Make Ahead

Salmon Gravlax

November 27, 2010
1 Ratings
  • Serves a party
Author Notes

In our half-Danish home the holiday season is not complete without making gravlax. It's an ideal addition to a party menu, since it's remarkably easy to prepare - all you need is time. Once the salmon is cloaked in sugar, salt and herbs, it's left to cure in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. The only requirement before serving is to remove the brine and slice the fish. This is my version of gravlax which has been tweaked over time. For extra flavor I add fennel fronds and powder to the dill marinade. The peppercorns and fennel seeds are woken up by toasting them before grinding for the rub. Then I like to keep it Nordic by sprinkling Akavit over the fish before it's exiled to the refrigerator to do its curing. - TasteFood —TasteFood

Test Kitchen Notes

We LOVE TasteFood’s salmon gravlax. It’s very simple to put together – the smell of the toasting spices is dizzyingly delicious, combined with the sugar and salt, herbs and Aquavit – I was tapping my foot as soon as it went in the fridge – but held out for the 2 day minimum requirement. We pulled it out, brushed off the brine and sliced into deliciousness. It’s slightly firm and just the right level of sweet and salty, but the best is the subtle anise flavor that comes through from the fennel and Aquavit … it will keep you going back for another slice again and again. Do make sure to get all of the visible brine off. HIGHLY recommended for Editor’s Pick, and we will be going back to this recipe often! —aargersi

What You'll Need
  • For the salmon gravlax
  • 1 tablespoon white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 10 ounces sea salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 side of salmon with skin, about 3 pounds, pin bones removed
  • 1 cup fresh dill sprigs, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh fennel fronds, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Akavit (Danish cumin flavored shnapps)
  • For the Honey Dill Mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey mustard
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cognac
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. For the salmon gravlax
  2. Lightly toast peppercorns and fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic, 1 minute. Transfer to a mortar with a pestle and finely grind. Mix pepper, fennel, salt and sugars together in a medium bowl. Rub fish all over with the spices.
  3. Line a long baking pan or rimmed platter with plastic wrap. Place half the dill sprigs and half the fennel fronds over plastic wrap. Arrange salmon, skin-side down on dill. Sprinkle Akavit over salmon. Top with remaining dill and fennel fronds.
  4. Cover with additional plastic wrap, sealing the fish. Place a heavy pan or tray on fish. Weigh down pan with cans or bottles. Refrigerate for 2-3 days.
  5. To serve, remove fish from refrigerator. Remove plastic wrap. Pour off collected juices and wipe off excess brine and dill. Slice diagonally from one corner of the salmon towards the center of the fillet.
  6. To serve, fold a slice of salmon on french bread or toasted brioche. Smear with a spoonful of Honey Dill Mustard and garnish with a dill sprig.
  1. For the Honey Dill Mustard
  2. Whisk mustard, vinegar and cognac together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in oil to emulsify. Stir in dill, pepper and salt.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • stephanieRD
  • Greenstuff
  • monkeymom
  • CottageGourmet
  • Hilarybee

