Easy Citrus-Dill Cured Salmon (Gravlax)


This recipe can be used to make lox – salt cured salmon, also known as gravlax – with notes of sweet and sour citrus. The finished product will be a luxury food of significantly higher caliber than anything you can find prepackaged or even in most delis, and at a lower price. The best part is, it’s easy to do so.

Lox will keep for about a week. Or, you can take the extra step of cold smoking it, to produce nova, which will have a nuanced smokey flavor and will add a few more days to the shelf life. All steps are provided below.

Whether or not you smoke it, gravlax is delicious on bagels and cream cheese, cut up in salads, pan fried in omelets, and more. It’s also very healthy. And don’t forget the capers! Once it is done curing, the salt and sugar cure rub is washed off, leaving a great salty sweet flavor.

If you want to cold smoke the fish to make smoked (Nova-style) lox, and you don’t own a cold smoker, an inexpensive cold smoker box with wood pellets is a good alternative.

A tried and true method I recommend for determining the amount of salt and sugar for the cure-rub is to use 25% of the weight of the fish in salt and in sugar. A good way to do this is to convert the fish weight into grams. One pound is 453.6 grams, so a 1.5 pound salmon is equal to 680 grams. Take 680 and multiply it by 0.25, and you will get 170. So you would need 170 grams of salt and 170 grams of sugar for your cure for a 1.5-pound filet. (I personally think measuring out salt and sugar in grams is easier and more accurate than going by pounds, which is 0.375.)

If you’re unsure about the quantity of salt sugar and don’t have a scale, you can use 1/2 cup of salt and 3/4 cup sugar for a 1.5-pound filet. For a smaller filet, you can simply use the same amount and you’ll have extra. It may seem like a lot of salt and sugar but bear in mind that they are used for extracting moisture from the fish. In the end you’ll wash off the salt-sugar cure and, although the flavor will be sweet and salty, there won’t be much residual sugar or sodium. (However, it’s not recommended for those on a reduced sodium diet due to health concerns.)

You will need: Plastic wrap (also suggested: cheesecloth), large or standard rectangular casserole dish; grater (for the citrus zest); a medium mixing bowl; a long, sharp knife for slicing the lox (this is a reasonably priced, great option); 1 large ziploc bag; tweezers recommended for removing bones.

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  • Large, fresh salmon filet (typically 1.25-1.5 lbs.)
  • Non-iodized salt (e.g. sea salt, kosher salt, canning salt), 25% of weight of salmon
  • Sugar, 25% of weight of salmon
  • Pack or bunch of fresh baby dill (~15-20 grams)
  • Zest of two lemons (or limes or mix) and two small oranges (e.g. tangerine, clementine)
  • Optional: 2 TBSP vodka


1.) Rinse and dry the salmon thoroughly on both sides with a paper towel.

2.) As needed, remove all the bones from the salmon. You can feel them embedded in the flesh along the middle. Tweezers advised.

3.) Zest the oranges and lemons.

4.) Thoroughly combine the sugar, salt, and zest in a bowl.

Image may contain: food
Image may contain: food

5.) Lay out a long sheet of plastic wrap (long enough to fully encase the fish). If you’re also using cheesecloth, place a piece of cheesecloth of the same length on top of the plastic wrap.

6.) Add half of the salt-sugar-citrus cure to the plastic wrap (or cheesecloth if used), positioned so that it will cover the entire skin side of the fish.

7.) Place the fish, skin side down, on the cure. Then evenly. place all the dill sprigs on the flesh side of the fish. Follow up with evenly pouring on the 2 TBSP vodka if you plan to use it.

The vodka flavor may or may not come through in the finished product The main purpose of it is to help maintain a sterile environment free of unhealthy bacteria.

8.) Top the fish with the other half of the salt cure.

9.) Cover the fish with the cheesecloth and or the excess plastic wrap. Wrap 1-2 more times in sheets of plastic wrap to keep the liquids and cure locked in. Place the whole wrapped fish in a large ziploc bag.

10.) Place the bagged fish in the glass casserole dish with a weight evenly distributed on the fish (hint: 12-pack of sodas)

11.) Every 6-12 hours as able, turn the fish over. A short cure is 24 hours, medium is 36 (my preferred method), and long cure is 48 hours which is quite salty.

12.) At the chosen time, remove the wrappings and thoroughly rinse off the salmon. Pat it very dry, absorbing as much moisture as possible.

13.) Using a long, very sharp knife, cut long strokes at an angle (julienne style) from the small end of the fish to the wide end. If there is a grey area in the center of the slices, you may opt to cut this part out.

14.) Time to enjoy the fish. It will be good for about a week. Or, if cold smoking it, you may proceed immediately or brush the fish with a layer of maple syrup, wrap it up again, and smoke it within the next 48 hours. Once smoked, it should be good for 7-8 days.

Tip: If the fish starts to smell stronger (but clearly hasn’t gone bad), a personal favorite of mine is to use it up by frying it in a pan, cutting it into little bits with the spatula as it cooks. Cook it along with chopped onion until browned and then add eggs, dill, salt and pepper. Scramble it all together, making the classic “LEO”… Lox, Eggs, and Onion!

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