Gravlax is fresh salmon that’s been cured with a combination of salt and sugar. It’s arguably the ultimate easy-to-make luxury food in the world! This homemade Cured Salmon Gravlax recipe can be made with a small fillet or whole side of salmon, and costs a fraction of store bought.
The beauty of homemade cured salmon is that you can control the salt so it’s not too salty and it’s got a fresh herb flavour that you’ll never get in a packet. Ready to bring a taste of Scandinavia into your own home?!
I’ve made cured salmon gravlax a bunch of times over the years and my results were varied. Never any epic disasters, they were always edible. But sometimes they were over cured, under cured, and the biggest problem I’ve had is over salted salmon.
If you’ve invested in a beautiful sashimi-grade piece of salmon, it’s almost criminal if it’s so salty that it overpowers the salmon!
If you search around on the internet, you’ll find that the ratios of salmon to salt and sugar and curing times are absolutely all over the place. Some recipes use as much as 750g/1.5lb salt + sugar to 1 kg / 2 lb of salmon. Some recipes use as little as 175g/6oz of salt + sugar. Then curing times range from 12 hours to 3 days.
Now finally, I have Cured Salmon Gravlax Recipe that’s a keeper with the right ratio of salt and sugar:
The biggest problem with gravlax recipes is that they are usually far too salty!
What does gravlax taste like?
Gravlax tastes like a cross between salmon sashimi (imagine it with the addition of seasoning from salt plus fresh herb flavour), and the smoked salmon slices you buy at stores – but minus the smokey flavour (because smoked salmon is made by smoking salmon).
This Cured Salmon Gravlax recipe is perfect. It’s not too salty, the flesh is not overly cured i.e. still nice and moist. But it’s cured enough to be easily sliceable into thin pieces (which is virtually impossible with raw fish). It’s salty enough that you’ll want to eat the slices plain, but not too salty that you’ll need to guzzle a glass of water with every bite. <- Problem I’ve had in the past!
Difference between gravlax and smoked salmon
Smoked salmon and gravlax are actually quite similar in flavour and texture in that they both have a moist, silky texture that is “raw-like”, rather than hard like jerky or cooked. But the big difference is that smoked salmon is made by smoking raw salmon at a low temperature which infuses the salmon which smokey flavour which gravlax does not have.
Other than the smokey flavour, they are actually quite similar! In fact, you can use this homemade gravlax in place of smoked salmon in all my smoked salmon recipes, including Salmon Quiche, these Smoked Salmon Appetizer Bites and this Smoked Salmon Dip!
Once you get your hands on fresh salmon, it requires less than 10 minutes effort to prepare salmon gravlax – then just leave it in the fridge!
Why make your own Cured Salmon??
Making your own Cured Salmon Gravlax costs a fraction of store bought. But regardless of the savings, the thing with store bought – even from the really good speciality stores – is that it just doesn’t have the same fresh dill flavour and it’s usually too salty, presumably to increase shelf life.
Homemade is always best. And in this case, store bought is truly incomparable!
You can get sashimi-grade salmon at most fish mongers here in Australia (at least in the coastal areas). That’s the single most important requirement for this recipe.
Once you have your salmon, it’s 5 minutes of effort.
That’s it. And you’ll have your very own incredible homemade Cured Salmon Gravlax! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Cured Salmon Gravlax recipe video! (You’ll be amazed how easy it is!)
Cured Salmon Gravlax (it's so easy!)
- 1 tbsp white peppercorns (whole) (Note 1)
- 1 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped (1 big bunch)
- 250g / 8 oz rock salt (Note 2)
- 250g / 8 oz white sugar (Note 3)
- 1 kg / 2 lb salmon, sashimi-grade, bones removed and skin on (Note 4)
Mustard Cream Sauce
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml heavy / thickened cream
- 1/3 cup Dijon Mustard (or hot mustard if you want a kick)
- 2 tsp Mustard Powder
- Salt and pepper
- Rye bread slices or other bread/crackers (Note 5)
- Lemon wedges
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped (for garnish)
- Crush peppercorns with the side of a knife (or roughly grind using mortar and pestle).
- Combine peppercorns with salt, sugar and dill.
- Place 2 large pieces of cling wrap on a work surface, slightly overlapping. Spread half the salt mixture in the shape of the salmon.