35 Reviews

stephanieRD March 12, 2013
I just made gravlax for the first time. I used a mix of your recipe along with Food 52's feature with basic salt, sugar, aquavit. I added dill and fennel fronds and it came out great! So beautiful. I am going to try brown sugar in my curing mix next time!
Greenstuff December 16, 2010
What great news!! Just a couple of days ago, my daughter asked me who would need a recipe for gravlax, saying, "it's just salt, sugar, and dill." I told her that (1) everyone doesn't know that, and (2) there could be more... And all the while I was thinking about TasteFood's beautiful photo and the buzz that her recipe has been getting. Great pick!
TasteFood December 16, 2010
Thank you so much, Greenstuff!
monkeymom December 7, 2010
This was delicious! I confess I didn't use akavit but it still definitely had more zing that the basic Bittman gravlax (which is still delicious). The brown sugar also really add some nice flavor. Thanks for this great recipe!
TasteFood December 8, 2010
Thanks, Diana. I am so happy you enjoyed it!
CottageGourmet November 30, 2010
My Swedish mother occasionally made her own gravlax -- this sounds like a really good recipe, can't wait to try it!
TasteFood December 1, 2010
Thanks, I hope you like it!
Hilarybee November 29, 2010
Perfect for Christmas brunch! This looks very special- definitely better than store bought!
TasteFood November 29, 2010
Thanks, Hilarybee!
Hilarybee May 14, 2013
I've made this twice since Christmas. I used gin both times, as it was a more practical buy for me than aquavit. I'm going to downscale the recipe for two next week, since it yields more than we can eat in a few meals.
dymnyno November 28, 2010
Gorgeous photo...I am going to try this one...I always cure mine with gin or tequila, aquavit is delicious. (thumbs up!)
TasteFood November 29, 2010
Tequila - now that's a great idea. I'll try that and add a few sliced serranos or jalapenos to the marinade...
Greenstuff November 28, 2010
Ditto, gorgeous photo! I used to make gravlax pretty often. Now I live somewhere that it's readily available, but lately I've been itching to make it myself again, and your recipe is a little more sophisticated than what I've done in the past. So I have a question: do you not find that the Akavit "cooks" the salmon? Have you tried including it vs. leaving it out? Thanks, I'm hoping you'll be sharing more Nordic favorites.
TasteFood November 29, 2010
I've tried it both ways. I have prepared the simplest form of gravlax with sugar, salt and dill, and it's soft and lovely. My personal preference, however, is for a little extra zip, which led to the akavit, fennel and peppercorns. The akavit does not seem to aggressively cook the salmon at all. There is only a small amount distributed over the side of salmon, and once the fish begins to brine, the sugar and salt dissolve into a liquid which might further dilute the effects of the alcohol. (Similar results would occur with lemon juice.) I suggest you try and experiment with a couple of small filets rather than one large piece to see which flavor you prefer. It's so easy to make!
learningtocook November 28, 2010
Thank you so much for posting this. My husband made this regularly and now I can too. Best yet, I can even spell it.
TasteFood November 28, 2010
Your welcome. I do hope you try to make it. It's so easy - easier than the spelling.
aargersi November 28, 2010
I had no idea that a person could make this and not have to buy it at the deli! Gorgeous! A must try!!!
TasteFood November 28, 2010
Thanks, aagersi. Hope you try it!
Sagegreen November 28, 2010
Gorgeous photo, too!
TasteFood November 28, 2010
Thanks, Sagegreen!
drbabs November 28, 2010
I've never made gravlax--thanks so much for this recipe!
TasteFood November 28, 2010
Your welcome, drbabs, and congrats on your torte!
gingerroot November 28, 2010
Although she was not Danish, this brings back fond memories of my Grandmother, who always made gravlax during the holidays. Her recipe was similar to yours, although I love your fennel and Akavit addition. I have been meaning to try it myself and now I have your lovely recipe to do so. Thank you!
TasteFood November 28, 2010
I hope you try it. It really is easy to do!
Lizthechef November 27, 2010
Oops - forgot to "thumbs up" this - your recipe is superb and bests Ina's Barefoot Contessa, a master nonetheless...
TasteFood November 28, 2010
Thanks, Liz!
monkeymom November 27, 2010
This looks so beautiful! Now that I know how easy gravlax is I definitely will be trying yours! Can't wait!
TasteFood November 28, 2010
Thanks, Diana. Let me know how you like it!
MrsWheelbarrow November 27, 2010
Yum. I make gravlax regularly but have never added fennel. What a nice idea! Thank you - and gorgeous photo, btw.
TasteFood November 28, 2010
Thank you, Cathy. We enjoyed your challah stuffing at Thanksgiving!
TheWimpyVegetarian November 27, 2010
I love the flavors you pull together for the gravlax. It looks just delicious and the honey dill mustard is perfect! I've added this to my list of must-makes. Thanks!
TasteFood November 28, 2010
Your welcome, Susan. I hope you try it!
TasteFood November 27, 2010
Thanks, LND!
Lizthechef November 27, 2010
Feels like the holidays, for certain - delicious!
lastnightsdinner November 27, 2010
This is just lovely. We love curing salmon at the holidays, too, for our traditional Christmas morning "bagels and bloodies" spread :)