Home-made Gravlax – Yes, you can make it too!

001 Gravlax -edited re-sized

Gravlax is Scandinavian in origin. It is a cured, un-smoked salmon (very similar to lox of the Bagel, Lox and Cream Cheese fame; except that Gravlax is cured with spices and herbs). The three basic ingredients are salt, sugar and dill (lots and lots of dill). Traditionally, Gravlax is weighed down while it’s being cured, to help draw out all the moisture and infuse the flavours more quickly.

I was extremely pleased when I tested out this recipe with great success. There are many ways to serve Gravad Lax. They can be used in open faced sandwiches with all sorts of granishes, on crispbread or rye bread accompanied by a sweet dill mustard sacuce (in Swedish, hovmästarsås).

Gravad Lax is not difficult to make but it does require 3 days for curing in the chiller section of your fridge. Use salmon that is sashimi quality. Proper refrigeration during freight and by your supplier is very important.

I store so many different ingredients in my fridge that space there is at a premium. Hence, I devised a different method by rolling the fish fillets in a large plastic bag as tightly as possible and tying that plastic parcel with kitchen twine to put “pressure” on the fillets. The photos below illustrate my method. I think that it makes handling much easier and cleaner and after I slice the amount I want, the rest slips back neatly into the plastic bag for another meal.

The recipe below comes from a cookbook called “The Best of Salads and Buffet Cookery” published by Hamlyn and it describes the traditional curing method of using weights. The cure for both methods is the same. I decided to give you the cookbook’s recipe in case some of you find it difficult to handle tying up the plastic-wrapped fish with the kitchen twine. I found a blogger who just double or tripled wrapped the seasoned fish fillets with Glad wrap and didn’t even tie it.

Some Comments about Ingredients

For this post, it was only after the Gravlax has been cured and is ready to be eaten that I decided to post this recipe. The resulting Gravlax was just too delicious not to post it! Hence, you will notice some lines at regular intervals made by the kitchen twine which has been removed.

Salmon Fillet. There is no need to buy a whole salmon to make Gravad Lax. Best to buy the belly section of the filleted salmon to make Gravad Lax.

Sugar. The dry granulated sugar is necessary for the salmon to cure properly. Do not substitute with honey or sugar syrup.

Fresh Dill. If that is not available, dried Dill is an excellent substitute!

Flip one of the seasoned salmon fillet over the over piece with both salmon skins on the outside. It will look like a “whole” fish.


Tuck the “whole” fish into one corner of a large plastic bag. Alterntively, put fish fillet on top of a double layer of a large piece of plastic food wrap like “Glad Wrap” which is at least 2.5 times the size of your fillet. Roll plastic bag or the Glad Wrap around the fish as tightly as possible. Fold all edges in, again as tightly as possible. Use kitchen twin to tie the fish at regular intervals. Place in chiller section of fridge and flip once a day.


SERVES: 6 to 8 persons


  • 1.2 kgs of fresh sashimi-quality salmon fillet with skin
  • Large bunch of dill or about 2 Tbsp. dried dill
  • 2 tsp of sea or rock salt
  • 1.5 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • ¼ cup cooking oil


1. Buy 2 halves of the belly section of the fish fillet. Scale the skin. Rinse and dry with kitchen towels. Place one half of the fish fillet (skin side down) in a large deep dish.

2. Wash, dry and chop fresh dill. Spread this or the dried dill over the half salmon fillet in the dish. Sprinkle all the rest of the dried seasoning over the same half fillet.

3. Cover the seasoned fillet with the other half piece. This time the skin side is facing up.

4. Pour oil over the fish fillets. Cover whole dish with heavy duty aluminium foil and weigh it down with something heavy.

5. Marinate for 3 days in the chiller. Turn fillets every 12 hours and baste with the juice produced.

Serving Suggestions

If I haven’t given you enough suggestions already, the photo below shows Gravlax on a skinny pizza. It is topped with Arugula and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. That makes another happy family meal.

When I am feeding a crowd a light meal, I prepare at least the whole recipe, slice it and arrange it on a large serving platter accompanied by lemon wedges, drizzles of a fine light flavoured oil, Some people still love Gravlax with some sour cream and finely chopped onions as an appetizer.

Try cutting it into thin strips and adding it as one of the filling for a temaki (hand-roll sushi). Add slices of Gravlax and hard-boiled eggs to a tossed green salad making it more substantial as your contribution to a light ladies’ luncheon.

Use sliced Gravlax, some cream cheese and some tossed green Salad as a filling for crepes. Click here for my post on “Crepes – Savoury or Sweet.”

Buying a whole salmon for filleting

It is not easy to get fresh wild caught salmon at a reasonable price in Singapore. The salmon we get is farm-raised. Hence, I don’t indulge in salmon too frequently. However, when I do I buy a whole salmon, my fishmonger will fillet the fish for me according to my desire.

The half or one third section near the belly part of the fish will be reserved for Gravad Lax if that is on my menu whilst the rest is

a. cut steak style for grilling or pan frying.

b. the head can be Shio Yaki (Japanese style) or made into Fish stock ;and

c. the tail section is cooked Nonya style (it is even suitable to make a garam assam paste to cook salmon).


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