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Cured salmon

Updated: Tue, 23 January, 2024

Make your own gradavlax at home and hit your fresh salmon side with masses of dill mixed with sugar and salt. My version has extra tang and a little spice.

home cured salmon

Cured salmon is gravadlax

Gravadlax, often shortened to gravlax (spelt gravlaks in Scandinavian languages) is salmon cured in a mix of salt and sugar but the end result is not very different from cold smoked fish.

Hot smoking is a different story as that produces salmon flesh that’s cooked through. I personally don’t see the point of it: it makes the fish taste almost exactly as if it was poached, steamed or baked.

Scandinavians sometimes cold smoke the fish after it’s been cured, for the – naturally – smoky effect. But there’s plenty of flavour in salmon subjected to just the salt and sugar treatment.

salmon cured with fennel peppercorns and zest

Curing miracle

It is amazing how a little salt and sugar transforms bland, oily and pale orange piece of salmon into a vibrant, lean and translucent delicacy. It is very much like the ‘before’ and ‘after’ makeover adverts.

It takes only a couple of minutes to rub the cure mix into your side of boring salmon and then there’s just the wait: three days, longer or shorter depending on the preference.

This is the best method I have tried. It is simple; it is versatile as you can swap and change the flavourings, or skip them altogether opting for salmon cured au naturel. The latter option would be advised especially if you got hold of an especially lovely, organic or wild fish.

But even the standard farmed (though make sure it’s sustainably and responsibly farmed) salmon will undergo the miracle makeover when blasted with the salt, sugar and spice.


How to store salmon whilst curing?

Some recipes instruct you to weigh down the foil-wrapped package, with tins or a heavy plate. I don’t think it’s necessary having tried it with and without weighing. The Swedes say you needn’t – and who knows their gravadlax better than them?

Unavoidably there are questions about whether it’s safe to eat home-cured salmon. I despair a little on hearing them: you can safely eat salmon completely raw if it’s fresh and especially wild.

Curing is like cooking: salt and sugar penetrate the fish flesh just like heat might do, changing its structure and texture, working towards preserving the food so it can be stored for longer. How could this be unsafe? It’s the most ancient method of cooking, in a broad sense.

Needless to say it’s excellent value too: good smoked salmon is very expensive. Cure a small fillet for starters and see what a treat it is. Who knows, you might never go back to shop-bought smoked slivers.

homemade gravadlax

More curing recipes

Cured duck breast meat, tonnes of umami flavour produced over three days with just salt and sugar. Homemade duck prosciutto, and it’s lean and healthy if you discard the skin.

Beetroot and horseradish cured salmon, or gravadlax, gets the fantastic colour from the beet. Cured salmon is really easy to prepare and it needn’t be made in huge quantities, but it will disappear sooner than you think!

Scallop ceviche with citrus juice and fresh plums. Scallop ceviche, a Peruvian dish of sliced scallops marinated in lime juice and mixed with fresh plums or mango if it’s preferable. It’s a fresh and exciting appetiser and only takes a few minutes to prepare.

More salmon recipes

A simple and exquisite starter made with fresh melon and smoked salmon, with a drizzle of balsamic and a sprinkling of fresh mint. Gorgeous! Even if salmon is not home cured.

Lettuce leaf wrapped salmon with spinach filling is the healthy version of salmon en croute or coulibiac. A side of salmon topped with spinach, baked in a lettuce parcel is easy and impressive.

Slow roasted salmon with dill sauce, my recipe for salmon baked at 200F (100C). Salmon roasted in a very low oven, at 100C, takes about 45 minutes to cook. Slow roasted salmon is moist and succulent, it tastes better than poached, and can be served with the easiest dill sauce.

homemade gravlaks

Cured salmon

Servings: 4-6Time: 96 hours
Rating: (1 reviews)


  • 450g (1 pound) fresh salmon fillet, skin on
  • 12 tsp fennel seeds
  • 12 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 12 tsp caraway seeds
  • 12 tsp nigella seeds
  • 65g (4 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 70g (13 cup) sea salt flakes
  • zest grated from 1 large lemon


1. Rinse the salmon fillet and pat dry with kitchen towels.

2. Place the seeds and peppercorns in a small skillet and toast until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grind coarsely.

3. Mix the brown sugar, salt, ground spices and lemon zest in a bowl. Prepare a length of cling film, large enough to wrap the salmon piece, set over a shallow dish.
Spread a little curing mix at the bottom. Place the salmon on it, skin down, and pour over the rest of the curing mix, making sure the fish is well covered.

how to cure salmon at home

4. Wrap it in the foil and refrigerate for 3 days. You can turn it over halfway through the curing process if the piece is very thick: just turn the package over in the dish taking care not to lose the liquid.

three day cured salmon

5. Take the salmon out of the foil and brush off the mix. Rinse it with cold water then wipe it with kitchen towels and place, skin down, on a plate. Chill in the fridge again for at least 12 hours to dry it and firm it up.

home curing fish

6. To serve, slice thinly and drizzle with lemon and/or balsamic vinegar.

Originally published: Wed, 4 March, 2020

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Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Lauren - I'm happy to hear that!
6 months ago
Lauren kingsland
@Laurenkingsland. com
Thanks for the comparisons among Christmas baking traditions. I am creating a Norwegian inspired brunch menu and you have been very helpful.
6 months ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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