugar - Granulated sugar works nicely for this gravlax recipe. You could also use light or dark brown sugar, which adds a light molasses flavor.
- Salt - Natural course ground sea salt (coarse or fine)or kosher salt works best. Iodized salts will leave a chemical aftertaste and the salmon will end up being way too salty when it's cured.
- Whole black peppercorns - Freshly toasted whole peppercorns add a robust flavor to the cure (you could also use them not toasted).
- Fresh dill - I would only use fresh and not dried dill. You can find fresh dill now at any market. It adds such a lovely flavor to the cure.
How do you make homemade gravlax?
First step to gather all the ingredients. Here are all the ingredients for the salt cure.
In a bowl, mix the salt cure all together.
Place a large piece of foil paper over a large baking sheet (I forgot to place the foil down and lifted the fish with the plastic and added a foil sheet under it). Place a large piece of plastic wrap over the foil paper. Pour half of the cure onto the middle of the plastic wrap.
Pat the fish dry with paper towels and place the salmon, skin side down, on top of the salt cure.
Spread the rest of the salt cure on top of the salmon. Use your hands to spread it evenly over every part of the fish. Make sure there aren't any pieces of fish without the cure.
Place another piece of plastic wrap on top of the salmon. Place another large piece of foil paper on top of the plastic wrap and tuck all the edges of foil paper snugly together.
Place another large piece of foil paper on top of the plastic wrap and tuck all the edges of foil paper snugly together.
Put another baking sheet on top of the salmon. Place the baking sheet with the salmon in the refrigerator and you could place a Dutch oven (or something else that is heavy) on top of the second baking sheet.
For a medium cure, leave the salmon covered in the refrigerator for 36-48 hours. For a hard cure, leave it for 72 hours. We did a hard cure. The longer the fish cures, the more firm it will be.
When the salmon is finished curing, unwrap the fish. Use a knife to scrape off the salt cure and then rinse the fish very well.
Pat the salmon dry. If you have extra time, you could place it back in the refrigerator uncovered for 12 hours.
When ready to serve, use a very sharp knife and slice on the diagonal. Serve with fresh dill and lemon wedges.
Can you cure other fish with a salt cure?
Yes, you can cure other fish. Salt cured cod fish is called baccala'.
What could be added to a salt cure for salmon?
I used fresh dill, whole peppercorns, and lemon zest. You could add beetroot, toasted caraway seeds, and crushed toasted coriander seeds.
Other things to add could be chopped lemongrass, grated ginger, lime or chili leaves. Also, vanilla or star anise would be nice.
What is the correct ratio to cure salmon?
To make the best cure, you will be using equal parts salt to the sugar (plus the aromatics, spices, citrus zest).
You should be aiming for a cure mixture that is 20% of the weight of the salmon you cure. If you go over that amount, you could get a very salty salty salmon.
How long does it take to cure salmon?
The minimum curing time is 12 hours. Here are the different and the maximum 48 hours. 24 hours is the golden middle.
Medium cure - this cure results in a firm fish, but not too firm. Less salty than a hard cure, and the salmon stays soft. Time it takes for medium cure is: 36-48 hours.
Hard cure - this cure results in salmon that is very firm to the touch and much easier to slice. This cure will have a saltier flavor than a medium cure. Serve the hard cured salmon sliced on a bagel or sliced on crackers like we did with the creamy mustard sauce. Time it takes do do a hard cure: 72 hours.
Yes, you could cure salmon with frozen salmon. Best to use a good quality frozen salmon or one that you froze yourself. Be sure to completely thaw the fish before curing it.
Here is a guide and it depends on how long you cured the salmond. If you did a light cure of 24 hours, keep the fish for maximum of 36 hours. Medium cured salmon (36 – 48 hour cure) will stay fresh for up to 2 days. Hard cured salmon (3 day cure) will stay fresh for up to 5 days.
No, it's not the same exact thing. Gravlax is not smoked. Smoked salmon is cured first and then it is smoked. Smoked salmon has a chewier textures and gravlax is smoother.
Top tips to make the best salt cured salmon
- Since the fish is not cooked (it’s cured), it’s best to buy sashimi grade salmon.
- Important to check the salmon for any bones and remove them. If you buy the salmon at a fish market, ask the fish monger to do it for you.
- Look for the best quality salmon, as it will have the most flavorful result.
- Remove any scales on top of the fish, as that will prevent the salt cure from penetrating the fish. Leave the skin on so it does not get too salty.
- Sea salt (coarse or fine) or rock salt is best to cure the fish. Table salt will make the cured fish very salty.
- Wrap the salmon tightly with plastic wrap and foil paper. Cover the fish with another baking sheet and place something heavy to weigh it down.
- When it’s cured, the salt gets scraped off and then the fish needs to be rinsed well and patted dry.
- If time is possible, let the cured salmon rest for 1 full day in the refrigerator.
- Use your sharpest knife and cut the fish on a diagonal when ready to serve.
- To serve the gravlax, keep it simple and serve with dill and fresh lemon slices.
How to store gravlax?
As soon as you have cured the salmon, keep it wrapped airtight in the refrigerator. Once the salmon is cured you should always keep it wrapped airtight in the fridge or freezer.
How long does it last?
Store the gravlax wrapped tightly with plastic wrap or the slices airtight container. A hard cured salmon will stay fresh for up to 5 days kept in the refrigerator.
How long will gravlax keep frozen?
Wrap the gravlax tightly in plastic wrap and place it in a zipped lock freezer bag. Seal the bag squeezing out all the air and label the date. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw for an hour before you slice it. The mustard sauce could curdle if frozen, so best to make when ready to serve.
Did you make this? Please RATE THE RECIPE below:)
Some other salmon recipes to enjoy:
Easy Salt Cured Salmon (Gravlax Recipe)
- 2- pound fresh sashimi grade wild caught salmon
- 1 cup of coarse sea salt
- 1 cup of sugar I used light brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon of crushed whole peppercorns
- ¼ cup of fresh dill leaves
- zest of 1 lemon
- Serve with fresh lemon fresh dill, toasted baguette slices, crackers, bagels, cream cheeses, and vegetables
- In a small bowl, mix the salt, sugar, peppercorns, dill, and lemon zest to make the cure.
- Use paper towels to pat dry the salmon. Remove any bones and scales on the fish if you come across them. Leave on the skin.
- Line the baking sheet or a 9x13 casserole with foil paper. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the foil paper.
- Place ½ of the salt cure on the plastic wrap.
- Lay down the salmon, skin side down, on top of the cure.
- Top the salmon with the remaining salt mixture. Make sure the salt cure covers the whole filet in a thin layer. Important to not leave any area of the fish without uncovered. Add on more spices of your choice (optional).
- Leave the fish in the refrigerator to cure for 2 - 3 days. The fish is ready when it is firm all over. When you press down on the fish it will feel more firm like cooked fish and also the color will have changed.
- Unwrap the salmon and remove from the tray ring. Rinse off the salt cure in cold water and pat the salmon dry.
- Place the salmon on a cutting board and with the sharpest knife, slice on a diagonal. Serve with some more fresh dill and lemon slices, or a creamy mustard sauce and crackers. Enjoy!
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information presented below is an approximation and may vary depending on the exact ingredients used.