Gravlax

In January, after I posted on a soup recipe from the cookbook Back to Square One, by Joyce Goldstein, I was told in a comment that the Gravlax recipe in the same cookbook was the best.

Sandra, an Aussie known to many of us bloggers as “lady red specs,” is the one who left the comment. Her blog, Please Pass the Recipe, is one I’ve followed for years, and I trusted her recommendation.

Sandra claims that the recipe for gravlax has the perfect ratio of salt, sugar, and booze, which is why she continues to use the recipe. Having never made gravlax, I decided this was a perfect recipe to use for my first experience.

The whole salmon thing is a bit complicated, with basic grilling or baking, but also smoking, curing, and brining.

There’s hot-smoked/cooked salmon, which I make in my stove-top smoker, there’s brined and cold-smoked salmon, or lox, that retains a sashimi-like texture, and gravlax or gravdlax, which is the Scandinavian name for brined and cured salmon. All are considered cooked, although via different cooking methods.

The gravlax recipe in the book calls for Scotch, which Ms. Goldstein chose to use with her Scottish salmon. Makes sense, but I’m not fond of any of the brown liquors. Fortunately, Sandra recommended vodka.

She also recommended that I use lemon zest and lemon thyme, instead of the traditional dill weed.


Fortunately I’d just planted lemon thyme.

So here’s what I did.

Home-Made Gravlax
based on a recipe in Back to Square One

1 salmon filet, about 1 1/2 pounds
4-5 tablespoons vodka
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salt
Lemon Zest
Leaves of lemon thyme

Clean and dry the salmon if necessary, and remove any pin bones. Place the filets in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle the vodka over the flesh.

Mix the sugar, salt, zest and thyme leaves together, then rub the mixture into the salmon.


Cover the salmon with plastic wrap and weigh it down.

Refrigerate the salmon for no more than 3 days. To serve, gently wipe the salmon filets with a paper towel, but don’t rinse the mixture off. Thinly slice the salmon across the grain.

You can serve bagels, crackers, crisps, bread, or blini.

One can also serve the traditional lox goodies like cream cheese, chopped hard-boiled egg, chopped purple onions, and capers.

Treat the salmon just as you would lox, although the texture is firmer.

I probably could have sliced the salmon even thinner if I’d been more patient, but as it was it was translucent.

verdict: I am not a gravlax expert, but I can’t imagine another tasting any better than this one. The flavor is surprisingly mild, even with all of the lemon, salt, and sugar. And full disclosure, my salmon cured for four full days because I had to leave town. The texture was firm, but the flavor exquisite. I know I’ll be using this recipe again!

By Published On: April 24th, 201760 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

60 Comments

  1. hveagar April 24, 2017 at 7:05 AM - Reply

    Inspired me

  2. ladyredspecs April 24, 2017 at 7:44 AM - Reply

    Thanks for the shout out Mimi. So glad your gravlax was a success. It always makes a big impression on guests and it’s something I make for every special occasion

    • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 7:45 AM - Reply

      Well thank you!!! It was fantastic. And I love lemon thyme – I’ve never grown it before, so it was meant to be!

  3. Travel Gourmet April 24, 2017 at 8:17 AM - Reply

    One of my favourite things to eat but I’ve never made it. You’ve convinced me I should! :)

    • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 9:56 AM - Reply

      It was so easy, just like everyone says. And so worth the few minutes of effort!

  4. Kiki April 24, 2017 at 9:18 AM - Reply

    Hi Mimi, I don’t like seafood but I still really like your pics in this post!

    • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 9:55 AM - Reply

      Thank you! No seafood whatsoever?!!

      • Kiki April 24, 2017 at 12:52 PM

        None. Tried but… I can’t…

  5. Mary Frances April 24, 2017 at 9:21 AM - Reply

    I Completely agree, the photography is beautiful! The dish sounds just as amazing as it looks YUM!

  6. A Cookbook Collection April 24, 2017 at 9:55 AM - Reply

    Stunning Mimi! How long does it keep for do you know, or did you get a chance to find out? ;-)

    • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 9:59 AM - Reply

      I ate a lot of it myself, and gave the rest to my friend who eats and loves salmon, unlike my husband. I doubt it lasts long, but I’m not positive about that. Maybe I think that because my salmon comes to me on a truck! If it starts out fresher maybe there’s more of a chance that the gravlax would last.

      • A Cookbook Collection April 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM

        You have very lucky friends!

      • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 10:04 AM

        He gets all of my liver leftovers, too!!! She has tastes like my husband!

  7. Kim Bultman April 24, 2017 at 11:28 AM - Reply

    Mimi, I made homemade gravlax a couple years ago (you can look it up on my blog) and had to rinse it off due to its being extremely salty. What kind of salt did you use? Kosher? Sea salt? Do tell! I’m excited to try your version. I respect your culinary hints and Sandra’s (aka lady red specs), too. LOVE gravlax! Thank you.

    • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 11:43 AM - Reply

      Kosher salt. Maybe just because it was a much smaller amount of salt? Some recipes use cups of salt and sugar. But I’m no expert.

    • ladyredspecs April 24, 2017 at 6:52 PM - Reply

      The reason I tried this in the first place Kim was the minimal amount of salt, it truly delicious. As I originally commented to Mimi, the balance of sugar salt and booze is the best I’ve ever tried or tasted

      • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 7:57 PM

        Yes, I’ve seen those recipes – cups of sugar and salt!!!

  8. Tasty Eats Ronit Penso April 24, 2017 at 11:51 AM - Reply

    I love a good gravlax any time and this one looks so good. I usually use dill, but love the idea of lemon thyme. :)

    • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 11:54 AM - Reply

      It was so funny that I’d just planted some lemon thyme. And I’m not a huge dill lover, so it worked out perfectly!

  9. anotherfoodieblogger April 24, 2017 at 11:53 AM - Reply

    This looks absolutely mouth-watering Mimi! I almost bought a lemon-thyme plant the other day, perhaps I should go back and get one…

    • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 11:55 AM - Reply

      If for no other reason than to make this recipe!!!

  10. Loretta April 24, 2017 at 3:42 PM - Reply

    Oh I would not share this if placed in front of me :) Love the herbs added

  11. Lisa @ cheergerm April 24, 2017 at 5:08 PM - Reply

    Great photos Mimi and a great shout out to Sandra. 🤗

  12. apuginthekitchen April 24, 2017 at 7:04 PM - Reply

    Never made gravlax before, it sounds super easy. Love it, and I really need to make this.

    • chef mimi April 24, 2017 at 7:56 PM - Reply

      It’s definitely easy, and fun to make. But you can probably get such great lox where you live… I’d probably eat it everyday !

      • apuginthekitchen April 24, 2017 at 9:39 PM

        Yes it is abundant here but still would love to try and make ❤️

  13. Gerlinde April 25, 2017 at 3:20 AM - Reply

    I am definitely making this Mimi and I think I have lemon thyme in my garden. I have to check on that when I get home.

  14. Anonymous April 25, 2017 at 10:43 AM - Reply

    This gra mix sounds mouth watering delicious! What type of blade would you recommend for the thinnest slicing?
    I’m thrilled to be receiving your posts!
    Cheers, Suzanne Wille

    • chef mimi April 25, 2017 at 10:49 AM - Reply

      Thank you, that’s so sweet! A very thin knife that’s flexible, like a paring knife would work the best.

  15. Linda Duffin April 25, 2017 at 11:55 AM - Reply

    Gorgeous, lovely pix and a lovely recipe.

  16. Conor Bofin April 25, 2017 at 1:08 PM - Reply

    Very nice Mimi. I assume that is an Alaskan (Sock Eye) salmon rather than an Atlantic one? The colour is wonderful.

    • chef mimi April 25, 2017 at 7:13 PM - Reply

      Well hell if I know. I’m just lucky to occasionally be able to purchase a salmon filet at my local grocery store. Have you seen Oklahoma on a US map?!! We’re very landlocked. I don’t care which ocean they come from, I’m just happy to occasionally get some! Sorry, which i could have answered your serious question.

      • gypsygurl64 May 5, 2017 at 6:29 AM

        I feel the same way when I can just find good seafood in general since I live in Phoenix, AZ. :)

      • chef mimi May 5, 2017 at 6:39 AM

        Right! It sounds very unprofessional of me, but I’m just happy to find it. I don’t even care about the price!

  17. dishinwithdidi April 26, 2017 at 5:02 AM - Reply

    I honestly have never heard that my friend Mimi! This looks mouth watering and your pics? Out of this world! ♥

    • chef mimi April 26, 2017 at 6:48 AM - Reply

      Oh Thank you! The salmon color was so pretty.

