Make Ahead

Magnus Nilsson's Gravlax

June 18, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4, as a standalone dish
Author Notes

Few things – except the Swedish chef from The Muppets Show and the smörgåsbord, of which this dish is an indispensible part – are so associated with Sweden and Swedish cooking as gravlax. It’s enjoyed in many ways, but the favourites are either as a standalone dish, with lemon wedges and a warm side, or in very thin slices as part of a festive buffet. The name of the dish itself comes from the Swedish word meaning ‘to bury’. This refers back to the original gravlax, which was just salted and buried in the ground to ferment before being eaten. The use of white pepper and dill as aromatics, which is completely dominating gravlax recipes today, started in the eighteenth century, but before that the fish was probably not seasoned at all, except by the cure itself.

Reprinted with permission from The Nordic Cookbook, by Magnus Nilsson, copyright 2015, published by Phaidon Press. —Food52

What You'll Need
  • 2 1/4 pounds salmon fillet, skin on, pin bones removed and patted dry
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 20 white peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  • 1 bunch dill, stalks and fronds separated
  1. Remove the pin bones from a clean and evenly thick piece of fish fillet. Rub it all over with a mixture of salt, sugar and aromatics. I like to store the fish and the curing mix in a plastic bag, which makes it easy to keep the whole surface of the fish in contact with the cure, ensuring an even result. When the fish is thoroughly coated, place it in its bag on a tray and set a few plates on top to weight it down a little (or use something else flat and suitably heavy). Transfer it to the refrigerator to cure for the required length of time.
  2. I like to cure the salmon for about 24 hours before washing off the cure mix. To stop the cure, take the fish out of the bag and either rinse it quickly under cold running water or scrape the cure and seasonings off it. Transfer the fish to a new plastic bag, place it back on the tray and return it to the refrigerator. This allows the cure to even out within the fish. Leave it for about the same length of time as it was in the curing mix.
  3. The fish can be served straight away or after only a short rest, but it will appear more cured on the surface than in the middle. Fish prepared this way is either cut straight down, at a 90-degree angle relative to the chopping (cutting) board, in slightly thicker slices of 4 to 5 mm (1/8 to 1/4 inch) or else it is cut at a 45-degree angle into very thin and much larger slices.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Scott Citron
    Scott Citron
  • Theodora Moody
    Theodora Moody
  • kantcould
  • Charles Ek
    Charles Ek

5 Reviews

kantcould September 5, 2023
I've been making gravlax for many years and made minor changes to the process that I consider improvements. This recipe takes me back before my first batch. Flaw #1: Salt? What kind? Should be coarse ground kosher salt or sea salt; Flaw #2: No vodka/gin cure; Flaw #3: Dill? Ok You've got a separated bunch. Now what?; Flaw #4&5: Cure for 24 hours, rinse off and serve? Never rinse, and should cure longer than that -- at least 2 days, for me, 3-4 and scrape off the cure remnants before serving in paper thin diagonal slices with special long blade slicing knife.
Scott C. September 10, 2019
Great and simple recipe. I added a few splashes of gin on each side before tightly wrapping the fillet in plastic wrap. Placed the wrapped fish on a zippered plastic bag and allowed it to rest in the fridge for 24 hrs, etc., as per the recipe.
Charles E. November 24, 2018
I have tried at least a half dozen gravlax/gravlaks recipes over the years. This is by far the simplest and produces the best result, in a short time.
Theodora M. January 12, 2016
Can this be used on a bagel with cream cheese?
Lori F. March 10, 2019
Of course it can.