- Place salmon on salt, skin side down. Top with remaining salt mixture.
- Wrap with cling wrap. Place in a large dish. Top with something flat (like small cutting board) then 3 x 400g / 14oz cans ("Weights").
- Refrigerate for 12 hours. There will be liquid in the dish. Turn salmon over (will be gloopy/wet)), then replace Weights and return to fridge. After another 12 hours, turn salmon over again, replace Weights. After another 12 hours, remove salmon from fridge. 36 hours total for Medium Cure - Perfect Gravlax to my taste (See Note 2 for description and more curing times).
- Unwrap salmon, scrape off salt then rinse. Pat dry. If time permits, return to the fridge for 3 - 12 hours uncovered (dries surface better, lets salt "settle" and permeate through flesh more evenly).
- Sprinkle over the 1/4 cup extra dill - for garnish and flavour.
- Slice thinly on an angle, do not cut through skin (i.e. don't eat skin). Serve with toasted bread, Mustard Sauce, extra dill and lemon wedges.
- Mix ingredients, making sure to season with salt and pepper. It should taste like a creamy mustard - a touch of tartness, but mostly to add moisture to the dish. You can add lemon juice and/or zest if you wish - I like to serve with wedges so people can adjust to their taste.
* COARSE SALT / KOSHER SALT: 24 hours = Medium Cure, 36 hours will be between Medium and Hard Cure, 48 hours+ will be Hard Cure. Surface will be cured more (ie firmer, drier surface) than using Rock Salt because finer grains penetrate more. Highly recommend resting minimum 12, preferably 24 hours before serving - saltiness will distribute more evenly. CURING STRENGTH:
* Medium Cure (my preference) = surface is fairly firm and not too salty, inside is lightly cured, still moist (but not raw, it’s cured). Seasoned enough to eat slices plain.
* Hard Cure = surface is quite firm (like a soft jerky) and quite well seasoned, inside is slightly firmer and pretty well seasoned. Contrast between surface and inside more prominent. I find this a touch salty for my taste but is still way less salty than store bought. 3. Sugar, like salt, draws moisture from the flesh and cures it but makes it sweet rather than salty. Using normal sugar rather than superfine / caster sugar ensures that the salmon doesn't get too sweet (i.e. caster sugar penetrates salmon quicker). The right salt and sugar combination is key to controlling the saltiness of Gravlax while still achieving the "cured" effect and without making it too sweet! 4. Please ensure you use SASHIMI-GRADE salmon. I always ask, even if the sign says that! Nowadays in Australian coastal areas, sashimi-grade salmon is quite common at local fish mongers. Skin-on salmon means that the skin side is cured slightly less, however, for me, I prefer skin-on for this exact reason plus it's easier to carve. SMALLER FILLETS: The beauty of this recipe is that a little goes a long way! So you don't need to use a whole side of salmon, you can make this with a small fillet. However, if you get one smaller than 500g/1lb, then you'll need to increase the salt/sugar ratio to the weight of the salmon to ensure there's enough to cover the surface area. For a 300g/10oz piece, rather than using 150g/5oz combined salt/sugar, use around 210g/7oz (this is what I measured when I did a test using a smaller piece). I don't recommend going smaller than 300g/10oz because the width of the salmon will become too narrow and it will probably end up too salty. 5. Rye bread is the classic type to serve with Gravlax but it suits any bread or plain crackers. While some recipes recommend Pumpernickel Bread, I personally find that the flavour overwhelms the salmon. 6. EXTRAS: Some Gravlax recipes use lemon. Just add the zest of 1 - 2 lemons to the salt cure. This recipe is a classic one that doesn't use zest. 7. STORAGE: With the 36 hour cure, this salmon keeps for 3 days. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. 8. SERVINGS: A little goes a long way with this recipe! It will comfortable serve 10 people as a starter. That's generous! 9. Nutrition is difficult with homemade Gravlax because I have no way of determining how much salt is infused into the flesh. So I've used a store bought Gravlax nutrition which is no doubt saltier than this recipe makes! 10. Recipe adapted from salmon curing guidance courtesy of Chef Massimo Mele. With my thanks for enduring my endless questions!!!
Life of Dozer
Fishing for salmon. Not. (There was a stick floating in the water. 🙄 And also a twig hanging off his privates???!!?)