  18. kitchenriffs April 26, 2017 at 11:33 AM - Reply

    I’ve never made gravlax! I can’t tell you why not, but there you have it. Gotta try it, and this recipe looks perfect — thanks!

    • chef mimi April 26, 2017 at 12:44 PM - Reply

      I understand! I never had either. So much salmon enjoyment I missed out on…

  19. sippitysup April 27, 2017 at 1:14 PM - Reply

    I’ve always used vodka as well. Not because I don’t like the “brown”. But because I always save the “brown” for drinking. Whereas vodka is best left with the fishes! GREG

    • chef mimi May 7, 2017 at 8:31 PM - Reply

      God i wish i loved brown booze. But i just don’t! Have you tried gravlax with lemon zest and lemon thyme? My first time only, so I have nothing to compare it to, but it was pretty fabulous!

  20. Cocoa & Lavender April 29, 2017 at 8:56 AM - Reply

    I definitely make mine with vodka, too, but it has been ages. I want to try it with your recipe. What kind of salmon did you use?

    • chef mimi April 29, 2017 at 9:40 AM - Reply

      I wish I could tell you. I just only buy it if it looks good. But I do think it was sockeye.

  21. Jeff the Chef April 30, 2017 at 8:40 PM - Reply

    I had no idea how to make gravlax until I read your post. It looks absolutely delicious!

    • chef mimi April 30, 2017 at 8:42 PM - Reply

      Well thanks for your comment, Jeff! I pretty much thought I was the only cook in the world who’d never made it. I think the process is the most fun. Honestly, just buying a filet of lox at Easter and Christmas is just as wonderful! But I’m glad I had the experience!

  22. David Crichton May 2, 2017 at 12:07 PM - Reply

    The salmon looks an amazing red colour, Mimi. Was it wild salmon or just normal? It looks and sounds beautiful, enough that I will definitely try it. Whether you can call it gravalax without dill is up for discussion. When does cured salmon become gravalax, is it the dill or the method?

    • chef mimi May 3, 2017 at 7:09 AM - Reply

      I could ask Stefan, from Stefan Gourmet, who is Dutch. He would probably know. I’m obviously no expert on Scandinavian cuisine, and this was my first ever gravlax. It was wonderful, but I still love lox, and will continue to order lox for holidays and parties. I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember what kind of salmon this was. Where I live, I just get excited if I see something fishy that looks decent, whether it’s salmon or schrimp!

  23. nicdasmel May 21, 2017 at 3:39 AM - Reply

    My fav is tuna and it looks nice

  24. Tooting Hustle May 25, 2017 at 8:05 AM - Reply

    Very inspiring and I love eating salmon. I will have to try on a fish Friday instead of Fish and Chips! Thanks for sharing :)

    If you have time, please check out my latest post about Brick &Liquor Cocktail bar – https://tootinghustle.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/brick-and-liquor-in-review/ and let me know what you think!

    Happy blogging! x

  25. paizleysun September 22, 2017 at 7:35 AM - Reply

    I love doing things with fish! I’ve been making lox for years. I also like to pickle fish and make ceviche, sashimi. Salmon is a fish I prefer raw or very lightly pan seared. Well done salmon is not something I like. Thanks for posting this so more people will make lox. It’s very easy!

    If you ever find lemon basil, try it! I love it with seafood. I find it my local Asian market and this store stocks tons of seafood! Select a whole fish and they will gladly fillet it, scale it, cut it into steaks, etc. Since I live less than 5 minutes from this store, I eat way more seafood and veggies (they have a great selection of produce at very reasonable prices). I’m in Albuquerque and we’re quite land-locked but between 2 Asian markets and a Latino grocery that are all within 5 minutes of me, I can find the most awesome seafood and vegetables. I can get live blue crabs and crawfish, too!

    • chef mimi September 22, 2017 at 8:17 AM - Reply

      If you love raw salmon, check out my salmon crudo post. That was the best salmon I’ve ever had!!!

      • paizleysun September 22, 2017 at 6:16 PM

        The crudo looks delish!!! I bet those fried capers add a super nice touch! Thanks!

  26. alessiaborghi March 13, 2019 at 4:17 PM - Reply

    wow!!! I love this!

    • chef mimi March 14, 2019 at 5:10 AM - Reply

      Thank you! And so easy.

      • alessiaborghi March 14, 2019 at 5:32 AM

        Yes!! Do you like italian food? do you want to see my recipes and tell me if you like them?

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