Pickled Salmon


I adore salmon, in just about every way. Hot smoked, cold smoked, raw, grilled – you name it. And I’ve always wanted to make my own gravlax. But then I came across this recipe for pickled salmon recently, and I knew I had to make it first.

It’s from one of my favorite series of cookbooks that I still refer to – the Foods of the World series by Time Life. This recipe is from American Cooking: The Northwest. Sorry for the blurriness.


Now, this recipe can’t replace gravlax, which is cured salmon. This recipe is pickled salmon, so I’m still promising myself to still make gravlax soon.

I’m typing up the recipe as it is in the recipe book, and I did pretty much follow the recipe. However, instead of a large side of salmon, I used a smaller, frozen filet (thawed first) that was barely over a pound, and crudely adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. I mean, what’s 2 bay leaves divided by 5?

This salmon is super easy to make, and can be enjoyed within one week when it’s stored in the refrigerator, which it must be. I served mine with crackers, quite simply. If you love anything that’s pickled, you’ll love this pickled salmon!

Pickled Salmon
To serve 12 as a first course

2 cups white distilled vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 small onions, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rings
2 medium-sized bay leaves, crumbled
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
5 pounds fresh salmon, boned, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt

Combine the vinegar, water, olive oil, onions, bay leaves, mustard seeds, cloves, and white and black peppercorns in a 2-3 quart enameled saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread the salmon pieces in one layer on a strip of wax paper. Sprinkle the fish evenly with the salt and let it rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
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Then drop the salmon into a colander and run cold water over it to rinse off the excess salt.
Pat the fish dry with paper towels and pack the pieces tightly into a glass jar.

Pour the hot vinegar-and-spice mixture over the salmon, a little at a time, allowing the liquid to seep down slowly to the bottom of the jar before adding more.
Cool to room temperature, tightly cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate the salmon for at least 24 hours before serving. Tightly covered, it can be safely kept in the refrigerator for about a week.

Before serving, I poured off the liquid. I didn’t want the salmon to be watery.

I added a little marscapone to the crackers before topping them with the salmon, and it was really nice. The marscapone toned down the vinegary flavor, but the salmon was good.

note: I kept the salmon in one piece to do the salting part, rinsed it and dried it, and then sliced it up. Way easier. I also decided to include a few of the pickled onion rings along with the salmon.

43 thoughts on “Pickled Salmon

  1. I don’t think I’ve heard of pickled salmon, very interesting! I adore salmon but not when its cooked in a “fatty” way (which is often the case in Spain), so I’m always up for refreshing versions. xx

  2. Wow what a great recipe. I keep promising myself that i’ll make gravlax or do some sort of salmon curing soon but I am just so afraid I’m going to poison myself. I have no idea why. Your photos are gorgeous here. What a delicious snack. I too love salmon in all of its forms. It’s almost an obsession. At your urging I’m throwing up a pic of myself in my next post, but I’m not looking at the camera. I’ll get there :)

  3. Very very interesting…. we are on the same page, actually, although you actually MADE the recipe, and I am in the flirting stages and wondering when I’ll be able to do it. I found this recipe for a brined salmon – ok, not pickled, but it is a very strong brine, that requires perfect timing, just a few minutes. I should really go for it and if it’s good share on the blog.

    I am curious about your pickling method and what it does exactly to the salmon as far as taste is concerned. I love pickled stuff, but never thought of using it on salmon. Gotta make this…

    • I actually thought the salmon could have more flavor. This definitely isn’t brined – that sounds really good. I was surprised the vinegar didn’t “cook ” the salmon, but it was diluted.

  4. Hi Mimi, when I saw the title of the post I thought it would be raw pickled salmon, but instead it seems to be cooked in the hot vinegar after a brief cure. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted something similar, and I’m curious as to what it tastes like. You’ll love gravad lax, it is definitely worth the effort.

    • The salmon didn’t seem to “cook” when I poured the vinegar over it, but then, it was diluted. The salmon has a unique texture – not dry, but not like fresh. It’s interesting. If I made it again, I would add more flavor to the pickling liquid.

  5. I don’t want to freak you out…but I’m pretty sure you’re my soulmate. You think tuna casserole looks gross, you love all things Ottolenghi, and you know that salmon is delicious in all its forms. I have yet to find something to disagree with.

  6. Ahh yes, the Northwest! Such lovely salmon come from here. I will have to show my husband this recipe. He loves to smoke salmon after brining it, and this would be an interesting switch-up to have some pickled salmon along with the smoked. We have a friend that limited out four days in a row salmon fishing (that’s eight salmon!) last weekend. I think we’ll have to bribe him for a filet or two. :)

    • Oh, how exciting… You know, if you can get such wonderful salmon, I’d personally just eat it as it – especially sauteed in butter or smoked. Jealous!!!

  7. This sounds great! I love making gravlax, but have never pickled fish other than herring. (My Eastern European roots betray themselves!) :)

  8. As you know, we’re fans of gravlax, BUT this looks great. I like fish completely immersed in vinegar solutions (herring, anyone?). How pickled does it taste? Does it end up with the sharp, pickled flavor like herring does? (That’s a good thing, if it does, in my book.) Great pics too! Ken

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