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Gravlax Salmon and a Swedish Brunch

Gravlax Salmon is so simple to make and so remarkably tasty. Gravlax is a great alternative to smoked salmon or lox and when you make it yourself it is WAY more economical.

Gravlax Salmon

Last weekend Zoe took a ski week and came home to eat brunch with us on the weekend. Figuring I wouldn’t see her and her friends except for a short visit, I decided to have fun and do a Swedish brunch. (Thanks Karen for the idea!) Manservant briefly informed me that with all his time in Sweden he never had brunch while there and what exactly was a Swedish brunch? Good question! And the answer is, I don’t really know. But this is what I did to make a Swedish brunch.

How to Make Gravlax Salmon

First I pulled out all the little bottles of aquavit that Manservant had stashed in the fridge. I decided the lemon rosemary had potential and used this to begin the gravlax on a Thursday night. I bought two fillets of North Atlantic salmon, not the most expensive kind, because by the time it is cured I figured I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between one that was priced $7 more a pound. From there it was a matter of mixing up some coarse salt and brown sugar and  and then piling this onto each salmon half, top and bottom. Splash on some aquavit or vodka or gin, sandwich the two halves together with lots of dill in between and wrap them together with plastic wrap. This maybe took 10 minutes!

After that I found a very large flat rock in the yard and placed this on top of my “package” and placed my soon to be gravlax cured salmon in the refrigerator. I turned my gravlax package on Friday night upside down and again on Saturday night. By Sunday morning this gravlax salmon was ready to devour. Served with a mustard dill sauce and black bread, this was way better than lox.

But what exactly is smoked salmon or lox and how is it different than gravlax salmon?

Lox is cured with smoke. Nova lox is actually cured with cold smoke and then there is hot cured salmon which is cured with hot smoke. Go figure! Most people, when they refer to lox are referring to the cold smoked lox, which is what is traditionally used on lox and bagels. The smoke is actually blown over the salmon from afar, whereas hot smoked salmon is more or less cooked over the smoke. I really prefer hot smoked salmon, which I buy from Costco, and I prefer gravlax over lox.

For a great article with more details head to Bon Appetit.

Gravlax is cured with a salt and sugar brine as described above. “Grav” comes from the word “grav” and actually refers to grave, so in this case the salmon is buried in salt and sugar and herbs and then deeply buried by the placement of a rock or heavy cans. So the key thing about gravlax is that it is cured not smoked. Which is why you can make this at home!

Gravlax salmon

How do I know when the gravlax salmon is ready?

It was pretty obvious that the salmon was undergoing change. Gravlax salmon becomes more opaque. The thinner parts of the fillets may become more “cooked”. Take those trimmin’s and use those to mix with scrambled eggs. Totally yummy! There should never be an odor to gravlax and it only keeps about 5 days after it is ready, because gravlax is only lightly cured.

And that Swedish brunch? They loved the gravlax, however they didn’t like the black bread. It was too dry they said, so they headed to the kitchen counter and started toasting bagels. They preferred cream cheese over the gravlax mustard sauce. So there you have it. BUT, there’s more. In addition to gravlax, I made egg cups. With thick slices of maple ham in individual souffle dishes, I then added a pile of sauteed potatoes, some veggies and topped that with an egg. Drizzled some cream over the top and then into the oven they went. They were delicious with rolled Swedish pancakes, half of which held cherry jam and half were drizzled with maple syrup. On the side I served homemade cardamom buns and then ALL THIS was washed down with aquavit!

Gravlax Salmon

What can I put on a gravlax platter?

Traditionally, a gravlax platter would contain thinly sliced dense brown bread and a mustard sauce. Zoe asked for pickled onions so I whipped up a few. You certainly don’t need to pickle your onions; thinly sliced Bermuda onions are acceptable! Some platters contain pickled beets. I chose to treat this salmon – lox style – and added capers and thin cucumbers, and a bit of lemon. Like I said the kids preferred cream cheese over mustard sauce and bagels over brown bread. You could also add some sliced red peppers and tomatoes.

So what’s stopping you? If you are salmon lovers like we are, this recipe is a no-brainer. Though it’s not exactly Super Bowl food I am sure no one would be turning up their noses at this. Make sure your salmon is fresh and that all the pin bones are removed, then get going! You will have this wrapped up in no time and be amazed at your success!

Need some more salmon ideas?  Here’s an  easy smoked salmon dip from That Skinny Chick Can Bake. And this homemade smoked salmon spread  from my friend LeaAnn at Cooking On The Ranch sounds great too!


Salmon with Garlic, Ginger and Black Pepper

salmon with pepper and scallions

Simple Sweet and Spicy Salmon

SpicySweetSalmontitle 2

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Gravlax salmon

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Gravlax Salmon

Gravlax Salmon and a Swedish Brunch

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 3 reviews
  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 Days
  • Total Time: 15 Minutes
  • Yield: 12-14 Servings 1x
  • Category: Mains/Appetizer
  • Method: Curing
  • Cuisine: American



2 lbs salmon divided into two equal pieces with skin on and all bones removed

1/2 c coarse salt

1 c brown sugar

1/2 T freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 T aquavit, lemon vodka or gin

1 herb sized package of fresh dill (Rough chopped with stems)

Lemons for serving

Mustard Sauce

1/2 c mayonnaise

12 T Dijon mustard

12 t fresh chopped dill

Freshly ground black pepper


Lay both sides of salmon on a sheet of plastic wrap skin side down.

Mix together your rub of salt, and sugar and pepper. Sprinkle liberally on both halves. Turn over and sprinkle the skin well too. Turn back over and splash with your choice of spirits. Put most of the chopped dill on the flesh side of one of the fillets. Sandwich the fillets together.Cover with remaining dill and rub any remaining rub onto the outsides of the salmon. (You may have some leftover.)

Wrap up well in plastic wrap. Leave the salmon on the counter for 3-4 hours so that the salt begins to dissolve. Now place in refrigerator with a large flat rock to weight it. OR you can use large heavy cans or even a cast iron skillet.

24 hours later, open your package and baste inside and out with the juices. Do this for the next two days or until your salmon is ready. When the flesh is opaque, on the second or third day, under cold water, wash off rub. Slice thinly on the diagonal and serve as suggested above.

Mustard Sauce

Mix all ingredients for sauce together and serve on the side with the salmon.


Read my post for serving suggestions.

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star


Wednesday 6th of February 2019

Good info here. I have a recipe on my blog that I called "lox". I see now it was actually gravlax! GREG

Healthy World Cuisine

Wednesday 6th of February 2019

Totally loving this and the kick of spirits in there too! This would be a very fancy Mother's Day brunch spread. Love your photos too!

mimi rippee

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

Gravlax is ridiculously easy to make! I didn't make it for years. Probably I'm just happy when I order good lox. But gravlax is fun to make and serve. And eat. I've made something really magnificent on my blog called salmon crudo. Have you ever made that? Wow. It's raw salmon, but not sashimi!

Gloria Roa Baker

Tuesday 5th of February 2019

This looks wonderful Abbe, really good and pretty!


Saturday 2nd of February 2019

This would be a perfect for Danish Smørrebrød too! I would love to try making my own gravlax. Thanks for the tutorial, Abbe!