Gravlax or Herb-Cured Salmon

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • serves


    or more as an appetizer

Appears in

Cooking One on One

Cooking One on One

By John Ash

Published 2004

  • About

This is the classic preparation for gravlax. Dill is traditional, but I like to use a mixture of herbs. Once you’ve mastered this, you can flavor it in limitless ways. Here’s the most important thing: gravlax is ridiculously easy to make, but because few people do it, it’s incredibly impressive. You can serve hot dogs for Christmas dinner, but if you’ve started with a first course of homemade gravlax, your guests will think you’re a brilliant cook.


  • 1 boned salmon fillet, 3 to 4 pounds, skin on
  • ½ cup kosher or sea salt
  • cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as dill, basil, tarragon, parsley, chives, mint, chervil, and cilantro
  • cup vodka, grappa, or aquavit


Line a pan just large enough to hold the salmon with a generous, overhanging layer of plastic wrap. Lay the salmon on top, skin side down. Feel the salmon carefully to find any little bones and remove them with your fingers or tweezers.

Mix the salt, sugar, zest, and pepper together and sprinkle over the salmon. Scatter the herbs over the fish, then sprinkle with the vodka. Wrap the salmon tightly with the plastic wrap and place a smaller pan directly on top of the wrapped salmon. Weight it with a brick, if you happen to have one, or some canned goods. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, turning the salmon over at least twice a day and pouring off the liquid.

To serve the gravlax, unwrap it and gently wipe off the curing ingredients. Slice it very thinly, at an angle, with long sawing strokes, leaving the skin behind. It’s best if the slices are almost thin enough to see through. If you notice any dark meat against the rosy flesh, neatly cut it away because it can be a little strong and fishy-tasting. Serve with a squeeze of lemon. Cured salmon lasts in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

  • Serve in tea sandwiches or canapés with thinly sliced cucumber and watercress.
  • Make Gravlax Tartare by tossing finely diced (not sliced) gravlax with extra virgin olive oil; serve it with a squeeze of lemon, chopped chives, salmon caviar, and toast or pumpernickel points.
  • Layer it on warm flat bread or potato pancakes topped with thinly sliced sweet red onions, capers, and a dollop of sour cream.