Gravlax is Scandinavian in descent, meaning “grave salmon” or “buried salmon.” Raw fillets or pieces of salmon are covered (or buried) in salt, sugar, and spices that, over a period of time, draw moisture out of the fish to cure and preserve it. Once the cure mixture is washed away from the fish, the end result is a tighter, firmer, and darker piece of salty salmon.
I like to eat thinly sliced pieces of gravlax on gluten free crackers (either Mary’s Gone Crackers or these rice crackers) with goat cheese, red onions, capers, and a drop or two of Sriracha. If you are grain-free or being a bit more health conscious, use cucumber slices to replace the crackers. You can also eat gravlax on a bagel or piece of toast, as a side with eggs, or any way you like, really. Who could resist a salty piece of gravlax? It’s like the bacon of the sea!
Before I share the actual recipe with you, I thought I’d take you on a visual journey through the process of How To Make Refined Sugar Free Gravlax (Salt-Cured Salmon). It all starts with a fillet of salmon – fresh is best, but a thawed fillet of frozen salmon will work just fine, too.
In this last batch of gravlax I made, I used Alaska wild red salmon, and although I recommend you use Alaska wild salmon (no biased opinions here), really any type of salmon will do (just please don’t support farmed!). Make sure your fillet is clean. If it’s not, just give it a quick rinse in cold water and then pat it dry with paper towels. Now cut your fillet in half – and leave the skin on. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you pull out the bones or leave them in. I leave them in, and then remove them when I slice the slice the gravlax after the curing process. If you do decide to remove the bones at this point, pliers or heavy duty tweezers work best.
Make the cure mixture, which has the consistency of coarse sand, and do your best to cover the flesh of the salmon in the cure. Use your hands to press the cure into the fish. You don’t need to worry about covering the skin in the cure – only the flesh.
Now quickly (and carefully) sandwich the two pieces together – flesh to flesh with the skin out, and then wrap both together tightly in plastic wrap.
Place the wrapped salmon in a glass baking dish with 2-3 inch sides. Moisture will release from the fish almost immediately, so make sure you get the wrapped fish into the dish right away. This picture (below) was taken 10-15 minutes after these fillets were placed in the dish.
Some prefer to place a heavy item, like a brick or another baking dish filled with heavy cans, on top of the wrapped fish to flatten it down and grind the cure mixture into the fish. This step is entirely optional; I often times skip it, but it normally depends on how much room I have in my refrigerator.
Now place the baking dish in the refrigerator for 2-5 days. I know… that’s a super huge span of time. How do you know when to pull it out? Here’s the thing about gravlax: the first batch you make is generally always an experimental batch- a chance for you to figure out how exactly you prefer your gravlax. It’s almost like cooking an egg – some like their yokes runny, and some like their eggs completely cooked through and well done. We all have our different preferences. I know from making previous batches of gravlax that I prefer my thinner salmon fillets cured for about 2 days. The thicker ones, the ones that are 1-1.5 inches thick (or thicker), I let cure for a full 3 days. You just have to give it try to know what you prefer.
Happy Gravlax making!
All my love,
A note about the brown spots you see on the gravlax in the picture above- this is the natural fatty part of the fish. I choose to leave mine on and eat it, but if you don’t care to, simply cut it off and discard it.
- Rinse the salmon fillet and pat it dry with paper towels. Cut it in half and leave the skin on.
- If desired, remove the pin bones from the salmon using pliers or heavy duty tweezers.
- In a small mixing bowl, make the cure mixture by combining the kosher salt, palm sugar, coarse ground black pepper, and Wright's Liquid Smoke.
- Press the mixture into all parts of the flesh of the salmon being sure to thoroughly coat it. Don’t worry about coating the skin, only the flesh.
- Quickly (and carefully) sandwich the two pieces of salmon together – flesh to flesh with the skin out, and then wrap both together tightly in plastic wrap.
- Place the wrapped salmon in a glass baking dish with 2-3 inch sides. Moisture will release from the fish almost immediately, so make sure you get it into the dish right away.
- Place a heavy item, like a brick or another glass baking dish filled with heavy cans, on top of the wrapped fish to flatten it down and grind the cure mixture into the fish (This step is entirely optional; I often times skip it, but it normally depends on how much room I have in my refrigerator.).
- Refrigerate for 2-5 days (you can read more about this, including how many days I cure my fillets above). Rotate the fillets and discard the excess moisture from the fish every 24 hours.
- Remove the fish from the plastic wrap and rinse the cure mixture off of the salmon by placing the fillets under cool running water. Not all of the cure mixture will come off. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Serve immediately or store, up to 3 days, in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.
- To cut the gravlax, hold a very sharp knife at an angle (I like to use a fillet knife) and slice 1/8” thick pieces on the diagonal.
Fresh dill can be hard to come by where I live, but if you have access to it, and would like to include some in this recipe, try adding 1/4-1/3 cup chopped dill to the curing mixture.
This recipe is linked to, Marvelous Mondays, Fat Tuesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesdays,Waste Not Want Not Wednesdays, Frugal Day Sustainable Ways, Thank Your Body Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fight Back Friday and Gluten Free Fridays.
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